Lebanese Arab Army

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Lebanese Arab Army (LAA)
Participant in Lebanese civil war (1975-1990)
Early Lebanese Army flag 1945-1983
Lebanese Arab Army flag (1976-77)
Active Until 1977
Groups Lebanese National Movement
Leaders Ahmed al-Khatib, Ahmed Boutari, Ahmed Mamari, Ghazi Ghotaymi, Youssif Mansour, Ahmad Addam, Mustafa Hamdan
Headquarters Hasbayya (Beqaa valley)
Strength 4,400 men
Originated as 900 men
Allies Lebanese National Movement (LNM), Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)
Opponents Kataeb Regulatory Forces, Al-Tanzim, Marada Brigade, Tigers Militia, Guardians of the Cedars (GoC), Syrian Army

The Lebanese Arab Army – LAA (Arabic: جيش لبنان العربي transliteration Jaysh Lubnan al-Arabi), also known as the ‘Arab Army of Lebanon’ (AAL), and Armée du Liban Arabe – ALA in French, was a predominantely Muslim splinter faction of the Lebanese Army that came to play a key role in the 1975-77 phase of the Lebanese Civil War.

Origins[edit]

On January 21, 1976, at the Elias Abou Sleiman barracks in Ablah, in the Beqaa valley, 900 Lebanese Muslim soldiers serving with the 1st Armoured Brigade (aka ‘First Brigade’) refused to fight against their coreligionists and mutined under the leadership of Lieutenant Ahmed al-Khatib, a Sunni Muslim officer in the Lebanese Army, who urged his fellow Muslims to desert. The mutiny quickly spread to other Army garrisons on the southern part of the Beqaa and within a month, Lt Khatib had rallied to his cause some 2,000 soldiers from the First Brigade, well-equipped with heavy weapons (including tanks and artillery).[1] They became the core of the new Lebanese Arab Army (LAA), who promptly went to the side of the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) - Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) alliance fighting the Christian Lebanese Front militias on the ongoing Lebanese civil war. At its height, over 25,000 commissioned and none commissioned officers joined the ranks and files of the LAA.

On the surface, Khatib’s rebellion seemed a spontaneous act that reflected Muslim discontent within the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) against their predominantely Christian leadership. The reality, however, was more complex. In fact, the mutiny had been secretly orchestrated by Fatah, the main Palestinian faction and had well-defined objectives. Fatah leaders – notably Yasser Arafat, Abu Iyad, Abu Jihad and Ali Hassan Salameh – had always regarded the Lebanese Army as a potential military threat to the PLO, a threat neutralized by the formation of the LAA.

Structure and organization[edit]

Weapons and equipment[edit]

The LAA was equipped largely from stocks drawn from Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces (ISF) reserves, with small-arms taken directly from Army barracks and ISF police stations or channelled via the PLO. By using the assets of the First Brigade, the LAA built a powerful armoured corps made of 40 Charioteer tank destroyers,[2] M41 Walker Bulldog[3] and AMX-13[4] light tanks, M42 Duster SPAAGs, and Panhard AML-90 and Staghound armoured cars. Infantry companies were provided with tracked M113, sixteen M59 amphibious and wheeled Panhard M3 VTT armoured personnel carriers.

A fleet of liaison and transport vehicles were also employed for logistical support, which included US M151A1 MUTT light jeeps, British Land-Rover Mk I-IIA light pick-ups, plus heavier Saviem SM8 TRM 4000 4x4, Berliet GBC 8KT 6x6, Soviet KrAZ 255 6x6[5] and US M35A2 2-1/2 ton 6x6 cargo trucks. They were also used as gun-trucks in the direct fire support role on LAA operations, fitted with heavy machine guns (HMGs), recoilless rifles, and a few anti-aircraft autocannons.

The artillery corps fielded a number of artillery pieces of several types, comprising British QF Mk III 25 Pounder field guns, French Mle 1950 BF-50 155mm howitzers and US M114 155 mm howitzers.

Vanguards of the Lebanese Arab Army[edit]

The Vanguards of the Lebanese Arab Army – VLAA (Arabic: Talaei al-Jayish al-Arabi al-Lubnani) or Avant-guardes du Armée du Liban Arabe – AALA in French, were a short-lived splinter faction of the LAA established in mid-June 1976 by two Lebanese Army officers whom openly defied Lt Khatib’s leadership, the commander of the First Brigade Brigadier-General Ibrahim Shaheen and Captain Jamil al-Sayyid.[6][7]

Created and sponsored by Syria, in the hope of attracting both Muslim and Christian officers and enlisted men[8] to act as a counterweigth to the Palestinian-supported LAA, the VLAA however, failed to attrack a sizeable following and it was largely ineffective.

Decline and disbandement[edit]

Khatib’s opposition to the June 1976 Syrian intervention in Lebanon, however, marked the beginning of the end for his LAA faction. Although they did put a stiff resistance – notably in early October 1976 at Bhamdoun in the Chouf where they inflicted heavy losses on the Syrian 3rd Armoured Division[9][10] – its numbers dwindled to a few hundred by the end of the year, as many of Khatib’s soldiers deserted after realizing that they had been played and used by the PLO. Increasingly military weakened and politically marginalized, the LAA suffered a final, shattering blow on January 18, 1977 when Syrian authorities invited the entire LAA leadership – Khatib, Ghotaymi, Manssour, Hamdan, and Addam – to a meeting with president Hafez Assad in Damascus. However, upon crossing the border to Syria, they were immediately detained and secretly held in the infamous Mezzeh Military Prison. After spending between 18 – 24 months in prison, they were subsequently released on the condition they resign their commissions and abstain from all political and military activity thereafter. With their political role at an end, both the LAA and VLAA were disbanded (the Syrian Officers that had deserted to the LAA the previous year were arrested and shot), with their Officers and enlisted men being returned to the First Brigade which was re-incorporated into the official Lebanese Army order-of-battle in February 1977.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 44-45.
  2. ^ Naud, La Guerre Civile Libanaise - 1re partie: 1975-1978, p. 10.
  3. ^ Miguel “Mig” Jimenez & Jorge Lopez, M41 Bulldog au Liban, Steelmasters Magazine, June–July 2005 issue, pp. 18-22.
  4. ^ Naud, La Guerre Civile Libanaise - 1re partie: 1975-1978, p. 11.
  5. ^ Naud, La Guerre Civile Libanaise - 1re partie: 1975-1978, p. 9.
  6. ^ Dossier: Jamil al-Sayyid - 2000 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
  7. ^ Jamil al Sayyed Info - 6th April 2005 http://forum.tayyar.org/f8/b-jamil-al-sayyed-info-3123/
  8. ^ O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon (1998), p. 53.
  9. ^ Zaloga, Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2003), p. 7.
  10. ^ Naud, La Guerre Civile Libanaise - 1re partie: 1975-1978, pp. 11-13.

References[edit]

  • Edgar O'Ballance, Civil War in Lebanon, 1975–92, Palgrave Macmillan, 1998. ISBN 0-333-72975-7
  • Moustafa El-Assad, Civil Wars Volume 1: The Gun Trucks, Blue Steel books, Sidon 2008. ISBN 9953-0-1256-8
  • Paul Jureidini, R. D. McLaurin, and James Price, Military operations in selected Lebanese built-up areas, 1975-1978, Aberdeen, MD: U.S. Army Human Engineering Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Technical Memorandum 11-79, June 1979.
  • Philipe Naud, La Guerre Civile Libanaise - 1re partie: 1975-1978, Steelmasters Magazine, August–September 2012, pp. 8–16. ISSN: 1962-4654 (in French)
  • Rex Brynen, Sanctuary and Survival: the PLO in Lebanon, Boulder: Westview Press, 1990.
  • Samer Kassis, 30 Years of Military Vehicles in Lebanon, Beirut: Elite Group, 2003.
  • Samer Kassis, Véhicules Militaires au Liban/Military Vehicles in Lebanon 1975-1981, L’Echo des Cedres, Beirut 2011. ISBN 978-1-934293-06-5
  • Steven J. Zaloga, Tank battles of the Mid-East Wars (2): The wars of 1973 to the present, Concord Publications, Hong Kong 2003. ISBN 962-361-613-9