West Beirut: Declining Security and tho merican University of Beirutt)in&
West Beirutesert stalked by ravenous wolves (Walid Junblatt
Thc continuing power struggle among Lebanon's Muslim militias is transforming West Beirut__once the major commercial, and tourist center of the Araba lawless, militarized zone contested by confessional and ideological factions. Turf battles, terrorism, rampant street crime, and the lack of centralized authority have made the area extremely dangerous for both local residents and foreigners. The deep schisms between members of the same sect or religious affiliation are giving rise to extremist organizations such as the Shia Hizballah movement which Is bent on transforming that half of the cityenter for Shia fundamentalist activities ia Lebanon. jf^iamVKf (l< Jj
The proliferation of competing militias contributes to increasing political fragmentation and shifting politicalsituation which almost certainly will ensure that West Beirut remainstate of conflict for the foreseeable future. Whenever one faction appears to"be gaining too much turf at th* expense of other groups, ealignment quickly ensues p, 3
ictual parity between combatants.
The increasing lawlessness in West Beirutmarkedly social and economic activitiesinstitutions, and at the same time hasmore susceptible to blackmail. Theof Beirut has been disrupted badlyn doubt. AUB continues to performservices, however, and key militia leaders to
- the subsequent
departure of the Palestinian fighters from West Beirut, Sunni, Druze, and Shia militias have been aggressively vying for control of the various neighborhoods. The traditional sectarian neighborhoods are blurredesult of continuously changing military fortunes of the various militias. The result hasteady decline of security and safety not only for the remaining few foreign residents, but foe the rest of the population as
West Beirut todayatchwork of small areas loosely
controlled by confessional and ideological militia and many plain
gangs. Amal and the Druze militias are the major contenders for
power in West Beirut, but smaller, sometimes more extremist
groups constantly challenge the authority of the major militias.
Many fighters remain uncommitted to any single militia and are
eager to fightof any cause or leader_in return " '
accelerating return of Palestinian fighters in recent months is aggravating the security situation in West Beirut.
The on-going "Camps War" betweenShia mainstreamthe Palestinians i3 freeing the radical Shia group Hizballah to carry out its campaign of terror against both Lebanese and the few remaining westerners in West Beirut. The
growth of Hizballah's role came aboutesult of theCamp Wars which pitted the Amal militia and itsLebanese Army's Sixth Brigade against the PalestiniansShatila, and Bur, Al Baraiinah Camr
Sunnis, who traditionally held an important political position second only to the Christians, are now at the mercy of others. Defeated and politically disorganized, the Sunnis of West Beirut, both moderates and extremists, are gradually loosing control of their neighborhoods to other militias. Hizballah gunmen are growing in strength in traditional Sunni areas.
The defeat of the Sunni Sixth of February Movement inhelped Anal gain control of strategic Sunni territorySabra and Shatila Camps. Amal military leaders are eagertheir grip on Sabra and Shatila in order to linkthe sprawling southern Shiamove which isbe opposed by both the Druze and the extremist Hizballahadamant about preventing Amal fromhiaWest Beirut.
control significant turf around the former American Embassy, the American University, and the winding beachhead south of theWest Beirut to remain free from any single militia domination. The Druze Progressive Socialist Party has attracted many Sunnis and Kurds to its ranks in the last year because those comrtiunities have no strong mlljtlas of their own and want to fight the Shia takeover.
war among the confession* manifests itself through car bomb assassination. Each of the major holding several hundred hostages The release last month ofoli militia in East Beirut did little between East and West Beirut, and of Christian professor Nabil Mata
1 groups in West Beirut often
ings, kidnappings, and political militias Is believed to be
from other confessional groups.
tlcal prisoners by the Christian to alleviate the deep division in fact led to the kidnapping
r from the American University
of Beirut by the previously unknown Independent Movement forof the Kidnapped, we believe that this movement is anol the Hizballah.
No one is immune from the rising tide of violence in West Beirut. The foreign conmunicy continues to live in constant fear. Political assassinations areaily occurance with attempts frequently directed at Armenians, other Christians, i ? and__ariy_ other politically active taction. *lm)iitf4|MHflpnMHmtBM wave of assassinations is currently underway aga 1officers accused of spying on local L^
JreTgn banks are hiring] protect them from robberies.
AUB: amp Setill in Danger
The American university of Beirut and the American University Hospital are two remaining western institutions that have endured despite the rapidly declining security around them. Foundedhe university helped shape and maintain Lebanon's pro
orientation.university which has survived previous rounds of Lebanese Internal violence and deep social splits separating the upper classes from the immigrants and refugees, is now facing the greatest threat to its existence. The AUB community environment is changing trombone of tolerance and hopefulness tond despair. 4mW_k
tepcated strikes by university and hospital personnel have failed to gain the release of several kidnapped faculty and staff, but have succeeded in publicizing the plight of the institution.
Waves of kidnappings, murders and threats against AUB and AUH personnel have drastically reduced the number of both foreign faculty and foreign students. The campaign is aimed ar. AUB's role it
The violence against AOB goes on, but the major militias in Beirut want the university's services to continue and have issued statements condemning the faculty kidnappings. Druze leader Halid Jumblatt and Shia leader Kabih Bari have repeatedly supported AUB and have condemned lawlessness on the campus. More thanercent of today's AUB students are Shia, most of whom oppose the kidnappings of their teachers, and their fellow students by the extremists Hizballah. The alumnae of the university are so concerned about the well being of the university that they have now formed the Committee for Salvation of AOB to help oversee security with the local militias and to ounter increasing Islamic fanaticism on canpu;.. ^mmVMilME1 fcO
No western institution has endured as much anguish asUniversity Hospital. The Hospital is stillof the best in the region but as the fighting rages inthe AUH looks moreASHfire thanfacility. There is an unwritten agreementwarring factions to keep theeutralviolence often spills into operating and waiting roomsmilitias are brought in for treatment. Hostat the AUH are civilians caught in the crossprivate paying patients. Increased governmental economicproblems, coupledeclining US aid lsAUH to operate5 million deficit. Theof the Lebanese pound in recent months, and theof militias loitering on hospital property
>reventing paying patients lien utilizing the AUH services. JkW
No improvement in the security situation in Beirut is in the cards, but the lack of any other credible educational institutions in west Beirut, will ensure continued support for both aub and AUH by local residents. The decline of security-
around the campus however will hamper efforts by university administrators tokeep them functioning at anytrtingnefl>
ttheXess, theae continues to bedeal ofand staff to legacy of AUB at any cost.
Turf battles In Beirut will continue. An entire generation reared in civil war conditions is coming of age In west Beirut. Many young militia members know no other condition; fighting to
themajor pact of everyday life. The accelerating economic decline will most certainly encourage the dwindling middle classes to join ranks with street fighters to survive. apTJI
The extremists almost certainlv will continue to gain atvt the moderates. Militancy, particularly in theis likely to spread as the political and
Increasing economic problems areleak picture in West Beirut, as people talk more often of an imminent famine.
Moderate Muslin leaders probably will remain afraid to denounce extremists f
Hizballah's power In West Beirut is likely to continue growing as long as it goes unchecked by the other militias. Hizballah's strategy includes the purging of Beirut of foreign influence, the avoidance of prolonged military entanglement with any other local militia, the weakening of Amal, and the weakening of leftist militias such as the Lebanese Communist Party. lash between the communists and Hizballah elements last February endedraw, but Hizballah continues to carry out assassinations against communist leaders and their supporters.
Much of West Beirut willontested arena, with the Druze and Amal remaining, at least for now, the leading contenders for power. Realignments and constantly shifting coalitions will most likely ensure that no single militia will be capable of controlling this increasingly restless segment of the city. Beirutis are now accustomed to the daily violence around theu, and are likely to continue putting up with with declining security by increasingly retreating back to the neighborhoods for both safety and protection. In this environment AUB will face an uncertain futuce at best.
RET NQfJBHN hcQCAWTHACTOriginal document.