This picture is from Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city. Saddam (center), whose caption reads “the martyr” is flanked by other living Sunni leaders from the area, notably Omar Karami (foreground) a former Lebanese prime minister. It’s hard to say how much support the executed Iraqi leader commands in Lebanon or if any substantial number of Lebanese would actually celebrate him as such.
In some respects, Tripoli, one of Lebanon’s poorest cities, is a world away from cosmopolitan Beirut, where pictures of pro-Western Sunni leaders reign, especially that of Saad Hariri, a strong ally of the Bush Administration. You won’t find Saddam in the Christian areas of Mount Lebanon either and definitely not in the Shiite areas of the South, where he is largely despised for the countless abuses committed against Iraqi Shiites during his regime. Even Saddam’s would-be roof mate, former PM Karami, is supportive of Lebanon’s Shiite-backed opposition, which opposes the pro-Hariri government’s relationship with the West.
But alliances can be shifty in Lebanon and Hariri has struggled to maintain influence over Sunni-dominated Tripoli, where extremism is on the rise. Less than a year ago, militants known as Fatah El Islam took up apartments in the city before engaging in a bloody battle with the Lebanese Army. The militants had infiltrated impoverished nearby Palestinian refugee camps where pictures of Saddam can still be found. For many of the downtrodden and disillusioned in the camps and elsewhere in the region, he is still hailed as a symbol of resistance–a reputation that was propped up when he fired rockets at Israel during Gulf war I. Yet even in wealthier circles, albeit in hushed tones, Saddam is still remembered by some for perceived notions of strength and stability.