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Old 08-29-2007   #41
Rex Brynen
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Default Lebanese Army

There is now doubt about the new-found esteem for the military (also related to its deployment to the south after last summer's war). One now often sees in Lebanon the entirely new phenomenon of billboards extolling the Army, put up by private companies.

However, the Lebanese Army has had a very tough job of it in Nahr al-Barid (against what are now only a few dozen Fateh al-Islam combatants), and I'm not sure that a lack of modern weapons systems is really the problem. Particularly striking has been the ability of Fateh al-Islam to fire off the occasional rocket barrage against nearby villages or the power plant, something that ought not to be happening when they're reduced to a small area, completely overlooked by Army positions.

That being said, the refugee camp is a nightmare to fight in: it is essentially a now-abandoned densely-build town of 32,000, with one road, 2-4 small lanes, and otherwise a maze of very narrow (1.5 m) zig-zagging alleyways.

Google Earth users can find a rather good view of it at 34º30'43.38" N 35º 57' 37.55 E
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Old 09-02-2007   #42
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Default Nahr al-Barid.. what's next?

Quote:
Lebanese troops crush Islamists in siege camp
2 September 2007

NAHR AL-BARED, Lebanon (AFP) — Lebanese troops on Sunday took full control of a devastated refugee camp that had been besieged for three months and held by diehard Islamist militants of Fatah al-Islam, the military said.

The Palestinian camp, a honeycomb of tunnels and houses reinforced against possible Israeli air attack, finally fell to a mass assault on Sunday after troops killed at least 37 Islamist militants as they made a desperate pre-dawn bid to break the siege, army and security sources said.

Another 15 Islamists were arrested, some of whom had managed to make it to nearby villages but were caught in the manhunt that included troops searching roofs and watertanks.

More than 220 people, including 158 Lebanese troops, were killed during the standoff which started on May 20 near the sprawling camp outside the northern city of Tripoli.
Now the hard part starts.

More than 32,000 people were displaced from Nahr al-Barid refugee camp, most of them fleeing to nearby Baddawi camp where they've been put up in refugee homes and UNRWA and Lebanese government schools since May 20. Nahr al-Barid is, from the UNOSAT (Ikonos) satellite imagery that I've seen, very badly damaged. UNRWA will need to find space for temporary accommodation for the displaced Palestinians (a sensitive issue in Lebanon), and then will have to reconstruct the camp (another sensitive issue, complicated by a host of land ownership and other questions). The costs will be significant, with camp reconstruction possibly running well over $150 million (equivalent to about one-third of UNRWA's annual budget for all 4.5 million refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and the West Bank).

The Lebanese government was at pains to signal to refugees that the camp would be reconstructed, and that (in contrast to all previous governments) it was also committed to improving their general standard of living. However, given both the costs of continued reconstruction after the Israel-Hizbullah war last summer, high levels of government debt, and a Lebanese view that responsibility for the Palestinian issue is international, the funds for doing so will have to come from external (especially Gulf) donors.

Failure to reconstruct will not only prolong humanitarian suffering of the displaced, but will also be seen as confirmation of constant rumours that the Nahr al-Barid fighting was somehow engineered by the Siniora government and the US to destroy the camp, liquidate the refugee problem, etc.

Moreover, while the current government's position on Lebanese-Palestinian relations has been much more positive than past governments, the loss of so many Lebanese Army personnel (plus Fateh al-Islam rocketing of the Tripoli power station and nearby villages) has hardly improved relations at the popular level (despite few of the militants being Palestinian, and the government's emphasis that this was NOT a Lebanese-Palestinian conflict).
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Old 09-04-2007   #43
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Personally, I think they will continue to be used as pawns by all factions in the ME. From the PLO expulsion by Jordan to Sabra and Shatila, to hamas attemtping to usurp the legitimacy of the palestinian authority to the intentional squalor of the refugee camps left unchecked by palestinian officials, their pawn status continues unabated. Little of the oil wealth of the ME will be donated, save but a few token million. Rich 'donors' know all too well the graft that occurs in ME. I was reading the other day in a local paper the fiscal analysis of our own 'charities', well regulated and monitored as they are, and I was quite amazed at how very little of the donated money actually is applied to the needy. Out of every 1 million given to the ME, my guesstimate would be 50-60K of it actually gets to the needy.
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Old 09-04-2007   #44
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Default squalor of the refugee camps

By global standards, very few Palestinian refugee camps are truly "squalid" by global standrads--in most places (Syria, Jordan, the West Bank) only a minority of refugees live in the camps, which have simply become low-income housing areas. Refugee incomes and standards of living in those areas are equal to those of the non-refugee population.

Gaza is slightly different because it is overcrowded, much poorer, and most of the population are refugees.

Lebanon is even more different still because refugees have, in the past, been barred from using government social services, from working in most professions, and even from owning property. (The Siniora government would like to change this.) Moreover, ever since the civil wars refugees have tended to cluster in camps for security. All of this reflects the enormous demographic and political sensitivity of the refugee issue in Lebanon, where the constitution explicitly forbids permanent settlement of the Palestinians there.

UNRWA--the UN agency that deals with Palestinian refugees--generally does an excellent job, as the social indicators suggest. (Donors have sometimes criticized the agency for budgetary planning and management/reporting issues, but not for corruption and waste.)

Gulf money financed the reconstruction of destroyed refugee housing in Jenin and Rafah/Khan Yunis (Gaza)... I suspect it will be the same in Nahr al-Barid.
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Old 09-04-2007   #45
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Default Non Propredi est Regredi

http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1023/p7s1-wome.htm


Refugees grasp at bin Laden's words

Palestinian groups in Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp have little sympathy for US battle.

By Nicholas Blanford | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

AIN AL-HILWEH, LEBANON
Ali Al-Ali, a former Palestinian fighter, resides deep inside the slums of Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp.

Living in appalling squalor and surrounded by 70,000 Palestinian refugees, many of whom long ago lost hope of returning to their former homes in what is now Israel, Al-Ali has seen how his neighbors are desperately seeking to salvage some hope from Osama bin Laden's speeches of support for the Palestinians.

They may disapprove of his methods, and most condemn the Sept. 11 attacks, but for some in Ain al-Hilweh, Mr. bin Laden has become a symbol of defiance to the US, Israel's main ally.

Al-Ali has lived for nine years in the Ozo district of the refugee camp. Ain al-Hilweh is Arabic for "Sweet Spring," the waters of which once irrigated the orange groves surrounding the coastal city of Sidon, 20 miles south of Beirut. But today, the only running water is the raw sewage trickling down open drains. Barefoot children play in the filth outside Al-Ali's front door.

His wife and four children sleep on the floor of his cramped home. "I get the bed," he says, pointing at a rickety iron bedstead next to the glassless window. The tin roof lets in clouds of dust in the sweltering heat of summer, torrents of rain in the bitter winter.
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Old 09-04-2007   #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
By global standards, very few Palestinian refugee camps are truly "squalid" by global standrads
Ugh, I need to learn to proofread.

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Originally Posted by goesh View Post
http://www.csmonitor.com/2001/1023/p7s1-wome.htm
Al-Ali has lived for nine years in the Ozo district of the refugee camp. Ain al-Hilweh is Arabic for "Sweet Spring," the waters of which once irrigated the orange groves surrounding the coastal city of Sidon, 20 miles south of Beirut. But today, the only running water is the raw sewage trickling down open drains. Barefoot children play in the filth outside Al-Ali's front door.
.
As I noted earlier, conditions in all of the camps in Lebanon are much worse than those in Syria, Jordan, and the West Bank. Until fairly recently, Palestinians (and often even the UN) were prohibited from taking building materials into the camps by the Lebanese army--again, out of fear of "tawtiin" (permanent resettlement). That policy has now been changed.

Ayn al-Hilwa is the largest camp in Lebanon (about 45,000), has particularly bad conditions, and appalling local security conditions: as with all camps (except now Nahr al-Barid) there is no Lebanese security presence in the camps, which instead is full of myriad armed factions, including various militant Islamist ones (notably Jund al-Sham). You'll find a camp profile here.

In addition to UNRWA statistics, the best source of information on Palestinian refugees is FAFO.

The very informative website of the Lebanese-Palestinian Dialogue Committee (despite its name, a Lebanese government policy unit) is here. Full disclosure: I worked as a policy advisor for these folks this summer.
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Old 09-08-2007   #47
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DNA tests on body thought to be Abssi's come back negative

Quote:
The Lebanese Army continued on Thursday to hunt down fleeing members of Fatah al-Islam, killing one and capturing seven within the vicinity of the battered Northern refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared as DNA tests came back negative for a body earlier identified as that of Shaker al-Abssi-leader of the group.
...

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article....ticle_id=85098
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Old 10-10-2007   #48
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GEES, 27 Sep 07: Fear Factor: Lebanon and the European Way of Peacekeeping
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The European-led United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL is proof positive, if any were needed, of why Europe is unlikely to ever be a global superpower. When the 13,400-member force was scratched together following last summer’s 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah, Europeans said their kinder, gentler “soft power” approach to peacekeeping would teach the United States a thing or two about global politics. While the United States starts wars, Europe ends them, or so they claimed.

But today Lebanon is on the verge of political collapse, a defiant Hezbollah has rearmed to the hilt and rumors of another war with Israel are rife. And as Lebanon slides further into chaos, UNIFIL itself has become a tempting target, so much so that it now spends most of its time trying to protect itself.

Which raises the question: What, exactly, are the Europeans doing in Lebanon?
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Old 10-11-2007   #49
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Default a rather silly paper...

...if you ask me.

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The European-led United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon known as UNIFIL is proof positive, if any were needed, of why Europe is unlikely to ever be a global superpower.
Despite the somewhat ambiguous content of OP 12 of UNSCR 1701 (2006), no one really thought that UNIFIL + was going to disarm Hizbullah, or stop smuggling across the Syrian border (it is not deployed along most of that border), and it certainly didn't have a mandate or capabilities to somehow stop a potential Lebanese civil war (largely a political issue). Europe also didn't think this was their superpower moment.

The Europeans did think--correctly--that everyone needed a way to climb down from a general war that:

  • Hizbullah started by accident (they clearly hadn't expected such an intense level of Israeli retaliation to the abduction of IDF personnel)
  • Israel escalated without any clear game plan (only FM Livni seems to have even raised the question of an exit strategy)
  • was causing enormous social, economic, human and political damage to post-civil war Lebanon
  • was also radicalizing public opinion throughout the Middle East.

It was the Israelis who increasingly insisted that if UNIFIL+ was going to be the way of everyone backing down from the confrontation, it needed to have forces somewhat more robust than Fijians (ie, Europeans). Washington, once it was clear that no IDF knock-out punch was in the cards, also belatedly agreed (and certainly wasn't about to volunteer US troops).

Quietly the Israelis have been saying for some months now that, far from performing below expectations, UNIFIL's deployment has shifted much of the locus of Hizbullah rearmament efforts north of the Litani River (although given Hizbullahs popular support in the south and ability to cover its tracks well, its anyone's guess what it has actually done in the UNIFIL deployment zone.)

There is a lot one can criticize about UN peacekeeping, but UNIFIL+ has, more or less, performed the limited task that the UNSC and contributing states set it (most importantly, providing a mechanism for ending the 2006 war). It is hardly fair to criticize it for not doing things that no one seriously ever thought it would be able to do.
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Old 10-11-2007   #50
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Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
...if you ask me.

Despite the somewhat ambiguous content of OP 12 of UNSCR 1701 (2006), no one really thought that UNIFIL + was going to disarm Hizbullah, or stop smuggling across the Syrian border (it is not deployed along most of that border), and it certainly didn't have a mandate or capabilities to somehow stop a potential Lebanese civil war (largely a political issue). Europe also didn't think this was their superpower moment.

The Europeans did think--correctly--that everyone needed a way to climb down from a general war that:

  • Hizbullah started by accident (they clearly hadn't expected such an intense level of Israeli retaliation to the abduction of IDF personnel)
  • Israel escalated without any clear game plan (only FM Livni seems to have even raised the question of an exit strategy)
  • was causing enormous social, economic, human and political damage to post-civil war Lebanon
  • was also radicalizing public opinion throughout the Middle East.

It was the Israelis who increasingly insisted that if UNIFIL+ was going to be the way of everyone backing down from the confrontation, it needed to have forces somewhat more robust than Fijians (ie, Europeans). Washington, once it was clear that no IDF knock-out punch was in the cards, also belatedly agreed (and certainly wasn't about to volunteer US troops).

Quietly the Israelis have been saying for some months now that, far from performing below expectations, UNIFIL's deployment has shifted much of the locus of Hizbullah rearmament efforts north of the Litani River (although given Hizbullahs popular support in the south and ability to cover its tracks well, its anyone's guess what it has actually done in the UNIFIL deployment zone.)

There is a lot one can criticize about UN peacekeeping, but UNIFIL+ has, more or less, performed the limited task that the UNSC and contributing states set it (most importantly, providing a mechanism for ending the 2006 war). It is hardly fair to criticize it for not doing things that no one seriously ever thought it would be able to do.
Agreed but this is just more of the same when it comes to UN peacekeeping and UNIFIL in particular. The one's who cripple the effectiveness--often the U.S.--then criticize the efforts the most. It has happened repeatedly in the case of UNIFIL, an organization that has suffered plenty of casualties over the past 3 decades. The same thing happened in Rwanda with UNAMIR.

In the case of this author, he appears to be a European version of the Pat Robertson crowd, masquerading as a strategic analyst.

best

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Old 10-11-2007   #51
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An ICG follow-up to the report that started this thread, taking another look at the premise that Lebanon has badly lost its balance and is at risk of new collapse, moving ever closer to explosive Sunni-Shiite polarisation with a divided, debilitated Christian community in between.

ICG, 10 Oct 07: Hizbollah and the Lebanese Crisis
Quote:
....Contradictory signs are emanating from Lebanon. On the one hand, the cycle of destabilising violence and inflammatory rhetoric resumed with the 19 September 2007 assassination of a March 14 member of parliament, Antoine Ghanem. March 14 forces, echoed by Washington and Paris, immediately saw Syria’s hand. The Lebanese majority accused Damascus of seeking to erase its parliamentary advantage through the step-by-step physical elimination of legislators; the French foreign minister cancelled a scheduled meeting with his Syrian counterpart, explaining he was “extremely shocked by this latest assassination”. Saad al-Hariri went further, saying the regime in Syria would never stop its killings, because “it is their way”, and concluding that “the solution is not in getting rid of the regime of Saddam only, but of the regime of Bashar also”. Militias also are rearming at an alarming pace, particularly among the various (and rival) Christian groups.

On the other hand, prospects remain for a deal on the most urgent task, electing a new president. Even after the assassination, voices from both sides express hope that a compromise can be found, while external actors (France, Saudi Arabia and Iran in particular) appear eager to find a way out by focusing on a consensual candidate rather than one that perfectly suits their agenda. The initiative, spearheaded by Nabih Berri – in which the opposition would drop its demand for a national unity government at this stage on condition the parties agree on a consensus candidate by a two-thirds majority – was welcomed by parties across the political spectrum. It also certainly had Syria’s benediction, as it is hard to imagine Berri launching such a high-profile initiative otherwise. Contacts between majority and opposition have redoubled....
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Old 10-11-2007   #52
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Agreed on the premise that Lebanon is on the verge again; this is a much better report in that it looks at the Lebanese. The first report looked on UNIFIL as a European failure to somehow "fix" Lebanon's problems. This one does tie the regional players into the equation as well, putting the need to pull in both Israel and Syria into the discussions.

Somewhat disagree in that the "verge" in Lebanon is always present, given the nature of the country, its historical roots, and the ever present need to balance "confessional" politics.

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Old 11-17-2007   #53
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CEIP, 16 Nov 07: The Presidential Crisis in Lebanon Demands Urgent Attention
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Lebanon, an important piece of the precarious Middle East puzzle, is threatening to come undone in the coming few days. With the term of the Lebanese president Emile Lahoud coming to an end on November 24, the parliament has yet to meet, rival groups in the country have not agreed on a new president, and the country risks ending up with two governments and a serious breakdown of security and order. Despite a flurry of diplomatic and political activity, the parties—and their international backers—seem dangerously far apart; if a president is not agreed upon in the next few days, the country’s central institutions might soon collapse and the country might spiral slowly into a state of civil war. A high dose of intense international attention to Lebanon right now can save the country and the region years of open conflict and bloodshed. A number of leaders in Lebanon, the region, and around the world are focusing on bringing about a political resolution to the current crisis, but a redoubled effort from the United States and other major players is needed in these remaining days.....
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Old 01-10-2008   #54
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Default Hizbullah thread, continued....

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Originally Posted by Penta View Post
Unless the Lebanese Armed Forces are the ones to make the attempt, then it doesn't matter.

Reality is, so far as I can tell...Hezbollah is not even remotely subject to the authority of the de jure government of Lebanon.

Until Hezbollah is brought under Beirut's control, and the whole of Lebanese territory is actively under the sovereignty of the government in Beirut, then the situation won't change much.
With the exception of this summer's fighting at Nahr al-Barid, the LAF has never been used domestically in a substantive way without it fragmenting along sectarian-political lines (as it did in 1976). Moreover, roughly c40% + of the Lebanese population is Shi'ite, as are a similar (or larger) share of the LAF rank-and-file. About half of the overall Lebanese population support the March 8 opposition (Hizbullah, Amal, Aoun). With the probable level of support for Hizallah in the LAF (or, at least, a refusal to use force against it), I can't imagine circumstances under which the LAF would even consider trying to forcibly disarm the party (even assuming it has the military capacity to do so)

The most probable outcome of the current presidential impasse is the formation of a national unity cabinet in which Hizballah is directly or indirectly represented, and in which it enjoys (along with its allies) a veto power over major decisions. In these circumstances, disarmament is even more unlikely, although a "moderating" change in the relationship between its political and military aspects might take place over time (although, for reasons I've already posted, I'm not optimistic this will take place quickly or soon).
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Old 01-10-2008   #55
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Post Speaking of which

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Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
The most probable outcome of the current presidential impasse is the formation of a national unity cabinet in which Hizballah is directly or indirectly represented, and in which it enjoys (along with its allies) a veto power over major decisions. In these circumstances, disarmament is even more unlikely, although a "moderating" change in the relationship between its political and military aspects might take place over time (although, for reasons I've already posted, I'm not optimistic this will take place quickly or soon).
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1647.htm

Not sure how easily thats going to happen either.
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Old 01-10-2008   #56
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Default more video

For those of you who have never seen a Hizballah promotional video, this is a good example (from Hizb's al-Manar TV).

Impressive production values, and note the nationalist (rather than Shi'ite-sectarian) imagery, most notably with the frequent display of the Lebanese flag.

There are some that highlight this even more (as well as showcasing their crack bagpipe team!), but they tend to get deleted from Youtube rather quickly (as this one might too).
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Old 02-08-2008   #57
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Reading this now:

Quote:
Al Qaeda in Lebanon: The Iraq War Spreads, by Nir Rosen. Boston Review, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2008
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Old 02-08-2008   #58
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Default on Fateh al-Islam

Nir Rosen's piece is excellent.

So too is Bernard Rougier's Everyday Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam among Palestinians in Lebanon.
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Old 02-13-2008   #59
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USIP, 12 Feb 08: Facing the Abyss: Lebanon's Deadly Political Stalemate
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....Today, Lebanon is plagued by a protracted political stalemate between a rump government led by the anti-Syrian March 14th coalition (inheritors of the Cedar Revolution) and the Hezbollah-led opposition. This dangerous deadlock has propelled Lebanon once again toward the abyss of civil war. Despite intensive Arab and European mediation efforts, a political compromise does not appear imminent. Rather, Lebanon seems poised to endure weeks, if not months, of continued paralysis and violence. This USIPeace Briefing examines some of the key issues underlying Lebanon’s current political turmoil.....
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Old 03-17-2008   #60
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Real Instituo Elcano, 12 Feb 08:

Fatah al-Islam: Anthropological Perspectives on Jihadi Culture
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....This paper argues that the Jihadi culture of FaI is an appropriated and non-traditional culture which must be defended at all costs by its followers precisely because it is an artificial entity. FaI resembles any other Salafi Jihadi group in the sense that the only viable frame of reference is similar Jihadi groups, and this self-contained universe produces self-reference and little else. The appropriated cultural identity of a Jihadi explains the at times absurd insistence and emphasis on details pertaining to cultural symbols of a largely superficial nature. The battle for control of these symbols became FaI’s centre of gravity as a militant group, allowing it to distinguish itself from mainstream society, to which it certainly did not belong, and from other militant Islamist groups as well.....
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