So al-Mustaqbal (Harir’s Future Movement) are playing the “Oh no we di’int , oh yes we did” game. After years of denying they were armed, the commander of their militia has now admitted to the existence of a militia—“the Mustaqbal Supporters”— which fought Hizbullah in the May 2008 clashes and its latest incarnation, the “Awfaj al Mustaqbal” (Mustaqbal Regiments) . According to their military chief, retired Lebanese army colonel, Amid Hammoud, former Prime Minister and head of the Future Movement, Saad al-Hariri, had asked him to submit a proposal to improve the performance of his militia after its humiliating defeat in 2008.
In his first media interview, Hammoud admitted to Akhbar (the Arabic version) that he is arming “the Sunni sect to confront Hizbullah,” which he accuses of destabilizing the country with assassinations and bombings. He acknowledges that his movement and the Syrian “revolutionaries” are on the same battlefront against Hizbullah.
Although Hammoud is quite equivocal and self-contradictory in the rest of the interview he admits the following (which I have translated and paraphrased):
1) Although Sunni fighters in Tripoli are not “his”, he wields influence over them and provides them with funding with which they purchase arms.
2) Although he doesn’t deploy his men to Syria to fight alongside the FSA, he strongly supports the Syrian “revolutionaries” and helps Syrian fighters escape, receive shelter, medical treatment etc. He also admits to giving funds to Syrians, “even if it is for the purpose of purchasing weapons”. And although he doesn’t distribute weapons, he directs them to arms dealers from whom they can purchase them. He admits that “tens” of Syrians came to him for assistance in smuggling weapons into Syria by sea. While denying he has gone to Syria, he says he would consider it in the future since he sees himself as “an inextricable part of the Syrian revolution”. While claiming he went to Libya to congratulate the “revolutionaries” there, rather than to procure weapons for the FSA, he insinuates that he would not hesitate to do so if need so required.
3) Regarding the recent clashes in Beirut, Hammoud argues that he doesn’t have “armed fighters as such” but has “youths” deployed there. Although he distributed weapons in the 2008 clashes, he claims he did not do so again.
4) Hammoud blames Israel for Wissam Hassan’s assassination but paradoxically also holds Hizbullah responsible for his killing because Hizbullah’s security apparatus cannot be separated from the Syrian regime’s, and because it has been “infiltrated internationally [by the CIA] and by Israel.
So there you have it, a sometimes explicit and other times veiled acknowledgment of Hariri’s complicity in the Syrian conflict and in the recent attack on the Lebanese army and security forces. This is the same political force that the West lauds for its “state building” project, and its noble pursuit of justice, freedom and democracy, against authoritarianism and terror. This is the same movement which western mainstream media refuses to associate with the recent clashes, the terrorizing of civilians at checkpoints and general instability, preferring instead, to attribute the violence to unknown “Sunni gunmen” rather than to Hariri’s sectarian militia.
A case in point is this New York Times piece which not only uses the “masked Sunni gunmen” euphemism, but attempts to misrepresent the clashes in Beirut which occured between the army and the Hariri militia, among other Sunni militias, as sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shi’ites which the army tried to end, by claiming:
“Gun battles broke out in Tariq Jdeideh, a neighborhood where Sunni and Shiite militiamen clash regularly, in the early hours of Monday.”
The double-standards of mainstream media’s coverage of Lebanon has reached a new low. If Shi’ites unaffiliated with Hizbullah had been involved in the clashes, western journalists would not have hesitated to refer to them as “Hizbullah militiamen”, even if they had belonged to the AMAL movement or some other force. And if those Shiites had been attacking the army and the ISF, as well the Hariri militia, the media narrative would have excluded any mention of the latter and the violence would have been described solely as an attack on the “Lebanese state.”
What is lost in all this, is that contrary to its more “democratic” counter-part, Hizbullah, has never been involved in any attacks or clashes with Lebanese state institutions; only with March 14 militias in May 2008. And it was the Lebanese Army, serving under a March 14 government at the time, which attempted to disarm these militias. In effect, it is not Hizbullah’s resistance, which cooperates with the Lebanese Army, that is undermining the state’s monopoly on the use of force, but March 14’s sectarian militias.