Forces: The Lethal Lebanese Shuffle


October 6, 2006: Officially, the Government of Lebanon says that about 40-percent of the troops in the 50,000 strong national armed forces are Shia. Apparently US and Israeli intel types say it's more like 60-percent, based on sources inside the Lebanese government. The Lebanese government apparently really believes the 60 percent number as well, and is apparently preparing a program to "rebalance" the armed forces, so that the three principal communities in the country -Sunni, Shia, and Christian�"will each provide about a third of the troops, regardless of their actual numbers in the population (believed to be 40 percent Christian, 35 percent Shia, and 25 percent others, mostly Sunni). This could be a formula for trouble, because the Shia minority rather likes having so many of their people in uniform. Since the Lebanese military has not had any fighting to do since it was reconstituted in the early 1990s (after the 1975-90 civil war ended), it's seen more as a jobs program, than anything else. The Shia community has always been the poorest, and the most in need of government jobs. But will the Shia community go to war over 12-13,000 unemployed Shia soldiers? As popular as Hizbollah is in the Shia community, not all Lebanese Shia are pro-Hizbollah. Moreover, the Christian and Sunni Lebanese blame the Shia in general, and Hizbollah in particular, for the war in July, and all the destruction. While most of the targets were in Shia neighborhoods, the tourist season was crippled, and trade was interrupted. Everyone suffered economically. All so that Hizbollah could play the hero. The Shia are getting money from Iran for rebuilding, the Sunnis and Christians are getting not much of anything. If there were another round of civil war, the Shia would likely get the worst of it. So the Shia might back down on this one. But if they don't…


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