Wednesday, September 17, 2008

when in Lebanon, everyone picks sides

Those reconciliation talks maybe moving forward in Lebanon at a political level but the strife on the streets continues. Reuters:
TRIPOLI, Lebanon (Reuters) - Two people were killed and three were wounded in a clash between supporters of rival Christian factions in north Lebanon overnight, security sources said on Wednesday.

The violence, the latest in a series of deadly clashes in several areas of Lebanon in recent days, came hours after rival Lebanese leaders held a first session of talks aimed at discussing divisive issues and easing sectarian and political tensions.

The sources had little detail on how the firefight began in a village in the northern Kora province, but they said it pitted supporters of the pro-Syrian Marada party against followers of the anti-Syrian Lebanese Forces group. One supporter of each group died in the exchanges, the sources said. Three people were wounded.
Marada is allied to the powerful Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah while the Lebanese Forces is part of a Western-backed alliance led by Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri.

The Lebanese security forces deployed in the area and conducted contacts with officials from both sides to contain the situation, the sources said.

Overall I like this Beirut’s Daily Star editorial as it sums up the situation succinctly:
Reasonable people are entitled to reasonable expectations about the national dialogue that officially began - and promptly adjourned for seven weeks - at Lebanon's Presidential Palace on Tuesday. In order for such judgments to be formed, however, it is crucial that all the players involved - both Lebanese and not - recognize what have been some very worrying signs of late. And in order for them to increase the odds of success in the negotiations, it is also important that steps be taken to prevent the country's parlous security situation from undermining the dialogue.

The need for wariness comes not from a single incident but from several. A key figure in the reconciliation process was assassinated in Aley last week, a series of blasts shook the Beirut neighborhood of Corniche al-Mazraa in the early hours of Monday morning, and Tuesday saw the Lebanese Army drawn into pitched battles with residents of a mixed Sunni-Shia village in the Bekaa Valley. Coincidence? Perhaps, but there is also a very strong possibility that some or even all of the parties that have joined the dialogue (and/or their foreign sponsors) are simultaneously working to undermine it.

For those who are sincere in the desire to help the Lebanese sort out their internal problems, these and other security breaches that have plagued Lebanon despite May's Doha Accord should be viewed as warning signals. This country has been used repeatedly as a battleground by regional actors, and its political parties are sickeningly receptive to the demands of foreign powers. No one should be surprised if old habits are proving difficult to break.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all the external regional players would just go home and let the Lebanese tailor make a solution which would have the distinct pleasure of being made entirely in Lebanon and fitted to the exact needs of the Lebanese people.

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