x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Lebanon's bombings succeeded in creating panic

Divisions and mistrust between Lebanon's sects shows the nation's coexistence is in peril, writes Ilyas Harfoush in Al Hayat. Other views: the Al Ghouta massacre must not be ignored and all eyes are on the White House's response.

If the bombings that have rocked the streets of Lebanon were meant to spread panic and reciprocal fear among sects, with each fearing the other and fearing to go inside the "other" neighbourhoods, they have succeeded in that to a great extent, Ilyas Harfoush wrote in yesterday's edition of the London-based newspaper Al Hayat.

Retaliation is the order of the day in Lebanon; this blast is in retaliation for that blast, and this killing by this sect is in retaliation for that killing by that sect, the columnist said.

He continued saying, "This is sad and painful talk, but it is honest talk that must be said under the circumstances so that minds wake up before it is too late."

The sole aim is to spread sectarian strife, and plunge the country into the horrors of a civil war stemming from the Syrian conflict.

"The reciprocal fear between sects that we thought we had buried with what was assumed to be the end of the civil war in Lebanon has vehemently returned today," he wrote.

In fact, even during the civil war acts of panic did not spread through suicide bombings and did not reach residential areas. Each sect felt that it was safe within its carefully delineated "border area".

The recent bombings have brought back the grim memories of the civil war; the days of closed areas and clear borderlines. What has been called "security measures" following the attack in the Shia district, south of Beirut, and what some areas in Tripoli saw after the car bombings outside the two Sunni mosques is opening the door wide to a separation of sects.

Checkpoints were set up to verify the identities of passersby on the basis of their sects, in a country where the population are supposed to live together and move between areas without any barriers.

Mistrust of everyone in the ability of the state's services to establish order and protect people has historically beset Lebanon. The distribution of services along sectarian lines has harmed the performance of security services, which would accuse each other of taking sides.

Interior minister Marwan Charbel went so far as to justify those security measures, which has added to the mistrust of citizens. In such a situation, it becomes difficult to ask some districts not to use their own security measures when others are allowed.

When the state is powerless, citizens are prompted to provide their own security, and this is the shortcut to a total collapse of the state and eventually also the image of Lebanon as a nation of coexistence.

Much has been said about the myth of the "policy of dissociation" from the conflict in Syria, but the bitter truth is that all parties are up to their ears in that crisis, albeit to varying degrees, the writer said.

Al Ghouta massacre should not be ignored

The use of chemical weapons in east Ghouta last week in Syria, which killed over 1,300 civilians, marked a decisive turning point in the Syrian crisis, said columnist Tariq Al Homayed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

The massacre in the Ghouta has brought about an effective transformation in international public opinion, which in turn led to immense pressure not only on the US president, but also on Iran and Russia that condemned the use of chemical weapons.

Moscow and Tehran admitted that chemical weapons were used in Syria, but accused the opposition of using them.

"It makes no difference. Iran and Moscow's tricks have been known since the beginning of the revolution. What matters at this point is that they admitted that chemical weapons were indeed used and that they asked Al Assad to allow investigations."

Speculation is increasingly focusing on whether President Obama would order a military intervention in Syria. The use of chemical weapons in Syria doesn't only compromise Washington's credibility, but it also imposes certain options on the international community: either deal with the situation or accept it and its repercussions.

"However, should the international community ignore the massacre of Al Ghouta, Al Assad may take it as a green light to resort again to chemical warfare to annihilate the revolution once and for all," he added.

Interference in Syria will affect everyone

Close observation of developments in the region reveals a serious acceleration of events that threatens to lead to a most destructive explosion, said the Jordanian daily Addustour in its editorial on Sunday.

The chemical offensive in Syria last Wednesday has weighed heavily on the Arab and international scenes, especially that it encroached on president Obama's "red line".

All eyes are now turned towards the White House awaiting a decision by the president.

Some experts are expecting that the US forces would hit vital and strategic locations in Syria with Tomahawk missiles under the pretext of defending civilians, just as they did in Kosovo in 1999.

Other experts deem that a direct US intervention would be highly unlikely as it would generate crushing wars in the region and lead to a reshuffling of powers should Israel be directly hit. Added to that, the internal situation in the US doesn't allow for such interference, especially following the country's bad experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq and in light of the economic crisis and president Obama's pledge not to drag the US in any new wars.

"The situation calls for restraint before anything else and for a necessary avoidance of war and its repercussions that wouldn't exclude anyone."


* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk