Operating in Beirut: Part 1
By Georges Tabet
Beirut Lebanon was once called the Paris of the Middle East, it was a beautiful city that had culture, incredible hotels a fabulous night life and pristine white sandy beaches, but the start of a bloody 15 year civil war, that took the lives of an estimated 130000 changed this cultured and peaceful country into the wild west of the Middle East.
When the fighting ended in the spring of 1991, the country had transformed itself into a divided nation, a nation that during the hostile years had nurtured a number of groups
That had risen into powerful politically charged armed groups with names like Hezbollah, Amal (the Lebanese Resistance Detachments) and the Syrian Socialist National Party. Many of these groups are hostile towards westerners and are backed by hostile nations such as Iran and Syria.
Any protection specialist worth their salt and who has operated in Beirut after the civil war fully understands that the city and country can stay quite and non threatening for extended periods of time and then without a moments notice or escalating build up can suddenly explode into a hostile situation.
In order to be successful when running protection details in Beirut, the operator or organization must be both creative in their actions and understand who the key political and religious groups are, and where they operate out of. For example, if you are moving a client anyplace south of the Litani river/southern Lebanon there is an extremely good chance that you will run into a Hezbollah controlled check point, the unfortunate truth is that Hezbollah controls their own sectors, The Lebanese Police and security forces allow Hezbollah to do what they want, it is a hands off approach. If you’re a westerner and you are stopped at one of these check points you and your client could be in a world of hurt. Remember, to many of these groups, a westerner in their territory is looked upon as a spy, perception is everything in Lebanon, the truth means nothing.
For any operator/Protective specialist out there who has the fool hearted belief that Hezbollah are a bunch of thugs with weapons think again. These groups of Shiite, Iranian backed religious fanatics have their stuff locked tight, and to under estimate their capabilities is not only stupid but will get you and your client a brand new coffin made from the finest Lebanese cedar.
My group recently completed a 6 month protection detail for a local businessman who in his many years of doing business in Beirut and the Middle East had managed to make numerous enemies’, both perceived and real. My client in the past few years had been very vocal in speaking out about the Syrian government and about the occupation of Syrian forces in Lebanon.
In Lebanon it is only a matter of time before you piss off the Syrian government by bad mouthing their government, it’s policies or the Syrian president. The Syrians have a number of special remedies to stop those that speak ill about their government, these remedies include bombings, beatings, kidnapping, intimidation and shootings.
My client’s problems came to full force when he started to receive late night phone calls from unknown parties that warned him to keep quiet or someone would help him to keep quiet, when my client ignored the warning calls and continued with his anti Syrian rhetoric he started to receive small gift boxes that contained polished 9mm or 7.62X39 with a small card in each that simply said “Khallis”, Arabic for “Stop”. Shortly after receiving his last gift card our client made contact with my group requesting assistance with his problem.
Getting creative in Beirut