Dr. Walid Phares

www.walidphares.com

A "brave little force" defeats an al Qaeda Stronghold

Monday, 03 September 2007. Mideast Newswire

Today, the Lebanese Army completed its victory over the Fatah al Islam forces in the Nahr al Bared stronghold in Northern Lebanon. The "little brave force," backed by the country's civil society and by the Cedars Revolution accomplished in one small area what major armies are hoping to achieve globally: defeat al Qaeda. On this Sunday September 2, the Lebanese soldiers and officers finally took the last bunker of the al Qaeda linked Jihadi terror group. Immediately after, the civilian populations in Northern Lebanon, from Sunni Tripoli and Dennieh, Maronite Zghortan and Besharre, Orthodox Kura, and multiethnic Akkar, expressed their joy to see the Jihadist removed. The local victory of the Lebanese Army -despite the threat of multiple identical groups in the country preparing for clashes- shows that, what I called a "brave little force," can confront and defeat Terrorists when the Government is focused on such a policy. The Lebanese Army is ill equipped, is emerging from 15 years of Syrian occupation and is under the pressure of pro-Jihadist Parties and politicians including Hezbollah and its allies. But nevertheless, the multiethnic military force produced a victory on the ground. It faced off with well trained Jihadists who used suicide bombers, snipers, slaughter of innocents, and all the panoply of weapons they have. But, as the pictures have shown over the past few months, the Lebanese military were fighting on their soil, and had their population supporting them. Bottom line: they won this one battle, by themselves with their own arms, tanks, helicopters and more than a hundred casualties. This was their Fallujah which they freed alone.

But as important is the support received by the military from the various Lebanese communities. This second test since the Cedars Revolution shows that a cross sectarian solidarity exist against the barbary of the Jihadi terrorists. Among the army's casualties, Sunnis, Christians, Druse and Shia. Tripoli, mostly Sunni with Christian and Alawi communities stood firmly by the Lebanese Army. In the rest of the area, civilians from all religions also supported their soldiers. This attitude sent chilling messages to Hezbollah and his Syro-Iranian allies: When you are confronting an army backed by its people, you have little chance of intimidating it. Also a message to many in the international media who -sympathetic to Iran and Syria- projected the masses to turn against the Army. Dead wrong: Not only the Lebanese civilians stood by their armed forces and Government, but a majority of Palestinians in the camps sided with Mahmoud Abbas against the Jihadists of Fatah al Islam. This is an experiment that deserves the attention of the Free World, as Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Palestine are witnessing the Terror war against surging democracies. The soldiers close to their societies can win in the War on Terror.

**Dr Walid Phares is the Director, Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies