Source: Gulf News –
Concerned but optimistic, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, pleaded with the international community to aid the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to confront terrorism.
Bassil, who holds a civil engineering degree from the American University of Beirut and who previously served as Minister of Communications and of Energy, opined that the entire region was stuck between Islamist groups and Israel.
In what was an embarrassing performance during a meeting for the Palestine Committee of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Tehran on Monday, Bassil claimed that “terrorism [was] moving from one area to another but it would surely be buried on Lebanese territories.”
The vintage declaration, which belied the tragedy that stuck the LAF in and around Arsal near the border with Syria, overlooked the reasons for these attacks that, inter-alia, were directly linked to the civil war in Syria. Bassil did not utter a single word about the Hezbollah militia’s military engagements on behalf of the Baath regime. He said even less about the LAF’s defections that, though limited, identified a huge problem that threatened to unravel the sole remaining institution of any significance in the country.
Instead, the minister focused on the Israeli attacks on Gaza and the fate the befell Iraqi Christians in Mosul, Iraq, arguing that these were similar to what was under way in Arsal.
In a comical moment of sheer hubris, he affirmed that the entire region was now under the control of “Isil (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and Israel” because, allegedly, “they had the same principles.” Bassil, howevr, did not elaborate to define those principles, though he volunteered a bizarre explanation that Beirut would break the connection between Isil and Israel because “killing in the name of religion [was] never justified.” Even more revealing was his soliloquy that the Lebanese apparently settled their choices since the creation of the country, overlooking the fact that citizens butchered each other for decades, and were still not in agreement over its very identity.
The Lebanese foreign minister cajoled his Iranian hosts when he added that “there was no room for any unilateral decisions in the world,” when the very essence of diplomacy was to advance unilateral decisions, which was precisely what Iran, Russia, China and others were doing in Syria, with Western powers anxious to reciprocate.
Regrettably, he absolved Damascus of any responsibility for Syrian Air Force attacks on Arsal, whose population — 40,000 mostly Sunni residents who sympathised and welcomed over 100,000 Syrian refugees to squat and live in the town — stood with the opposition. Bassil and other Lebanese officials believed that refugees ought not provide any assistance to their brethren in Syria even if they opted to say little or nothing about Hezbollah’s deployments there. In other words, what was acceptable for some was not for others, which saw ugly attacks on the LAF that, in turn, was dragged in a confrontation not of its choosing.
“Syrian refugees in Arsal agreed with foreign terrorist groups on occupying the town,” Bassil opined in Tehran that, while accurate, missed the point. The violence in Arsal, which was similar to developments in other Lebanese cities — Tripoli, Abrah near Sidon, and several towns in the Biqa‘ Valley — was a consequence of internal schisms that favored Shiites over Sunnis, or vice-versa. These could not, and probably ought not, be ignored if the affable minister’s assertion that terrorism “would surely be buried” in Lebanon is to ever occur.