Steven Sahiounie, journalist and political commentator
Covert training camps in the Jordanian desert are currently the site of British and American trainers developing young Lebanese men, loyal to the Christian warlord, Samir Geagea, according to chief editor of Al Mariah magazine, Fadi Abu Deya. In an interview given to Al Jadeed TV, Abu Deya claimed Geagea is sending fighters to Jordan for military training which is supported by the US and UK. Gegea’s media office has denied this allegation and has threatened to file a lawsuit against Abu Deya. The militia is allegedly tasked with attacks on Hezbollah, the Lebanese resistance group.
However, from a reliable source inside Lebanon, Israel’s Mossad are training fighters loyal to Geagea in his headquarters at Meraab, Baalbek, and Dahr Al Ahmar.
In May 2008, Geagea told the Lebanese media Al Akbar that he had 7,000 to 10,000 fighters ready to face off with Hezbollah, and was asking for US support. Lebanon continues to be one step away from a new civil war along sectarian lines.
Geagea is supported by Saudi Arabia who demand Hezbollah to be demilitarized. The US shares this view with Saudi Arabia and Israel, who view the group as a terrorist organization. Saudi Arabia is willing to help Lebanon with their financial recovery, but their condition is that Hezbollah must be weakened.
Geagea is one of the most powerful politicians in Lebanon, despite being sentenced to life in prison for murder in 1995. He killed his political opponents, and blew up a church full of worshippers, even though he is Christian to whip up sectarian hatred.
Recently, he came under scrutiny for a new militia called “God’s Soldiers” who are located in Ashrafiah, a neighborhood of Beirut. These are young Christian men who most often work as security guards and look like they are professional body builders or wrestlers. Defenders of the group claim they are simply a neighborhood watch group protecting property from robbery. However, Geagea has a past history of heading a group known as “Young Men” who were fighters during the civil war.
Hezbollah is not only a defense force, which has prevented a second Israeli invasion of south Lebanon, and a resistance force demanding the withdrawal of Israelis from the occupied Shebaa Farms, they are also a political party with a sizable elected membership in parliament in the free democratic elections held in May. Most Lebanese, regardless of their support of Hezbollah, agree that Hezbollah has been the only defense force capable of defending the southern border.
Lebanon is now referred to as a failed state. Once called the ‘Switzerland of the Middle East” for its private and secure banking services, and its winter ski resorts in the mountains, it began a financial collapse in 2019 which has seen the country hit rock-bottom currently. Wealthy Arabs from the Persian Gulf used to flock to Lebanon for their famous nightclubs and Casino. The tourists are gone from Lebanon amid the financial collapse which has seen Lebanese migrants leaving in small boats to find a better life in Europe.
Protesters began street violence in 2019 demanding the ruling political elite step down. These politicians included remnants of the war-lords of the 1975-1990 civil war, like Geagea.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, has been discovered to have run the bank for decades in a Ponzi scheme, which wiped out hard currency, and caused the banks to freeze accounts. Some Lebanese became so desperate to access their own money, they resorted to armed hold-ups to get their own funds released. In several cases, the funds were needed for emergency medical care as there are no public hospitals in Lebanon.
European countries began issuing arrest warrants for Salameh on charges of money laundering, corruption, and personal enrichment of public funds. He has remained free, and still holds his position in charge of all the public funds for Lebanon, while enjoying the protection of the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy C. Shea who has said removal of Salameh is a ‘red line’. European charges relate to billions of dollars that Salameh and his brother have deposited abroad. Recent rumors floated that the US was promoting Salameh to become the next president.
In 2016, Salameh hosted a conference at the US Embassy in Lebanon. The Financial Action Task Force was set up to stop money laundering to safeguard the integrity of the banking sector. Salameh was the fox in the henhouse.
The US-NATO attack on Syria began in 2011 for regime change. The US and their western allies, including Israel, wanted to break the political alliance between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah. In 2012, the CIA began a covert training operation in the Jordanian desert, and in 2013 President Obama signed approval of the operation which trained young men to fight in Syria.
In 2013, former deputy CIA director Michael J. Morell said in a CBS interview that the most effective fighters on the battlefield in Syria are the Radical Islamic terrorists. “And because they’re so good at fighting the Syrians, some of the moderate members of the opposition joined forces with them,” he said.
The Syrian refugee camp Zatari in Jordan was the home base of the fighters, who would train with the CIA and slip over the border into Syria and later return to their families safe in the camp.
In 2017, President Trump shut down the $1 Billion CIA program in Jordan. From the beginning, many advisors had cautioned that the weapons the US was supplying to the ‘rebels’ would later fall into the hands of terrorists following Radical Islam, such as Al Qaeda, Jibhat al-Nusra and ISIS. Their warning became reality, after the ‘rebels’ became partners with the Radical Islamic terrorists who did not fight for freedom, or democracy, but for the goal of establishing a government in Damascus following the political ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Obama had promoted the MB in the US, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Syria. The political platform of the MB is identical to Al Qaeda. The big difference is that ISIS carries black flags and the MB wear suits and ties. Eventually, the Obama-backed MB was defeated in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria. In Libya, the MB control the Tripoli administration backed by the UN. The armed conflict in Syria finished by 2017 with the US supported Al Qaeda affiliate, Jibhta al-Nusra, only in control of an olive growing province, Idlib.
Jordan’s King Hussein was one of the first Arab leaders to call for the Syrian President to step down. Jordan is one the largest recipients of US foreign aid, which was a reward for their peace treaty with Israel. King Hussein supported the US-NATO attack on Syria and hosted the terrorist training camps in the desert as well as a huge Syrian refuges camp which was used to house and feed the wives and children of the terrorists being trained. But, the US-NATO attack on Syria failed. In September 2021, the border crossing between Syria and Jordan re-opened. On October 4, 2021 the King spoke with Assad by phone in the first phase of a reconciliation between Amman and Damascus, similar to the repair in relations between Syria and Bahrain and UAE. Turkey is now in the same process, and reports suggest Saudi Arabia may follow. Arab leaders realize that they must not blindly follow orders by Washington to start or support wars in the Middle East which end up in failure.
Steven Sahiounie is a two-time award-winning journalist