Friday, August 10, 2012

Maybe Time for Some Lebanese Defections 

It’s a big story. It’s a big story when a prominent Lebanese politician is apprehended by Lebanese police; a big story when that politician is one of the closest advisors to the president ( the president of Syria, that is), and the security agency doing the apprehending is the ISF - no love lost with the Syrian regime; it’s a big story when the alleged crime apparently involves a plan to detonate deadly explosives (and in turn detonate deadly sectarian clashes) mostly in the sensitive border region of Akkar; and it’s a big story if a smoking gun confirms what many people have been warning against - the possibility that the Syrian regime in Damascus may, in its moment of desperation, try to dig deeper into its Lebanese bag of tricks and do something bad. Really bad.

The potential ramifications of this story are enormous.

In Hizbollah’s first reaction, parliamentary leader Mohammad Raad said yesterday that the whole Smaha affair was a “fabrication” by the Lebanese security agencies and accused some of the officers and judges involved of having “suspicious connections”. He added that Hizbollah “will not remain silent’ but chooses to “take a little time”, for now. He didn’t say time before what.

Taking a little time is often a good idea, particularly when the full investigation results are not there yet, to fill the gaps in the serious but still incomplete information that has seeped out. In my opinion it would have behooved Hizbollah’s leaders to take a little more time to think before vindicating Mr. Smaha and incriminating the state’s police and judges. This would have been wiser for Hizbollah regardless of Mr. Smaha’s (almost certain) guilt or (extremely unlikely) innocence.

What is at stake for Hizbollah is much more than it’s credibility – given what seems to be a smoking gun in this case. Last year the party of God came out in defense of four individuals accused by an international tribunal of assassinating Rafic Hariri. Hizbollah provided the accused with local protection and even elevated them to the status of “saints”. The fact that it was able to ride that storm and later actually manage to become the main pillar of Lebanon’s current government is admittedly a major “accomplishment”.

It seems that Hizbollah is assuming it will be able to do it again in the Smaha case; that it can again ride the storm. But wait a minute. Iis this really Hizbollah’s battle? Should it make it so?

If Hizbollah has no connection to this alleged heinous attempt to plunge Lebanon into a new sectarian conflict - and we hope and assume they don’t – then it should not “remain silent ”. And it should certainly not fight this losing and immoral battle on behalf of the perpetrators. Hizbollah should dissociate itself from this sinister plan and those who have ordered it. Clearly and unequivocally.

This would be a good opportunity for Hizbollah to show that there is a limit to what they can ignore in their misguided embrace of the Syrian regime. Even if some people can disregard what the regime has done – and continues to do - to the Syrian people, can any sane Lebanese, including in Hizbollah’s own constituency, accept setting Lebanon on fire as a means of shoring up the faltering regime in Damascus? I don’t believe so.

In order to reconcile itself with the rest of Lebanon Hizbollah needs to do more than distance itself from the Syrian regime. But that would be a good first step.

But if the case against Smaha and his Syrian superiors is confirmed, it is not only Hizbollah that needs to carefully ponder their reaction. Many other people should. President Suleiman, Speaker of Parliament Berri and Prime Minister Mikati are at Lebanon’s helm today. As the official voice of the Lebanese people they cannot afford but to come out clearly and unequivocally on the side of the Lebanon. There is no room for fudging or compromise in this case. If Mr. Smaha was indeed acting at the request or order of the Syrian regime, steps should to be taken by the Lebanese government, and immediately. These should include severance of diplomatic relations and the freezing of all bilateral agreements with Syria. Lebanon should also submit an official complaint to the Security Council and request that UNIFIL assist the Lebanese Security forces in controlling the borders with Syria. Such a mmandate has already been given to UNIFIL by the Security Council under 1701.

If the allegations against Smaha’s patrons are corroborated, this may provide an opportunity for many individuals and parties which have for a long time considered themselves friends of the Syrian regime, but have grown uneasy recently with that friendship, or with being on the wrong side of history morally and politically. A plan to blow up Lebabon is more than a straw that breaks a camel’s back. It should be a totally unbearable burden on any Lebanese, regardless of their political affiliations or views.

Defection from the Assad regime is not restricted to Syrians. Lebanese can defect from it too.


  1. Yes.this is a good opportunity for hizbollah who wants to govern,to have his authority everywhere in
    lebanon.During this government,the Hizbollah tries
    to avoid the FITNA between sunnites and chiites first,and between sunnites and christians because He wants to govern the state and the why
    he must accept syrian or bacharian plan in lebanon?
    Plan of crimes,plan of insecurity disorder,plan of confessionnal accusations,especially to the muslim sunnites in north lebanon targeted by
    the famous general AOUN and company without any argument.ONLY THE BEAST SUNNITE IN THE ARAB OCEAN.Hizbollah is more and very more intelligent than the orange people,because H e knows

  2. I have a few issues with this logic:

    1st, you too are jumping into conclusions about Samaha's trial.

    2nd, if we want to subject political relations with Syria to a judiciary measure of Asad's crimes in Lebanon, then let us please put all who have been complacent to trial. This means everybody; yourself included. Weren't you the foreign affairs adviser to the Prime Minister when he visited Asad? Didn't you establish diplomatic relations at a time when Syria was suspected of assassinating Hariri? Do you acknowledge that you too have defected?

    3rd, freedom is not something you can compartmentalize. If you support freedom in Syria, please go ahead an do so in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Spare me the excuse that these cases are more about sectarian rife than freedom - because Syria already is in sectarian rife and that shouldn't change our support to Freedom fighters. Can you defect from the Saudi Arabian regime?

    4th, if this is a regional game of influence, with Iran as a challenger, then just state your position clearly - which side are you on? If you're not on any side - then please state a clear alternative. Stop arguing local issues and give us your true position on the bigger picture.

    1. 1. Actually, I am not jumping to conclusions at all. I am careful to use terms like "alleged attemp" and "potential crime".The judicial process should be fair and should run its course. But this is totally separate from policy actions that should not wait for or be based on a judge's verdict but on an assessment by government that a conspiracy or an act of aggression has been committed against the country. This is not a judicial conclusion. Not all conspiracies or aggressions involve a legal case. Most don't. The Lebanese President and PM were presented with vidence that convinced them that the information was solid and real. That's enough for the government to decide on how it should react. This has nothing to do with the the legal system.
      2. Actually, I have held the same view about the Syrian regime since 1970. Prime ministers listen to their advisors but they have the right to do otherwise and to visit whenever and whomever they like.And my PM sure did. But dimplomatic relations are a different matter. They are not with a regime but with a country. Lebanon certainly had an interest in establishing diplomatic relations with Syria to affirm its independence.
      3. In my book freedom is everyone's inalienable right from the moment of birth regrdless of color, religion or nationality. This should apply to Bahrainis, Syrians, Lebanese and to all people.
      4. Lebanon may be a local issue but as a Lebanese its the only relevant place where I can express my views and choices in the political marketplace both as an official or as a citizen. In the game of regional influence I dont really care for any particular regional power per se. I care for certain values and principles. But I certainly object to any power regional or global that uses Lebanon as an integral part of its struggle, without even asking me or the rest of the Lebanese people. That's exactly what Iran is doing through its local ally, the party of God. I don't see any other power doing the same. If they do I would object as strongly. It comes back to the basic principle that you also seem to value: liberty. And Iran and Hizbollah are denying me that. And that's something I cannot accept.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to answer. Much of what you say is true and well nuanced.

    I guess to me, the problem is that you don't seem to be aware (or willing to admit) that the same logic you are applying on Iran - applies to Saudi Arabia. Though they do it in different ways, but both equally undermine Lebanon's sovereignty.