Thursday’s bomb in Beirut’s southern suburbs may have been aimed at Hezbollah, but it is an aggression against all Lebanese. When the situation is as precarious as it is today, any attack in the country must be viewed as no less than a declaration of a war against Lebanon itself.
The Lebanese have been down this road before, and harbor little hope that the attacks will end with this one. While this summer’s attacks – the rockets, bombings in the Bekaa Valley, and now two blasts in the southern suburbs – have so far largely targeted Shiite areas, no area in Lebanon is safe from these attempts to inflame sectarian strife. The target of attacks like these are not Hezbollah – it is Lebanese unity and stability.
We can only hope this will be the attack that prompts politicians to set aside their petty differences and provide the leadership Lebanon desperately needs to right itself. But if in the days to come leaders instead see this as just another chance to grandstand and jostle for position in the endless political machinations that have gotten Lebanon nowhere, then the state is doomed.
Now is the time to act: It is harder to imagine a solution today than it was last month, and tomorrow it will only be harder. The country faces deadly threats from all directions: an enemy on the southern border, brothers on the eastern border intent on drawing Lebanon into their conflict, along with the internal sectarianism and political polarization tearing apart Lebanese society.
The timing and place of this latest attack make it clear it was aimed at hitting the weaknesses of Lebanese society. Lebanon must come together and address these internal weaknesses if it is to have any defense against external threats. The leaders must stand together and find consensus, confront the security threats with vigilance and present a unified stance.
But the burden for unity does not fall on the leaders alone, and the Lebanese would be wise not to entrust them with finding a path out of this morass. For decades, Lebanon’s fate has been shaped by the geopolitical struggles of our leaders’ political patrons. The winds of strife and diplomacy that buffet Beirut all too often begin abroad, whether in Damascus and Tehran, or Riyadh and Washington. It is time for Lebanese to look not to foreign manipulators to guide them, but to find an internal solution to stability and peace.
Unity will require effort from all echelons of society, from the halls of Baabda Palace to the streets of Beirut. These attacks are designed to drive a wedge between Lebanese sects, and the best defense is to draw closer and stand united. Lebanon cannot be the battlefield for the regional Sunni-Shiite conflict.
Lebanon is a small nation, with limited resources and power. In a region roiled by conflict, it cannot afford to remain a pawn in this dangerous game. In the end, the players – friend or foe – will sacrifice Lebanon to reach checkmate.