Andrew I. Pereira

The Lebanese conundrum

Who cares???? Its boring now“, writes one Facebook user in a response to a BBC article about the bomb blast that ripped Beirut just three days ago. “Another day, another bombing, Middle east pffft, catch up and get out of the dark ages” and “what’s wrong with this hell Arab people“, are what a couple of other respondents have to say about the serial blasts which seems to have shaken Lebanon to its core. Even Israel is not spared, as one detractor remarks,”For ignorants & fools hezbullah may be a militant group..but for people who use common sense..its a Resistant movement..found to resist Zionist occupation..“. People have the right to be cynical and give vent to their hatred, but the fact is that Lebanon is burning. It is burning this very moment and it seems that the country is reverting to a state of bloody violence that had marred the region about three to four decades ago.

The Lebanese civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990 was one of the most brutal conflicts to have plagued the Middle-East. The social, cultural and economic fabric of the country was rent asunder by the war. What began as minor clashes between the Druze units and the Phalange militia later transformed into a full-fledged war between the two, particularly after the infamous ‘Black Saturday’ incident. The subsequent involvement of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) only exacerbated the conflict. The later arrival of other groups and both the Syrian and Israeli interventions tore apart Lebanon. Social order deteriorated, anarchy prevailed and massacres flourished.

Some of the worst massacres in world history were committed during the war. The Sabra and Shatila massacre in which thousands were mowed down by Phalangist militiamen was one of the most ghastly crimes against humanity. The bombings of the US embassy and Marine barracks also altered the tune of the war dramatically as it signified the rise of Islamist militants.

The latest outbursts of violence in Lebanon serves as a grim reminder of the depravities of the 15 year war. The intense conflict between Sunni and Shiite militants is spilling into the suburbs of Beirut. The bombing of the Iranian embassy in November, the assassination of Mohammad Chatah and last week’s car bombing in downtown Beirut have asserted the fact that the previous two months have been nothing short of a roller-coaster ride.

A library was also, surprisingly, a victim of the ongoing strife. In an act of madness, Lebanon’s second largest library was torched and more than 70,000 books were lost in the conflagration. Another worrying factor, is the steady rise of Al Qaeda in Lebanon. They have already claimed responsibility for last week’s blasts. It seems that the terrorist organization is gaining a foothold in the region. Their presence has been significantly bolstered in Iraq and Syria.

Hezbollah, undoubtedly, is the numero uno militant organization in Lebanon. Recent reports claim that Hezbollah has added advanced guided missiles to their arsenal and this could spell disaster for Israel. Their conflict with Al Qaeda would make matters worse for Israel and the peace loving minority of the region.

Now that the Israel-Palestine peace talks are back on track and the upcoming Geneva II conference may bring about a halt to the Syrian conflict, the Middle-East is ready for a new renaissance. But any prospects of peace could be shattered if the violence amplifies in Lebanon. There seems to be an iota of hope for the moment. An end to all hostilities in Syria could save Lebanon from another civil war. Will the Lebanese people be able to see light at the end of the tunnel? Only time can answer this question and the maximum that we observers can do is pray that region is not dragged back to its darkest days.

About the Author
Andrew Pereira is a writer covering the MENA region, Caucasus, and Central Asia for Statecraft.
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