W. Thomas Smith, Jr

Lebanon – one of the most critical fronts in the war on terror – is on the brink of a full-blown shooting war. Few Americans living or traveling outside of that country seem to have any prescient understanding of this: Perhaps it is because Americans are so keenly focused on the bloodier, more immediate twin fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and our own forthcoming general elections here at home. Maybe it is because the Lebanese media seems to spend more time and energy reporting to itself than to the international press.

No matter the reasons, if we don’t focus more of our attention on this strategically important ally, we’re going to find ourselves in a position – perhaps before Christmas – trying to figure a way to extinguish a sectarian fire far more dangerous than that which we are currently struggling to put out in Iraq.

Not to say Iraq is no longer dangerous: It is. But we already have a huge military footprint there. After nearly five years of fighting, we have a substantive grasp of the war’s various causes and directions. We’re gaining the upper hand – seemingly exponentially -- against the sources of violence. We are standing up strong, legitimate Iraqi security forces. And we are building good relationships with the Iraqi people.

In Lebanon -- where the parliament has less than one month from now to elect a president which it has not been able to do in two previous attempts -- there are multiple armed Jihadist factions: all training, stockpiling weapons, building and rebuilding defenses, gathering intelligence, threatening politicians, assassinating a few, probing existing security forces, and waiting for orders from the likes of Syria and Iran and chiefs-in-hiding like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Hezbollah, supported by Syria and trained-and-equipped by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, has worldwide reach. But it currently fields between 2,000 and 3,000 armed-militiamen in Lebanon. Hezbollah says its militiamen are “resistance” fighters, because according to United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701 armed “militias” are outlawed in Lebanon. And Hezbollah can quickly bring another 25,000 men to arms if there is war.

Hezbollah is only one of multiple Jihadist-terrorists factions based and operating in Lebanon. Many, like Hezbollah and Amal, fly their flags together in the same villages.

W. Thomas Smith, Jr

W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a former U.S. Marine rifle-squad leader and counterterrorism instructor. He is the author of six books, and he has covered war and conflict in the Balkans, on the West Bank, in Iraq, and Lebanon. Visit him online at http://www.uswriter.com.
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