There are some mafia morals displayed in Lebanon’s connection to what is going on in Syria. What is not being spoken of in relation to this is twice what is being circulated. What comes out into the public is shocking in its paradoxes and mafia style. But revelations do not grant the Lebanese people any material to hold anyone accountable. The perpetrator can just say: “Yes, I did that,” and no punishment will follow. The perpetrator can also refute by just saying: “I deny that.”
Few days ago, the Lebanese (and the Syrians) found out that the Lebanese Energy Ministry headed by Michel Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil sends fuel tanks to Syria’s regime which is suffering under an international siege. Fuel companies said they cannot do that without the ministry’s request and that they had sent fuel based on the minister’s demand. The minister responded by stating: Private fuel companies that have nothing to do with the ministry are sending fuel to Syria. He ended the discussion with a paradox that no one was able to clarify for public opinion.
Iranian diplomat assassination
Few days ago, the Iranian Embassy in Beirut announced the assassination of whom it described as head of the Iranian-financed reconstruction projects in Lebanon while he was returning from Damascus. The Lebanese found out that the man, whom the embassy announced was killed, is a former official in the Iranian “Revolutionary Guards” residing in Lebanon under a different name. What is weird is that it was the embassy and not the Lebanese authorities which announced the assassination of the man. What is also strange is that Lebanon’s foreign minister went straight to the embassy to offer his condolences and not to inquire about the truth of the former official’s residency in Lebanon under a different name or about the location of his assassination and the details of the operation.
The embassy said the man was assassinated on his way from Damascus and that he handles “rebuilding.” The story with all its incoherent components along with the weird performance of the Iranian embassy and the Lebanese government provides the Lebanese with a rare glimpse, because we can make up dozens of possibilities while we are bored. Where was the man killed? And how? Who is he? What was he doing in Lebanon…in Syria? Television reports showed photos of him with Lebanese ministers while signing “construction” agreements. Did he sign with his real name or his fake name which he used to reside in Lebanon?
Lebanon which sends Shiite fighters to fight along the Syrian regime and which also sends Sunni fighters to fight along the opposition decided it is a “stable country.” It also decided to dissociate itself from what is going on in Syria. This is what the cabinet, headed by a businessman who has investments in Syria and said to be Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s partner in some projects in the Sham countries, says. This prime minister does not equivocate in the policy of “dissociation.” He really did intervene to release Syrian opposition activists detained by Lebanese security authorities close to the regime in Damascus. He does really protect heads of other security apparatuses who are rivals with the Syrian regime. As he does that, he looks like a waltz dancer moving among words that signify nothing.
Lebanon decided it was witty to send its civil war to Syria and to keep confrontations between its groups to limited confrontations in Tripoli and Aarsal. There is a lot of truth in that although the other side of the coin is represented with the country becoming an open arena used by all parties involved in the struggle. The Lebanese official administration’s idea of “dissociation” implies some sort of “mean policy” which sees that the fire in Syria may eat up some of the violence fuel in Lebanon. This idea occurs to many politicians who are decision makers in Lebanon. These politicians are based on the “centrist” zone in the Lebanese map of divisions. By being based in this zone, they offer services in all directions: the Syrian opposition benefits from facilities in transportation and getting communication devices and the regime in Damascus benefits from fuel and from services provided by Lebanese banks facilitating its financial movement chained by international siege. It does not seem that this task is the production of “Lebanese geniality” because it was granted to Lebanon under a regional and international authorization and it is being pushed by the hesitating momentum in taking decisive action against the Syrian regime.
This is how the international community decreases moral consequences resulting from not controlling the siege against a regime which so far has killed 90,000 of its people. The international community puts up the list of sanctions it imposed on the Syrian regime in its people’s faces. However, at the same time it allows actions that do not tighten the noose on a regime which a decision to topple has not been made yet.
It’s not Lebanon alone which is performing this task. Jordan and Iraq do too. Israel, is one among the neighboring countries, which sends oxygen to the regime now and then. Turkey is also performing this task by opening its borders to non-Syrian jihadis. All these countries carry out these actions in moments controlled by political givens not moral ones. In this case, these countries’ policies are of course not aimed at serving the interests of their citizens but the interests of their own regimes.
But Lebanon is doing it differently. It is true that Lebanon is within the low moral prevailing in the region and the world for abandoning the Syrian revolution. But Lebanon has plunged in this low moral by swimming in it with its fragility not with its strength or concern over its regime. Here it is today, an arena for everything and a propeller for divisions strong enough not to be listed in its fragile balances.
While looking into the murder of the Iranian official in Lebanon, let’s consider the possibilities that Lebanese political visualizations cannot frame. The horizon is open for expectations that are linked to the struggle in Syria and that do not end at Iran’s nuclear program and the issue of transferring weapons from Iran, Iraq and Syria.
The man was killed while returning from Syria. This is what the Iranian Embassy in Beirut said. It also said he was in charge of the project to rebuild Lebanon. The Lebanese government does not have additional information. It has sent its minister, Adnan Mansour, to offer condolences while another minister handles releasing a Syrian activist detained by General Security at Beirut’s airport.
This article first appeared in al-Hayat on Feb. 17,2013.
Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon's most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.