While election news and excitement has captured American attention, important Middle Eastern eruptions continue to boil over. We can’t let current political events keep our eyes off the shifts in this important part of the world. Pushing Halloween aside, let’s take the mask off Lebanon.
As reported earlier, I have been in Lebanon a number of times and have a son who taught at the University of Balamand in Tripoli. Events in this country remain close to home. And it should. Dr. Todd Wise and his five children could hear shooting in the streets of Tripoli. Not a good place for kids to play!
The assignation of Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, head of intelligence for domestic security, has ripped the scab off long and old festering wounds. Al-Hassan was not only a Sunni but had challenged Syria and their ally the Shiite militant organization Hezbollah. This sectarian terrorist organization has become the most dominant force in Lebanon. Al-Hassan’s role had been a threat to both Syria and the Hezbollah leadership.
Hassan’s funeral erupted in political violence sending waves of chaos across the country. As Al-Hassan was being buried in Beirut’s central Martyrs Square, thousands of mourners took to the streets. At issue was the contention that Prime Minister Najib Mikati was too close to Syria and the Shiite militant Hezbollah. Citizens wanted immediate change. Damascus’ hold on Lebanon slipped in 2005 after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Public outrage forced Syrian forces to withdraw from the country. However Syria’s Al-Assad managed to maintain influence through groups like Hezbollah. Citizens know Syria has bloody hands in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s history has been filled with wars and destruction for decades. After World War I, France gained control of a large area then called Syria, containing the Beqaa Valley that is now in Lebanon. The Jordanian Civil War kicked Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian refugees out of Jordan and into Lebanon. From l975-l990, the Lebanese Civil War spread destruction across the land. It is feared that the death of Brig. Gen. Al-Hassan could again ignite the fires that have ravaged the country so often.
What can we conclude?
- The Syrian civil war continues to spill over into Lebanon. The highly volatile situation can effect the entire region. The United States must pay careful attention to its option. The current Obama administration has been wise in avoiding sending troops and staying on the sidelines. America’s options are still evolving and it is a time to keep US cards close to the chest.
- Syria is ultimately responsible for the assassination. The Washington State Department has sent FBI agents to help investigate. Possibly, nothing conclusive will ever be proven, but no one doubts that Syria is still working its options even in the midst of a civil war.
Far from over, the Syrian Civil War has not yet removed Bashar Al-Assad from power although world leaders still believe he ultimately will fall. In the mean time, the Syrians have not taken their eyes off of Lebanon.
We cannot afford to either.
Question: How do you think America should play its options in Lebanon?