BEIRUT: Lebanon’s interior minister blamed Syrian and Iranian interference Wednesday for a wave of violence that has hit the country in recent months, claiming that Syrian intelligence services were behind the emergence of militant groups in the north.
Nouhad Machnouk also said that Hezbollah’s military intervention in the Syrian conflict has made the Lebanese complicit alongside Bashar Assad’s regime in the shedding of Syrian blood.
“We know that the political and strategic reasons behind the phenomenon of violence stem from Iranian and Syrian interference in Lebanon’s interior, not just now but for more than three decades,” Machnouk said at a gathering of Arab interior ministers in Marrakech. “Since the Syrian regime is facing a revolution and Iran faces major challenges, the blood has increased in Lebanon and Syria and that is something to be condemned.”
“A primary part of the violence that several Arab countries, including Lebanon, are suffering from is due to the turbulence of the relationship with Iran,” he added.
Machnouk said that a broader solution to the crisis in relations with Iran that involves senior regional figures is needed.
Machnouk said that Hezbollah’s decision to join the war in Syria has broadened the conflict over the party’s weapons.
“We have in Lebanon an armed organization including thousands of fighters facing Israel, but its weapons became a divisive issue internally at first and then as a result of its role in Syria,” he said.
The party’s participation in Syria means that “we now have to carry the burden with the Assad regime and we have to accept that it is lawful to shed the blood of these [Syrian] revolutionaries,” he added.
Machnouk said that suicide attacks and sectarianism threatens Lebanon’s unity, adding that there are groups in Lebanon today tasked with recruiting suicide bombers.
He said that the car bombs used are usually stolen from the country, smuggled to Syria where they are rigged with explosives, before being smuggled back to Lebanon.
Lebanon has been hit with a series of attacks linked to the crisis in Syria targeting areas traditionally associated with Hezbollah.
Militant groups that carry out the attacks usually cite the party’s participation in the Syrian war.
Machnouk also held meetings with the interior ministers of Saudi Arabia and Qatar on the sidelines of the conference.
Observers worry that recent tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the latter’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood could spark tensions in Lebanon, which has traditionally been an outlet for regional interference.
Machnouk was accompanied by top security officials including ISF chief Ibrahim Basbous and Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, the general director of General Security.
The interior minister told his Saudi counterpart, Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, that Lebanon was in “dire need” for assistance to cope with the refugee crisis.
Qatar’s Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser al-Thani said after his meeting with Machnouk that the Lebanese must remain neutral in Arab disputes. “Security must not fall under the pressures of political differences,” Sheikh Abdullah said.