Lebanon and the roots of terror

Friday 20/11/2015
A vigil at the site of the two explosions that occurred on November 12th

The only thing safe­guarding Lebanon is its state institutions. This is the most important lesson that we can learn from the terrorist attack in Beirut’s Bourj al-Barajneh neighbourhood. Anyone who fails to come to this conclusion wants to see Lebanon continue to drown in the mire of terrorism.
The Islamic State (ISIS) was re­sponsible for the Bourj al-Barajneh terrorist attack. It targeted an area — in Beirut’s southern suburbs — that is under Hezbollah control. Most of those who died in the at­tack were civilians who worked or lived in the area.
The southern suburbs are part of the mini-state that Hezbollah has established in Lebanon and which the state has sought to wrest back from the militia, which is little more than a brigade in Iran’s Is­lamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Anyone who wants Lebanon to emerge from the series of disas­ters it is facing and confront ISIS cannot run away from the truth: Hezbollah cannot prioritise both Lebanon and Syria at the same time. It is compromised.
If we don’t accept this and empower the Lebanese state to take control of Lebanese national security via state institutions, it simply will not be possible to put an end to terrorist attacks. This cannot happen, however, as long as non-state actors such as Hezbol­lah are in control of a huge arsenal pointed at the Lebanese interior and while there are illegal arms in the Palestinian camps, including one in Bourj al-Barajneh.
As far back as 1973, then US secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s plane was diverted from Beirut airport to Rayak Air Base after an assassination plot against him was uncovered. It was there that he met Lebanese president Suleiman Frangieh, marking the beginning of the end for the Lebanese state’s ability to host foreign officials at its main airport.
Kissinger had no choice but to land at Rayak Air Base, given the political and security vacuum in Lebanon at the time. A similar political and security vacuum grips the country today with no presi­dent in office and urgent demands for a new government and elec­toral law.
With this decision, Kissinger demonstrated the weakness, or indeed the total absence, of the Lebanese state. There can be no state that is not in control of the main airport in its capital. There can be no state when terrorists are in possession of arms and can fire rockets at incoming planes.
To put it bluntly, if we want to support Lebanese national security and national interests, we must acknowledge that every illegal weapon in the country — whether in the hands of Palestinians or sec­tarian forces — only serves those who want to destabilise Lebanon and destroy its state institutions.
Hezbollah, which has its own interests, is seeking to coerce the Lebanese state to accept and coex­ist with its arms under the justifi­cation that it is using these arms to confront ISIS and its ilk, while at the same time it is participating in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s war against his own people.
But Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian conflict only serves to draw Lebanon, and the Lebanese people, into a dangerous conflict and open the door to all forms of terrorism.
Away from empty slogans and rhetoric about the “takfiri threat’ and “resistance” to Israel, all the talk about a political settlement in Lebanon has no practical applica­tion on the ground in light of the total absence of any movement on the biggest sticking point — Hez­bollah’s illegal arms.
After the Bourj al-Barajneh attack, all parties came out to condemn the attack without hesi­tation. Lebanese citizens found themselves facing a terrorist attack in an area that should have been under control of the Lebanese state and its institutions. But this was not the case as the southern Suburbs are under the control of Hezbollah, the same group whose illegal involvement in the Syr­ian conflict is one of the reasons behind such attacks.
It is difficult to prevent the recur­rence of attacks such as this in the absence of the ability to get to the roots of the problem.
Getting to the roots means having the courage to address the issue of illegitimate weapons in Lebanon. These weapons are at the heart of all the problems in Leba­non including the ongoing collapse of state institutions.
If we do not address this prob­lem, we will remain trapped in this same loop, with Sunni terrorist attacks taking place in retaliation to Shia terrorist attacks and so on, each feeding the other, while it is the Lebanese people who suffer.