It appears that only a miracle is preventing Lebanon from falling into the abyss, after four Sunni sheikhs were attacked in Beirut Sunday evening, with the country resembling a powder keg which even the smallest spark could ignite.
Thankfully, the country’s hugely divided politicians have for once stood united, and leaders from all sects and backgrounds have condemned the attacks, and most importantly, called for any political cover or protection of the perpetrators to be lifted.
At least 10 suspects have now been arrested, some within hours of the attack Sunday night, thanks to swift action by the Army, and a concerted effort from all parties to demand that the culprits be apprehended.
But some politicians must also take responsibility for the circumstances that led to this incident, as their words have often contributed to, rather than contained, a climate where such violent and sectarians acts can happen.
The calls for calm must now continue, and justice must be allowed to take its course. No detail of this hideous crime should be left out – when and how the perpetrators acted, and who exactly they are. Comments from Interior Minister Marwan Charbel that the assailants were high on drugs will not do: This is neither a legitimate excuse nor a motive.
Lebanon appears to be on a brink far more dangerous than in 1975. The Syrian conflict is not “trickling over the borders” – it has very definitely arrived.
Now that political and religious leaders from across the board have condemned the incident, it is urgent that this message continues. With the Shiite parties having washed their hands of the culprits, and Sunni leaders also distancing the sect from the actions of a few, it is vital that such nuanced cooperation continues.
There have always been rogue elements within all sects desperate to stir up strife for what they perceive as a greater good. But these are in the tiniest minority. The Lebanese – from whichever sect or political background – do not want this. In sectarian clashes there are no winners, and the Lebanese know that only too well.
Now that the country’s authorities, and its religious and political leaders, have shown that they are able to act promptly to crack down on such outrageous attempts to destabilize the country, this must continue.
For too long it has appeared obvious that those at the top have been aware of certain individuals involved in the country’s most prolific crime networks.
That authorities were able to apprehend suspects so quickly Sunday night shows they had access to some pretty accurate intelligence.
If Lebanon is going to have any prospect of weathering this almighty storm then every such act, every violent attempt to jeopardize national security, must be treated in such a way. Not only that, but the authorities must launch a comprehensive security crackdown to rid the country of those dangerous pockets which are looking for any opportunity to push Lebanon over the edge.