There is no doubt that one could order a pizza in Beirut and have it delivered faster than the time it takes the Lebanese army to intervene to resolve any armed conflict. How should we interpret the delay in deploying the military in combat zones in Tripoli, the largest city in northern Lebanon?
It is odd that the army did not get involved until late afternoon on Monday when renewed fighting erupted at dawn on Sunday between the Alawite Jabal Mohsen and Sunni Bab Tibbaneh areas. Machine guns, grenades and mortars have been used in the conflict so far.
The military’s delay is a source of bewilderment especially that the representatives of the conflicting factions had signed a ceasefire agreement on Sunday at the military intelligence center. The agreement included “the withdrawal of armed elements and revealing all security violations, and calling upon the military and security forces to fulfill their roles in protecting citizens and their possessions and confiscating arsenals wherever they exist with no consideration for the political immunity that protects them.”
Moreover, a statement was issued during a meeting held at the residence of Tripoli’s Sunni Mufti Malek al Shaar in support of the agreement. He called for the intervention of security forces “even if that leads to responding with gunfire.” After all that, what could justify the military’s failure to intervene?
The questions that are raised about the Lebanese army are legitimate especially if we recall the numerous queries that surrounded its performance during the May 7 coup in Beirut that was executed by Hezbollah. That day, the Lebanese were divided over their military’s performance and its hesitance towards protecting civil peace and restraining armed elements and over the Sunni officers of the Lebanese army who threatened to resign immediately after.
That day, serious questions were put forward regarding the retreat of the Lebanese army for example by the “Fathallah Barracks” that Hezbollah reoccupied the day of the coup and raised a sign that read “Beirut is the green line,” just as questions were asked when Hassan Nasrallah’s party burnt Lebanese media institutions to the ground in the face of the military.
Today, questions are being raised once again about the role of the Lebanese army. What was the point of the Lebanese army announcing that it would deploy troops in the late afternoon when the conflict, which caused injuries and deaths, erupted the day before? Did it intend to depict the clashes as a consequence of the failure to form government therefore applying pressure in order to hasten the formation of the government in accordance with the interests of Hezbollah and the opposition? If this is the case then it has worked in the favor of the Beirut coup where it rewards the opposition for taking up weapons against the Lebanese.
This is not criticism of the Lebanese army; these are valid questions especially after the Hezbollah official Nawaf al Moussawi announced that Hezbollah would not accept any security or military officials in Lebanon that the Iranian-affiliated party could not trust.
Here one can only question the benefits of having an army that does not protect in times of peace or war and the benefits of having an army that remains neutral despite that weapons are being used in the streets by the people of one nation against each other.
What is even more dangerous and what threatens the Lebanese military is not Hezbollah’s armament but suspicion of playing a political role on behalf of one party and at the expense of another!