A few defections in the ranks of the Lebanese army have provoked some alarm, the latest being soldier Khaled Shmatieh, who defected Oct. 20 and announced his allegiance to Jabhat al-Nusra. Shmatieh announced that he “repudiates this tyrannical and miscreant army before God,” as he put it in a video posted on Al-Manara al-Bayda’ channel, which is affiliated with Jabhat al-Nusra.
The statement included sectarian insinuations and exploited the state of repression and the feeling of injustice that has been growing among Sunnis in Lebanon due to their rejection of Hezbollah’s policies, and especially its involvement alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against the aspirations of the Sunni majority in Syria.
The defector called on “the young Sunnis to repent and defect from this army that is collaborating with Hezbollah.” He also denounced the “criminality, torture and harassment” that Syrian refugees were subjected to. He called for “unity in the face of the velayat-e faqih project, which aims to kill and displace the Sunnis of Lebanon.”
Most Lebanese political forces, from Hezbollah to the Future Movement, and from all orientations, rushed to denounce Shmatieh’s talk and downplay the series of defections. They all declared support for the Lebanese army in its battle against terrorism.
Their united stance, however, was merely figurative. It was a typical repetition of principle-related positions expressed by the state and its institutions. Their stance failed to turn into consensus on the fundamental issues that are yet to be resolved, including but not limited to Lebanon’s foreign policy and its position on the international coalition, which is fighting in Kobani and Raqqa a couple of kilometers from its borders in a pitched battle against the same enemy, the jihadist groups. Support for the military establishment has yet to turn into a consensus on methods to fortify security mechanisms.
Arming and support for the army has yet to materialize. On the anniversary of the assassination of intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Wissam Hassan, the words a few days ago of Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouk showed a lack of consensus. It even showed a dispute concerning the government’s security policy, which prompted him to insinuate on Hezbollah’s channel, “We refuse to be taken for Lebanese Sahawat, similar to the Iraqi Sahawat, ones that impose security on part of the Lebanese while they leave the other part to enjoy partisan immunity. There is no security without justice, and no stability without balance.”
As for the arming of the army, neither has the Saudi donation to the Lebanese army taken effect eight months after its approval nor has the Iranian offer to help the army managed to make it past the Cabinet, which refused to accept it.