The Gangs of Beirut

Happy Liberation Day?

An interesting article in the Asia Times today shows that gun permits have skyrocketted in Lebanon in the vaccuum of security left by the Syrian withdrawl and the increase in tensions due to the latest bombings. The following is an excrept of the article.

BEIRUT – Blank gun licenses are now easy to acquire in Beirut. “The Ministry of Defense is handing them out by the thousand,” said a prominent Lebanese businessman. “See, I have one here.” A usual gun permit bears the name and photo of the licensee covered with an official stamp. However, this permit has evidently been validated before the picture was added – the ink stamp blurs beneath the little passport photo, not over it. “Many people have completely blank documents. They are easy to obtain, you just need to ask.”

Such permits allow a holder to buy any weapon available, from pistol to submachine-gun. “AKs are most popular,” said Joseph, a gun seller.”They are cheap, only US$100.” It is also possible to buy guns on the black market. The best range can be found in the Bekaa Valley, particularly in the ancient city of Baalbek, whose streets are now decked with the portraits of Hezbollah martyrs who have died fighting against Israel.

…if people are forced to identify themselves by religious group – Muslim versus Christian – then the careful threads that have restitched Lebanese society back together since the end of the war will tighten and snap. And this strain is exactly what someone is trying to bring about.

The three bombs that have so far exploded in Christian areas are intended to heighten suspicions between the two religious groups. The bombs are being placed with restraint for now, their locations and timing carefully chosen in commercial areas at night so that casualties are few. They are warnings, but the city is waiting for worse… [more]

These events are alarming and I feel the arabs, particularily the Lebanese, were lead on in the midst of the chaos. The call should have first come from Arabs to America that this was an Arab affair. No such call came and Americans pressed on with the withdrawl playing on Lebanese street emotion; exploiting the oppertunity. Now Syria is withdrawing rapidly and no security force or even functioning government for that matter is there to break the fall. It’s like turning off the anti-gravity button.

So what happens now when an emotional populace is well armed and still religiously devided? If every action is met with an equal reaction, what will happen when the Syrians fully leave and the bombings are no longer warnings…?

Posted In: Arab World

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