Amid the ongoing crisis in Syria, the government of President Bashar al-Assad and its strong regional ally Hezbollah have been accused of being behind the recent terrorist incident in Beirut.
The Sassine Square bombing, which killed Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, the head of the intelligence unit of the Lebanese Interior Ministry, who was known for his anti-Syria stance and his affiliation with the pro-Western March 14 alliance, created an opportunity for the opposition to take revenge on its archrival Hezbollah. However, in light of Lebanon’s unique political system and the high level of sectarianism in the country, one should look for a more reasonable explanation of the recent terrorist incident.
The assassination of Wissam al-Hassan seems to be a carbon copy of the massive bombing that killed former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, which exacerbated Lebanon’s internal conflicts and had a huge impact on the country’s relations with neighboring Syria. The Hariri assassination gave the March 14 group and its foreign supporters the long-awaited opportunity to force the Syrian government to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. And now, the opposition has chosen the same method to put pressure on the Syrian government and its supporters in Lebanon.
In 2011, the opposition suffered a huge defeat at the hands of the Syrian-backed March 8 alliance and Hezbollah, and even Walid Jumblatt and his party left the March 14 group and chose to take sides with the resistance and Syria.
In the months remaining until Lebanon’s parliamentary election, the March 14 camp has intensified its efforts to undermine the government and exert more influence on the election process. This could open the door for a return to power of the pro-Western group, which would then pave the way for the West to increase its intervention in Syria and weaken the resistance front in the region.
The intensification of the sectarian conflict in Lebanon definitely benefits Israel. According to leaked cables, Israel, backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States, had a detailed plan in 2007 to foment sectarian discord between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon. Such a situation would certainly impact the entire region, and Israel, more than any other player in the region, would benefit greatly from the discord among Muslims.
The Beirut bombing also gives the opposition the chance to reactivate the Hariri case and its Western-controlled proceedings, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. As a general strategy, the March 14 group will continue to draw false connections between the Hariri assassination and the recent assassination of Wissam al-Hassan.
Despite the massive pressure certain governments are putting on Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati to step down, France and some other Western governments have declared their support for Mikati.
The West’s drive to oust the Lebanese government is nothing new, since the same strategy has also been employed in Iraq over the past few years. And it seems that all these efforts by the United States and its allies are also targeting Iran in order to counter its rising influence in the region.
Mohammad Ali Mohtadi is an established journalist and Middle East expert based in Tehran.
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