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Lebanon at most critical juncture since 1989: report

Lebanese commandos in armored personnel carriers prepare to enter the area of clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

An Arab diplomatic report on recent events in Lebanon puts forward a security strategy for averting chaos amid an unjustified and complete absence of the state.

According to the report, “Lebanon is heading toward a critical and dangerous stage that could destroy all the achievements that have been made since the Taif Accord was signed in 1989.

“The Lebanese government has never passed through such critical circumstances as it is today, with the logic of weapons, force, violence and terrorism conquering the logic of the state and its institutions,” it continued.

“There are increasing fears that Lebanon is at the gateway of sectarian strife, and signs of that are clear in the tension arising from the division of opinion over the Syrian crisis,” the report said.

It also discusses attempts by the regime in Damascus to ignite strife in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, in order to reduce Arab and international pressure on the Syrian government.

It argues that the Syrian leadership wants to demonstrate to the international community that it alone is capable of being a calming influence in Lebanon through its management of factions and parties loyal to the regime.

These attempts are basically an indirect threat designed to convince Arab and Western states that their continuing support for the Syrian opposition will lead to the exportation of the crisis to Lebanon.

The arrest of former Information Minister Michel Samaha is also evidence of this, the report says.

Following his arrest, Samaha confessed to acting on Syrian orders that were intending to spark conflict in Lebanon with a series of attacks targeting public figures in the north of the country.

Meanwhile, the bloody exchanges between the Tripoli neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, and the kidnappings carried out by the Meqdad clan are, according to the report, reactions to Samaha’s arrest, as well as to the stances of high-ranking government officials who have recently become more assertive in their opposition to the Syrian regime.

However, the report contends that the most difficult issue the country will have to face in the coming few weeks is that of Syrian refugees.

A Cabinet official told a European official concerned with human rights affairs that the number of Syrian refugees will multiply rapidly in the coming period and that he has an emergency plan to confront this problem. According to the report, the Cabinet official said he could not disclose the details of the plan at present.

Diplomatic sources who saw the report said it was largely in agreement with Western reports on Lebanon but neglected a main issue: The West has a vested interest in the status quo and wishes to preserve internal stability in the country because it is currently preoccupied with the Syrian situation.

Recent developments have shown that local groups and parties are pushing forward regional interests over Lebanon’s national interests and are continuing their attempts to drag the country into the region’s wars, the sources added.

The president, prime minister and speaker have all recently stressed the need to prevent Lebanon from slipping into the crisis surrounding it, given that there are a number of foreign groups or states who want to involve it in the struggle in the region.

According to sources, senior Western politicians have advised Lebanese officials at home and abroad that the current government is the best possible option right now, and have said that all indications suggest it will remain in office until the 2013 parliamentary elections.

The politicians added that it is unlikely that supervision of the elections will be biased since the authority charged with this task is the Interior Ministry, which is headed by a minister with views independent of the current political alignment in the country.

They said it will be Interior Minister Marwan Charbel’s responsibility to maintain the elections’ neutrality by approving reforms to be agreed upon by all groups.

In the event that the current opposition is convinced it will be impossible to force Mikati’s government to resign, it might send a request to the United Nations and ask that the elections be supervised by international observers as happened in 2005, they added.

Sources believe that it is likely a national unity government will be formed following the elections, as the Syrian crisis will most probably still be ongoing.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 23, 2012, on page 3.

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