Juan Cole
Informed Comment
June 24, 2013

PressTV has video:

The Syrian civil war spilled over onto Lebanon dramatically on Sunday
and again on Monday morning when  violent clashes broke out between the
Salafi militia of Sheikh Ahmad Asir in Sidon and the Lebanese army and
Shiite Hizbullah fighters. The army maintains that the Salafis (hard line Sunni
Muslims influenced by Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism) attacked a military
checkpoint in the city.

Asir accuses the Lebanese army and the Lebanese political establishment of
being in Shiite Iran’s back pocket. (In fact, the Lebanese political elite
is fractured and deeply divided. Sunni politicians tend to side with Syria’s
rebels, whereas Shiites and Christians are afraid of the extremism of rebel
groups such as the Nusra Front).

He castigates Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah as an idolator (ancient Arabs
used to worship a goddess, al-Lat, instead of the cosmic God, Allah; Asir
calls Nasrallah “Nasr al-Lat”.) He backs the rebels in Syria even as
Hizbullah backs the Baath regime of Bashar al-Assad.

When Nasrallah sent Hizbullah fighters to al-Qusayr in Syria, Asir sent
Salafi fighters from Lebanon to oppose them on the rebel side. I said at the
time that these steps on both sides were dangerous, since the next stage
would be for the two to fight at home. Et voila.

Juan Cole is a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history
at the University of Michigan and the author of Napoleon’s Egypt and, most
recently, Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March 2009).