Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Asala Nasri and the Banana Republic | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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This file photo shows Syrian singer Asala Nasri performing during a concert in the Yemeni southern port city of Aden, on February 14, 2008. (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah)

Because the Syrian government is angry with Syrian singer and celebrity Asala Nasri, Lebanese authorities have detained her, revoked her passport and prevented her from traveling. These actions, taken on behalf of the government of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and to the benefit of Iran, have become commonplace recently in Lebanon. An Iranian–Ahwazi opposition figure was previously kidnapped in Lebanon with his whereabouts still unknown, and Syrian opposition figures have also disappeared in Lebanon, while others have been handed over to Syrian authorities. These are not the only victims of the foreign exploitation of Lebanon’s weaknesses; residents of Lebanese towns along the borders with Syria have also suffered due to the Syrian army’s violations and attacks. When the Syrian regime’s capabilities were restricted, it tasked Hezbollah with attacking these towns on its behalf, just as it is doing in Arsal, and tightening the grip on Syrian refugees, who are now being killed in cold blood on the streets of Beirut.

“Lebanese authorities” and “Lebanese army” are empty expressions which can mean whatever various sub-groups within these two institutions want them to, or simply to act as a facade for some groups that run their own affairs or serve foreign agendas, especially those of the Iranian and Syrian regimes. Involving the Lebanese army in skirmishes orchestrated by Hezbollah and the Syrian regime in Arsal and turning it into a scapegoat proves there are attempts to turn Lebanon into a slaughterhouse for brutal forces who don’t respect international agreements and conventions.

The world has run out of patience with terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar Al-Sham, which have all exploited the chaos in Syria. However, these are not the only groups which have kidnapped and slaughtered people and committed crimes against civilians. Historically speaking, Hezbollah established the school of violence in the region; its horrifying record against Arabs and foreigners dates back to the 1980s. A prominent example is Hezbollah’s abduction and murder of CIA officer William Francis Buckley in 1984 while he was en route to the American embassy in Beirut. This was followed by dozens of other crimes, such as the kidnapping of priests Lawrence Jenco, Nicolas Kaulitzer and Terry Waite, British citizen Geoffrey Nash, and British businessman Alec Collett. Hezbollah also targeted France with explosions and kidnapped French diplomat Marcel Carton and his bodyguard in Beirut, demanding a ransom. It also demanded a halt to the armament of Iraq and to dealings with the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. Isn’t this exactly what ISIS is doing and exactly why the world has decided to pursue it?

Hezbollah’s violations have not stopped; it continues to kidnap opposition figures, kill intellectual politicians and intimidate media institutions. The difference between the Sunni ISIS and the Shi’ite ISIS—that is, Hezbollah—is that the former widely diffuses videos of its crimes.

Syria wants Lebanon to remain a banana republic, without sovereignty of any kind, a hostage to its militias. It wants the presidential vacuum in Beirut to continue, and to keep using Lebanon’s army and its security institutions for its own ends. And as we have seen in the case of Asala, it is a mark of Syria’s deficiencies that it has to resort to using affiliated Lebanese institutions to detain artists and pursue media figures.