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ONLY THE LEBANESE CAN PREVENT AN IRAQ IN THEIR COUNTRY
14.02.07


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya)
The Lebanese ruling coalition has accused Syria of attempts to turn Lebanon
into another Iraq and demanded that the international community should
impose sanctions against Damascus.
This is a repetition of a drama that played out two years ago, but it is
still unclear who has written it.
There is no evidence yet that Syria is behind the terrorist attacks that
took place on the eve of the second anniversary of the assassination of
former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Neither is it clear whether any
evidence for this will appear. Nobody has proved that Damascus was behind
Hariri’s murder despite Lebanese accusations. Two years ago, the indignant
Lebanese managed to get the Syrian troops out of their country. Now they
want sanctions against Syria.
In the past two years, the situation has changed. Hariri’s assassination
and Syrian withdrawal have split Lebanese society. Since then, every new
act of terror has worsened the disagreements and led to stronger mutual
accusations. Political discord has now paralyzed the Lebanese government.
The latest terrorist attack has prevented the resumption of talks on a
compromise between the opposition and the ruling majority under the aegis
of the Arab League.
The ruling coalition’s new charges against Syria are not likely to
facilitate compromise. Damascus is a tacit participant in all Lebanese
domestic negotiations. As recent events show, the future of not only
Lebanon but also Syria is at stake.
Domestic Lebanese disagreements are not likely to be settled until Damascus
and Washington establish normal relations. Let’s recall that Syria and Iran
support the opposition, whereas the United States and France back the
government. It is no accident that anti-Syrian statements in Lebanon are so
consonant with American rhetoric.
This situation, as well as Lebanon’s ethnic and religious mosaic, naturally
suggests a comparison with the events in Iraq. Moreover, the Lebanese
fought a 15-year-long civil war and are permanently worried about the start
of a new one. The world community and the Lebanese themselves should do
everything possible to prevent bloodshed.
I would like to draw your attention to two points.
The first one deals with the Vatican’s statement on the recent terrorist
attacks in Lebanon. The Vatican’s secretary of state, His Eminency Cardinal
Tarcisio Bertone, said that the explosions in buses near Beirut were aimed
at Christians. He proceeded from the premise that the attack took place in
a predominantly Christian area of Lebanon. Probably, the explosions were
designed to exacerbate religious strife in Lebanon and drive a wedge
between the opposition, which consists of the Shiite Hezbollah, and the
Free Patriotic Movement, led by a Christian, Gen. Michel Aoun. However, it
is dangerous to focus attention on religious motives behind terrorist
attacks. It is enough to recall the consequences of this in Iraq. It is
possible to resolve political differences, but it is much more difficult to
deal with religious strife.
The Lebanese themselves are doing all they can to take the religious aspect
out of the conflict. This is why the heads of Lebanon’s religious
communities protested together against terror after the latest explosions.
Lebanon’s top Sunni, Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, said,
“This new heinous crime, which entailed the loss of civilian lives, is
aimed not against Christians, but against all of Lebanon, civil peace, and
national unity.”
Foreigners should not exacerbate the situation with their emotional
statements for fear of upsetting Lebanese society’s fragile accord.
Now the second point. Outside forces have considerable influence over
events in Lebanon, but regardless of any political statements, neither
Damascus nor Washington will be able to plunge the Lebanese into a civil
war against their will if they are wise enough to resist. They should not
shift responsibility for their problems on others, even if there are some
grounds for doing so. This is one of the tragedies of present-day Iraq, and
the Lebanese should not follow suit. The actions of those responsible for
terror in Lebanon will become pointless if they realize that they cannot
affect Lebanese unity or manipulate the nation.
For the time being, we have been witnessing the opposite. The masterminds
of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon are skillfully orchestrating
events in this country and the rest of the region. But nobody knows their
names, or whether they are acting on their own.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not
necessarily represent the opinions of the editorial board. –0-