‘Don’t blame Syria!’
“…. No surprise, then, that this week’s Tripoli fighting has been reported as the inevitable progeny of the violence that has divided Syria and is now finally spilling over into Lebanon. The logic is not necessarily unsound, given Syria’s historic tutelage, and given that Lebanon’s political heavyweights – and, by extension, its people – are mortally divided over Bashar al-Assad. …. ….But with its complicated sectarian, political and ideological divides, blaming Syria for the deaths of at least nine and the wounding of more than 100 in Tripoli over the past week is to overlook more than three decades of resentment in Lebanon’s second city, as well as the conditions that have allowed such rancour to foment.
……… As proxy battles continued to rage, northern leaders soon realised the advantage of maintaining well-equipped militias to keep Tripoli an unofficial war zone throughout the decades. At the end of the war, most militias were supposed to hand in their weapons. Few did, but fewer still kept their arms deployed in such close proximity to rival groups as occurred in Tripoli.The resulting flare-ups have been carefully managed by sectarian leaders and have helped maintain the real reason why Tripoli is such a hotbed for hostility. For behind all of Syria’s influence in Lebanon, and underneath a past of political manipulation, the true cause of Tripoli’s violent present lies in the city’s appalling neglect. The figures speak for themselves. Close to 40% of all Lebanon’s poor live in Tripoli or the surrounding areas. More than half of Tripoli residents are classed as either “poor” or “extremely poor.” Of those families who live in the trouble hotspots of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, 82% live on less than the equivalent of £336 per month. Illiteracy and unemployment rates in the city are way above the national average…..That is not to say Tripoli has been forgotten by power holders in Beirut. Parties are more than happy to arm partisans in the area and encourage them to “defend” themselves against rival sects. Allowing poverty to continue to disrupt the lives of residents is the best way, apparently, to ensure militia loyalty. Leaders paint themselves as saviours to their supporters (who believe them) and pump in arms and vitriol to vulnerable areas to provide the semblance of security for poor groups….”