US, UK join Lebanon’s strange military bedfellows

Hezbollah fighter walk near a military tank in Western Qalamoun, Syria August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki - RTS1D0E2
Hezbollah fighter walk near a military tank in Western Qalamoun, Syria August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki - RTS1D0E2

The Lebanese Armed Forces on Aug. 19 announced the launch of Fajr al-Joroud, an offensive against the Islamic State (IS) along the Lebanese-Syrian border. The campaign follows on the heels of a late July Hezbollah- and Syrian army-led offensive, backed by the Lebanese army, against Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra) outside Arsal. The two operations indicate that a mutual decision must have been made by the three forces to remove the IS and al-Qaeda threats along their shared border. A week into the Arsal offensive, Hezbollah proclaimed victory and reached a cease-fire agreement with the fighters in the area.

The Lebanese Armed Forces have been trained and equipped by numerous Western countries, but mainly the United States and the United Kingdom. On the first day of the Fajr al-Joroud offensive, Lebanese Armed Forces spokesman Ali Qanso pronounced, “The Lebanese army is not coordinating with Hezbollah and the Syrian army, either directly or indirectly.” That said, images and sources on the ground suggest a different reality, indicating close coordination between the Lebanese Armed Forces, Hezbollah and the Syrian army. This led to mockery on social media and the posting of pictures of Hezbollah fighters and Lebanese army soldiers side by side in the offensive accompanied by a hashtag in Arabic that loosely translates, “Oh what a coincidence!” Meanwhile, British and US officials have both confirmed their forces’ active presence among the Lebanese Armed Forces in the previous and ongoing border operations, resulting in an incredibly awkward reality on the ground…

Read more : AL-Monitor, 27.08.2017