Marj Dabeq And The Tomahawk Effect

Fakhreddine I

It is said, that in 1516, while the Ottomans and the Mamluks were fighting for the Levant in the battle of Marj Dabeq, a Lebanese prince of the house of Maan, known by the name of Fakhreddine I, wasn’t comfortable to fight on the side of the Mamluks as it was too risky to ally himself with one side when the outcome of the battle was still unknown. As the Syrian princes started defecting from the Mamluk ranks, Fakhreddine went on the top of a hill overlooking the meadow (marj) where the battle was ongoing, and did not intervene with his forces until it was clear that one side was in advantage over the other. Needless to say that it was the winning Ottoman army that Fakhreddine I sided with instead of his initial allies, the Mamluks. The Bohtor princes of Beirut, that fought with the Mamluks till the end, were eventually removed from power in Mount Lebanon by the victorious Ottomans and were replaced by the Maans of the Chouf, who were to rule Lebanon for the next 181 years.

How Is That Related To 2013?

As the Americans prepare their Tomahawks to hit the Syrian regime, surrounded by a growing international debate whether an intervention is needed and legitimate in Syria or not, the Lebanese leaders’ silence on the upcoming war is deafening. In a country whose politics were almost inseparable from the Syrian affairs for the past century, the quiet political scene raises many questions, and shows us a cautious – yet wise – behavior from the Lebanese politicians,  à la Fakhreddine, wishing to preserve their status in Lebanon in the wake of a possible massive regional modification. Ironically, Marj Dabeq is not only in today’s Syria, but also in a rebel-area near Aa’zaz (North of the disputed Aleppo)on the Turkish border.

Too Early To Predict

For every Destroyer the Americans send to the East Mediterranean, comes a Russian ship; and even at the height of a possible American intervention, the Iranians are still supporting the regime. No one can deny that Obama is relatively a weak president, and the fact that the British won’t be here for him this time, and that the U.N. isn’t much in favor of a strike only makes things worse. The Americans are already leaking out in details some of the objectives of the “limited” strike (here’s a nice sarcastic piece on that), possibly so that the Russians – who clearly aren’t intending to abandon one of their last allies in the levant – realize that it is a small-scaled intervention and don’t respond. To sum things up, the Americans aren’t very comfortable on the offensive side, while on the defensive side the Syrian counter-attack is still ambiguous (Attacking the Israeli north?), making it too early for Lebanese politicians to take sides. It is not even sure if the Americans will go through with their threat, and if so, no one knows what the result may be. Even a military victory for the Americans can turn into a diplomatic failure – Egypt 1956 is a perfect example. In the middle of a vague outcome  after the possible war, it seems wiser for the politicians to abandon their traditional regional allegiances and wait for a winner to side with, instead of risking a political setback due to the ally’s defeat.

The Berri/Hezbollah Political Stances

When a Lebanese Zai’m who was for decades Syria’s man in Lebanon is expected to abandon his affiliation with the pro-syrian M8 alliance and side in the middle, you know that everyone is trying to be a centrist in times of turmoil. Hezbollah’s silence is the most remarkable one on the matter. The party fighting along the regime on Syrian soil didn’t yet mention what its response will be on an American intervention and is probably considering all his options.

Everyone Is Considering His Options

Same goes for all the other parties in Lebanon. They can’t preemptively side with the losing party in Syria, so they are all adopting the “wait and see Fakhreddine I strategy”. Most of the parties are warning of a Fitna in wake of the recent explosions (In order to avoid giving opinions on the U.S. Attack), and even the anti-Syrian M14 coalition is rather silent on the issue of an American strike. Anyone would expect Saad Hariri to tweet in support of such a strike, yet we are left with no tweet since the 23d Of August (ever since the debate on the intervention seriously started). Even as the Syrian regime got officially accused of the Tripoli bombings by the Lebanese judicial authorities, the M14 alliance rather stayed silent on the issue, while Al-Akhbar, one of the most pro M8 newspapers – while criticizing the security branch – was quietly condemning the Syrian regime for the Mamlouk-Samaha plot of last year,  in a sign that everyone is converging towards a centrist stance.

You compromise, or lose it all.



  1. to be faithful to the Lebanese perspective of that pivotal battle, Ibn Sbat (from ‘Abeih) account speaks of the Roum and Turks. In reality non-arabs were fighting: Turks were fighting Turks … the winner was a Turk … now two non-arabs are fighting using arab proxys. A reminder of Yermuk Battle and the politics of Jablah bin el Ayham. Try to think of it as the polyglot and malleable culture of the people of this land since time immemorial ….


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