After perhaps the 17th round of fighting in the northern capital of Tripoli, we have been presented with a 17th security plan for the city, designed to minimize violence between the pro- and anti-Syrian regime elements.
Obviously this latest plan, announced by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati over the weekend, will not work comprehensively. For if the first such security plan had been successful, we would not have witnessed countless rounds of fighting and deaths since, with at least 16 killed since last Monday alone.
With the Army spreading out across the conflict zones Sunday, it is likely violence will be reduced, but it will only be temporary. Because unless systemic changes are made in the city and the ways in which politics and violence interact, this cycle of violence will continue ad nauseum. Meanwhile members of the Army and police are forced to act like sitting ducks, risking their own lives to restore a minimum of peace, and one which the city’s leaders are not even genuinely invested in protecting.
This advocacy of a security plan for Tripoli is apparently relying either on the amnesia or the stupidity of the Lebanese people. But after dozens of lives have been lost, including many civilians caught in the cross fire, the people of Lebanon, and certainly those of the northern city, are not to be fooled any longer.
For they know full well that the fighting in Tripoli is being promoted and exacerbated by the very same politicians who condemn it. Not only that, but in some instances the militants involved are being directly financed and armed by Mikati himself.
And for some, the conflict has become an existential one. Many residents of Jabal Mohsen, which is staunchly pro-regime, see themselves as part of a Greater Syria, a point President Bashar Assad himself made in an interview last week. It is clear he has no qualms about instigating violence in Tripoli whenever he feels the need. Those militants in Jabal Mohsen are not acting and reacting independently, but clearly under the orders, or at least the encouragement of, the Syrian regime and protection of elements of segments of the caretaker government of Mikati.
So whether as a method of diverting attention from the ongoing bloodshed in Syria, or as a means of sending messages to political parties and individuals in Lebanon itself, stirring up violence in Tripoli is an easy way for Assad to create havoc across the border. And after several years of this now, he shows no signs of letting up.
Unless parties in Lebanon refuse to interact with this dangerous game, unless they refuse to either blindly follow Assad’s every order, or alternatively to rise to the bait and fight those militants working for him, this depressing cycle will continue. The Lebanese people are now fully aware of this hypocritical and cynical game being played out in their name. It is time for the country’s political leaders to wake up too.