News Release

“Impossible to Choose Good Guys” as Rebel Army Claims Responsibility for Beirut Bombing

Reuters reports: “A massive car bomb ripped through a Beirut stronghold of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group that has been fighting alongside President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war, wounding 53 people on Tuesday.”

RANIA MASRI, rania.z.masri at gmail.com, @rania_masri
Masri is assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Balamand in Lebanon. Until recently she was Environment and Energy Policy Adviser for the United Nations Development Programme in Cairo. She is currently in the U.S. She said today: “One of the possible culprits behind the car bomb in southern Beirut is the so-called FSA [Free Syrian Army]. Brigade 313, of the so-called FSA, has claimed responsibility for the attack. Previously, other factions of the ‘FSA’ had threatened Hezbollah with direct attacks in Lebanon. Various threats to ‘take the battle to inside the Lebanese lands’ were issued by the so-called FSA since October 2012.

“Once again, we need to know: who exactly does the Obama administration want to arm within Syria? The recognized terrorist organization of Al-Nusra Front? Or the various bridges operating under the name of ‘FSA,’ many of whom have gloated about committing war crimes and have called for further sectarian killings?

“Congress is currently not supporting the Obama administration in sending lethal aid to the rebels. It is impossible to choose good guys among the Syrian rebels and send weapons to them. Chairman of the UN independent panel investigating possible violations of human rights in Syria, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro himself has said that there is no clear-cut difference between good and bad guys among the Syrian opposition. Rather, sending weapons to those considered good guys would not contribute to the settlement of the conflict but would trigger more violence and military crimes.”

EMILY DISCHE-BECKER, emilydische at gmail.com, @edbbeirut
Dische-Becker is a Beirut-based freelance writer and editor who has worked for, among other publications, Harper’s Magazine, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, and Al-Akhbar English. She is currently in the U.S. She said: “Regarding today’s car bombing in Beirut’s southern suburbs, which is a majority Shia neighborhood and a stronghold for Hezbollah, the obvious context is that it happens against the backdrop of the Syrian conflict. Armed opposition groups in Syria have been threatening to bring the war ‘home’ for Hezbollah for its support of the Assad regime for many months now, (even before Hezbollah openly joined the fighting on the side of the regime in Qusayr in late May.) In May, at least two rockets struck Shiah, another neighborhood of the southern suburbs.

“The car bomb also comes on the eve of Ramadan, and was reportedly placed in the parking lot of a supermarket where people would be out shopping in preparation for the holiday. For Shiites in Lebanon, … today was in fact the first day of Ramadan, while for Sunnis the holy month begins tomorrow or later in the week, depending on whose pronouncements they follow.

“As a matter of interest, Bir al-Abed, where the car bomb went off this morning, was also the site of a massive car bombing in 1985, which is widely presumed to have been an assassination attempt on Fadlallah’s life by the CIA. That car bomb killed 80 people and injured over 200 people (mostly civilians) near Fadlallah’s offices (who was unscathed). Bob Woodward alleges that former CIA director William Casey told him that the CIA was behind that attack, which was funded by Saudi Arabia.

“In any case, car bombs in Beirut are usually either assassination attempts (and we have not yet heard whether someone specific was targeted — Hezbollah denied that it was a targeted hit) or designed to sow terror.

“About five hours after the bombing, a group calling itself ‘Brigade 313- Special Missions’ claimed the attack in a post on Facebook, which it said targeted a headquarters for Hezbollah’s security, and threatened further attacks unless the party discontinues ‘its collaboration in shedding Syrian blood.’ Charles Lister, from the IHS Jane’s Terrorism & Insurgency Center (JTIC), said on Twitter that the brigade was part of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but warned that ‘previous statements by “FSA Brigade 313” have been questionable, so take this claim with some element of caution.’

“The sectarian framework through which parties to the conflict in Syria increasingly cast their struggle, did not begin with the uprising against the Assad regime in 2011.

“This has certainly reached new and terrifying heights over the past two years, and is playing out across the region. The U.S.’s Gulf Arab allies have played a very dangerous game through their media, their funding of takfiri groups, their broadcasting of sectarian clerics on TV, and indeed it has been a major strategy to undermine Iran and its allies for many years, but never quite as overtly and recklessly as now.”