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    Middle East
     Jul 20, 2007
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Loose Saudi cannons in Lebanon
By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS - More than 10 years ago, Lebanese comedian Wassim Tabbara staged a brilliant satire called Sleep on My Silk about Lebanon's former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri. He showed Hariri having just returned to Lebanon in the 1990s from a fruitful career in Saudi Arabia (where he had made billions). Hariri was known at the time as Saudi Arabia's No 1 man in Beirut.

He is shown telling a wealthy Saudi sheikh about the terrible economic conditions in Lebanon, but tales of the economic

misery were not enough to get the sheikh to donate to Lebanon. Hariri adds that if Lebanon falls, "Then there is no longer Bhamdoun or Aley for you!"

This was a reference to the two summer resorts that wealthy Saudis have frequented over the years for gambling and pleasure in Lebanon. Stunned by the reality, the sheikh begins to weep. "No more nightclubs for you!" More sobs. "No more casinos for you!" The sheikh falls apart in tears and starts writing out blank checks to the Lebanese prime minister.

Much has changed since then, yet much remains the same. Lebanon is still strongly allied to Saudi Arabia, thanks to Hariri's son and political successor, Saad. The Saudis invested heavily in the elder Hariri's Lebanon in the 1990s and have worked relentlessly since his assassination in 2005 to prevent the country's disintegration.

Nowadays, however, Saudi Arabia is exporting more than gamblers, tourists and investors to Lebanon. It is - unwillingly - sending terrorists and suicide bombers to Lebanon, particularly to the formerly sleepy city of Tripoli, where a radical Islamic fanatic group called Fatah al-Islam is waging war against the Lebanese Army.

Last week, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz released his latest report on the assassination of Rafik Hariri. He confirmed that the suicide bomber who murdered the premier was not Lebanese - nor Syrian. Rather, he came from a "hot district", which probably is a reference to Saudi Arabia.

Most terrorists in radical Islamic groups from the Persian Gulf region come from Saudi Arabia. We find fewer suicide bombers from Kuwait, or any from Oman, the United Arab Emirates or Qatar.

The bomber, according to Brammertz, had spent only about four months of his life in Lebanon and nearly 10 years in a "rural area", possibly the mountains of Afghanistan. After all, hundreds of Saudis lived there when working with the United States to combat the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. This sheds light once more on Saudi jihadis in Lebanon.

Coinciding with the Brammertz report were other stories from the Naher al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. Saudi journalist Faris bin Khuzam, writing for the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, put the number of Saudi jihadis in Lebanon operating from Naher al-Bared at 300. He claims they were "lured" into a battlefield "other than the one they wanted", saying that they had plans to fight the Americans in Iraq, and ended up in Tripoli.

The reason, he explained, is tight security on the Syrian border (in addition to the Saudi one) preventing them from making a breakthrough into war-torn Iraq. Instead, they found their way into Lebanon and stayed for what initially seemed to be a temporary transit period. "Gradually the pendulum shifted," Khuzam wrote, adding that "they were told that the road to Jerusalem runs through here [Naher al-Bared]". He concluded, "They chose the Saudi dream that Osama bin Laden could not fulfill."

The secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Beirut, Sultan Abu al-Aynein, confirmed this tale, saying that 23 Saudi jihadis had been killed in Naher al-Bared, all members of Fatah al-Islam. They are buried in a collective grave in the battered refugee camp.

Other members of Fatah al-Islam who have surrendered to Lebanese authorities confirmed that 43 Saudi jihadis were in Naher al-Bared. The Lebanese weekly Al-Kifah al-Arabi said more than 50 people (mostly Saudis) were arrested by Lebanese authorities, while another 45 were still fighting.

Government authorities believe that more Saudis can be found in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Still some claim that Saudis in Lebanon can be divided into two groups: Fatah al-Islam and al-Qaeda. The first are found strictly within the Naher al-Bared camp and have almost been exterminated by the Lebanese Army, after two months of heavy combat. The Saudis in al-Qaeda are in silent cells, however, scattered all over Lebanon. They are a time-bomb that could explode at any moment.

In May, investigative US reporter Seymour Hersh gave a groundbreaking interview to CNN International's Your World Today, discussing the combat in Naher al-Bared. Hersh's comments caused an uproar in the US, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon because he blamed the US administration, the Saudis and the cabinet of Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora of

Continued 1 2 

War games, mind games or the real deal? (Jul 14, '07)

Lebanon bending under extremist challenge (Jul 4, '07)

Lebanon battles a new demon (May 23, '07)

1. The terrorist threat to the US homeland

2. The way to go in Iraq

3. Al-Qaeda regrouping points to US attack  

4. US presence fuels Iran-Bahrain tension   

5. Galileo: Europe's great leap outward

6. Ready, aim, fire and rain 

7. A Japanese, born in the US of A

8. Beijing keeps Islamabad honest 

9. A sharp reminder for Musharraf

(24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, July 18, 2007)


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