State sabotage

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah speaks via a video link, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

The news Sunday that three Hezbollah members were killed in combat in Syria is the latest sign, should we need one, that various Lebanese interventions in foreign countries are having a potentially devastating effect on the domestic situation here.

While Hezbollah has consistently denied sending members to fight on behalf of the Syrian regime – over the weekend only saying that three Shiites were killed in clashes in Syria, in self-defense – all the evidence seems to be there, with many other party members having died while performing “jihadi duty” across the border over the last year.

The party has also encouraged the Lebanese government to crack down on Syrian army defectors in Lebanon, even going so far as to say they should be returned across the border, despite being fully aware this would likely lead to their deaths.

Neither the political situation in Lebanon nor the state of the economy appears strong enough to endure such instability next door. The deep, firmly entrenched divisions over the Syrian crisis do not bode well for Lebanon being able to remain immune for much longer.

The so-called “disassociation” policy the Lebanese government has ostensibly adopted in regard to Syria is already unconvincing, but given meddling in other regional countries, it is even more meaningless.

Over the weekend, Bahraini authorities said they had arrested members of a militant cell, some of whom had traveled through Lebanon recently, and not for skiing.

This follows comments from Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun on the situation in Bahrain, a country which is already making it increasingly hard for Lebanese of certain sects to work there. And the assurances, from the premier and foreign minister, that politicians’ statements are personal are embarrassing, and would not fool a 10-year-old, given that Aoun has 10 ministers in Cabinet, in addition to those of Hezbollah.

Abu Dhabi, like Qatar, is also increasing restrictions on Lebanese working there. In all these instances, the actions of a few are having ramifications far and wide.

The importance to the Lebanese economy of remittances cannot be overstated. Without contributions from Lebanese living abroad, many in the Gulf, the economy would be in a far worse state than it is today. It is already suffering due to the absence over the last two years of Gulf tourists, who avoid Lebanon as result of security warnings issued by their governments.

To look at statements from the Lebanese government, one might think they see the country as a Middle Eastern Switzerland. But look under the surface, and their achievements make Lebanon look more like Somalia.

Unless those motivated by a desire to see a stable and prosperous future for Lebanon make earnest attempts to isolate the country from external events, and soon, it might be too late, and the country will actually become a small Somalia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 18, 2013, on page 7.




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