Anyone who watches Lebanon even vaguely closely will have realized that this latest round of fighting in Tripoli, tragic though it is, represents nothing new and is merely part of the depressingly cyclical nature of the situation in the country’s northern capital over the last few years. But while the clashes are a familiar scene, it demands an entirely new response from the authorities.
This bout of violence, between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has left at least six dead and over 50 wounded. And as with every previous occasion – now seemingly too many to count – governmental agencies and politicians have insisted this will be the last such flare-up of violence, that the situation is now under control and that the authorities have resumed their correct positions.
But these “security plans” for Tripoli can be seen as little more than a facade, an aesthetic move to try and convince the local population that anarchy cannot win out and that there is such thing as the rule of law. Even the deployment of army tanks in Tripoli Thursday did little to minimize the violence.
Ever since the first scuffles in Tripoli when the civil war in Syria broke out, various politicians and leaders – from a wide array of groups and sects – have decided this was the perfect opportunity to play political one-upmanship. It was the other side, each claimed in turn, which was the instigator; it was the other side which exacerbated the situation and whose actions led to more bloodshed. Even more irresponsible than this blame game has been the use of dangerous sectarian rhetoric, the effects of which threaten to destabilize a wider area than just Tripoli.
It would be beneficial if those tasked with creating these meaningless “security plans” would be upfront and honest, and admit that in the absence of an effective government, they are unable to enforce any such plan.
It is not just that their words are empty – they are actually having a detrimental effect on Tripoli. They are tarnishing the reputation of the northern city and weakening the image of the army and the police – national institutions we need now more than ever. The situation on the ground in Tripoli is being directed by politicians and powerful men, so when these security bodies enter the battlefield they are given hazy instructions and do not know how to act, thus undermining their ability to perform to the best of their abilities.
Any proposed solution must be non-negotiable, and should not be open to interpretation by individuals to suit their political aims and agendas. The absence of any form of functioning state right now is allowing warring parties in Tripoli to literally get away with murder.