ISIS probes deeper into northern Lebanon, repelled by Hezbollah
by Kyle Rogers
ISIS forces attacked four Hezbollah outposts near the city of Baalbeck. Hezbollah says that 8 of their fighters were killed and 14 ISIS Jihadists were killed. The Lebanese army carried out two airstrikes against ISIS positions.
The current goal of ISIS is to instigate another sectarian civil war in Lebanon and use the chaos to acquire territory for the caliphate. Tripoli and the majority Sunni area of the northeast corner of Lebanon could become an ISIS stronghold.
Tripoli is a large Sunni city that is already partially controlled by Jihadist militias. ISIS and al-Qaeda are in competition as to who can link up with Tripoli first. Much of the Sunni population claim they are “persecuted” in Lebanon. Flags of al-Qaeda and ISIS are displayed all over the city. There is already a weapons pipeline going from Syria to the Sunni militias in Tripoli.
Thousands of fighters from both ISIS and the al-Qaeda franchise al-Nusra have taken refuge in the mountains along the northwestern border of Lebanon. From these mountains they move in and out of Lebanon. The territory due north of Lebanon is primarily inhabited by Shittes, Christians, and Druze. This area is still under the control of the Syrian government. al-Nusra and their allies are fighting the Syrian military in this area, but they don’t pose a major threat the northern Lebanese border at this time.
Hezbollah launched an offensive against Jihadists in the mountains on May 4th. They say they have lost 39 fighters and killed 210 Jihadists so far.
While the Lebanese military is largely seen as a joke, Lebanon has at least two large private armies.
Hezbollah is without a doubt the most effect Lebanese fighting force. They are private militia to defend the Shiites. They group is also on good terms with the Christian community. Hezbollah liberated Shiite and Christian towns alike from Sunni Jihadists on the Syrian side of the border. The towns had been invaded and occupied by an al-Qaeda run coalition of Jihadists that included the US backed FSA/SRF and the Saudi back Islamic Front.
Hezbollah is currently aiding several Christian communities in forming their own Christian militias.
Another large private fighting force is the Hashish (Cannabis) farmers of Bekaa Valley. While Hashish is illegal in Lebanon, the farmers are heavily armed and have repeatedly fought off the government. Many Hashish farmers have vowed to confront and kill ISIS fighters if the reach the Bekaa Valley.
There is tension between Hezbollah and the Hashish farmers because Hezbollah is technically opposed to Hashish. However, Hezbollah currently has a policy of not interfering with the farmers. Hezbollah members are allowed to posses Hashish to use as bribes, but are not permitted to smoke or consume it.
At any rate, Lebanon is destined for another civil war. This time it will pit Shiites and Christians against Sunni bolstered by foreign Jihadists. ISIS is still gaining territory in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. They are carrying out attacks in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip. They also have an active military presence in Tunisia, Afghanistan, and probably Tajikistan. Recently ISIS fighters in the Sinai vowed to attacked the isolated Israeli port city of Eilat. This would be another dramatic escalation.
The only place where ISIS appears to be in retreat is among the Nigerian franchise known as Boko Haram. However, ISIS leaders in the Caliphate never seemed to have much faith in them anyway. The tide turned when the Nigerian government hired white South African mercenaries to lead the fight against Boko Haram. Some analysts believe that ISIS has spent millions to keep Boko Harem going so they can claim a presence in sub-Saharan Africa.