BEIRUT: Lebanese politicians said over the weekend that a potential U.S. strike against Syria should not be exploited for local political gain, while others called on Hezbollah to refrain from retaliatory acts against Israel. Hezbollah MP Ali Fayyad said Sunday that the region was witnessing the beginning of a new phase, in which the West, spearheaded by the United States and allied Arab countries, would attempt to divide the region and destroy the state of Syria.
In an indirect reference to the March 14 coalition, Fayyad called on “some groups” to facilitate Cabinet formation, rather than wait for developments in Syria that might bolster their position in Lebanon.
“If there are changes, they will not serve the interests of these groups,” he said during a ceremony in the southern village of Markaba.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a speech Saturday he would seek congressional approval for any military operation against Syria in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons, effectively delaying the move until Sept. 9, when the U.S. Congress is slated to reconvene.
Fayyad called it shameful that some believed a U.S. strike would somehow salvage their interests in Lebanon.
For his part, caretaker Social Affairs Minister Wael Abu Faour called on Lebanese political parties to try and achieve consensus, irrespective of the outcome of potential Western-led military operation against Syria.
“If the strike occurs, then those who hate the Syria regime, and we are among them, should not feel victorious,” Abu Faour said during a ceremony in the western Bekaa Valley.
“And the supporters of the Syrian regime, and we are not among them, should not have any concerns for their relations with other Lebanese parties [in the event of a U.S. strike],” he added.
Abu Faour said that rival Lebanese parties should not wager on developments in Syria and expect to improve their political standing in Lebanon.
Akkar MP Nidal Tohme, from the Future parliamentary bloc, said retaliation by Hezbollah against Israel would destroy Lebanon. He questioned the ability of the Lebanese to endure another war.
“Some talk about Hezbollah’s response against Israel, which would inflame the southern front. Can the Lebanese endure a new war in these bad economic conditions?” Tohme asked in a statement.
Tohme said a war launched against Israel would give the Jewish state the excuse it needs to destroy Lebanon and its people.
“I wish we could stop banging the drums of war because people want their lives to be better, and be assured that their children have a future,” the MP said.
Tohme said Syrians were also in need of protection against the brutality of the Assad’s regime.
“Censoring public opinion, repressing freedoms, killing unarmed civilians and stepping on democratic values are crimes that the Syrian people need someone to deter,” he said.
The Saudi daily Al-Riyadh said in its Sunday issue that Hezbollah was aware that firing rockets at Israel in retaliation for a U.S. strike would wipe out Lebanon.
“Hezbollah prefers to be silent and its reaction remains unclear. It knows that recklessly firing rockets at Israel, for example, could wipe out southern Lebanon, justifying Israel’s excuses for aggression,” the newspaper said.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai said that he opposed military action against Syria.
“We are against any foreign military intervention in Syria and against the use of weapons and resorting to war because this will only lead to destruction, ” Rai said following his meeting with John X Yazigi, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of the Levant and Antioch at Balamand Monastery in north Lebanon.
“The crisis in Syria should be resolved through diplomatic channels, the tragedies we are seeing are unacceptable,” he added.
Lebanese Democratic Party leader MP Talal Arslan said the political groups expecting to see changes in the balance of power in Syria as a result of the expected strike were mistaken.
“Things will not change. Syria will not be affected but the Syrians will become stronger,” Arslan told visitors in Choueifat. “Even the Americans said they were not seeking regime change, because of the balance of power imposed by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The Aley MP, an ally of Assad, said that a military strike against Syria would increase incidents of international terrorism and the proliferation of takfiri groups.
Ashraf Rifi, former head of the Internal Security Forces, said Hezbollah would harm Lebanon if it launched rockets against Israel.
“Hezbollah’s participation in [the war in] Syria is a strategic mistake and it will harm [the resistance] and the country if it launches rockets against Israel,” Rifi said in remarks made to a local media outlet published Monday.