Lebanese have no appetite for another civil war

Robert Fisk writes: There was gunfire at Sheikh Ahmed Abdul-Wahid’s funeral in northern Lebanon yesterday, a promise from the Lebanese army that they will investigate his killing – by a soldier – on Sunday, and a heap of appeals for calm from both the military and the government.

But, and here’s the worrying factor, not a single Lebanese flag was held aloft at the Sunni Muslim Sheikh’s graveside. Banners of the largely Sunni March 14th movement that opposes Syria, there were aplenty. And many flags of the old Syrian nation – green-white-and-black – the symbol that now identifies all opposition to President Bashar al-Assad. But Lebanon had somehow got lost.

Only hours after gun battles in Beirut – between Sunni Muslims who support Bashar and those who would like to see him dead – the angry, rifle-shooting cortege followed Abdul-Wahid’s coffin, his sheikh’s red and black turban attached to the lid upon a green and gold cloth, to the cemetery in his little village of Bireh. No one – not even the Lebanese army, which was hitherto the one reliable, non-sectarian institution in the state – can explain why a soldier would want to shoot the sheikh as he travelled with his bodyguard on the road to Halba in the far north of Lebanon. Military sources said that a soldier had also been wounded in the shooting. So did the sheikh’s bodyguard fire first?

And what – an awful question, but one which was obviously being asked in Beirut yesterday – was the religious affiliation of the soldiers who apparently stopped, or tried to stop, the sheikh’s car at a roadblock north of Tripoli? Yes, a committee would be set up to investigate. And yes, there would be a police inquiry. And a military inquiry, to boot. [Continue reading…]

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