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Lebanon News

Dark days ahead for Lebanon

Investigators check the scene of explosion in Beirut, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

Diplomatic sources predict more instability in store for Lebanon, as regional and local powers try to tilt the battle in Syria in their favor before the Geneva II conference scheduled to begin on Jan. 22.

The ambassador from a “resistance axis” country recently told visitors that none of his previous diplomatic posts could have prepared him for the challenges posed by Lebanon.

“There is no approved method for dealing with the reality of Lebanon, because things develop rapidly here, and each day requires a different appropriate stance,” he was quoted saying by the visitors.

The ambassador’s predictions for Lebanon’s near future were not reassuring.

“Lebanon is heading toward a bloodbath” very soon, he told his visitors. He said the bombings, assassinations and clashes would almost certainly continue, leading to an open confrontation that would be sectarian in nature.

The ambassador also voiced obvious apprehension about the coming period.

“What Lebanon is witnessing now has nothing to do with internal conflicts; rather, it is Lebanon’s fate to remain a battleground for regional crises that arise between Arab countries and play out here,” he said.

Regarding the presidential election, the ambassador predicted that it would not be held on schedule, and that the post would remain empty for about six months until several key regional and international factors fell into place.

Separately, diplomatic sources predicted that the next two weeks would be extremely dangerous in Lebanon, emphasizing that Lebanese security circles had warned them of the necessity to remain alert, especially as the fate of the Geneva II conference still hangs in the balance.

They indicated that Lebanese officials were briefed on these dangers by Western and Arab intelligence networks, starting before the series of battles along the Lebanese-Syrian border in the northern Bekaa Valley, which has subsequently been struck by Syrian airships and shells.

The sources said that the most recent bombing in Haret Hreik was just one of the repercussions of these events, the most notable being the battle of Qalamoun, where the Syrian regime is fighting to regain control of the town and the vast, strategically vital surrounding area. If the government is able to seize a large enough portion of the country from the rebels, it will grant them increased negotiating power at Geneva II.

The diplomatic sources added that the Syrian opposition, particularly the extremist currents within it, understood the importance of undermining security in Lebanon, especially in areas that are still considered safe. Therefore, these networks are mobilizing to target areas that they believe to be Hezbollah’s power centers. Until the battle for Qalamoun ends, the sources said, Lebanon will be ruled by fear, with any area at risk of attack.

In the opinion of these diplomatic sources, Lebanon is completely unprepared to fight terrorism. All forms of state and party or sectarian security failed to prevent multiple attacks, including the assassinations targeting figures such as Gen. Wissam al-Hassan and former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah, and the bombings in Tripoli and the southern suburbs.

This cycle of violence now threatens to spiral out of control in light of shifting positions and Hezbollah’s transformation from a local power to a regional one. The sources predicted more killing and violence following the recent announcement by the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that their forces would bring the battle to Lebanese soil.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 06, 2014, on page 3.

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