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Opinion: Terrorists are willing to sacrifice their families | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An image from a propaganda video by Al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the ISIS Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi on July 5, 2014 (AFP PHOTO / HO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA)

The arrest of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s ex-wife and daughter in Lebanon led some to think that this would be the weapon that would finally bring the most famous terrorist in the world to his knees.

However, instead of the terrorists releasing the Lebanese soldiers and policemen they abducted earlier this year, things took a turn for the worse. More of the hostages were killed, Qatar withdrew its offer to mediate, and some figures called for taking women and children hostage in response to the actions of the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

It has now emerged that the Lebanese authorities ruined a covert operation as a result of political rivalries. The arrested woman is of no value when it comes to ensuring the release of the hostages, as she and Baghdadi have been divorced for years—i.e. before he took over ISIS. Therefore, she cannot be a means to pressure Baghdadi, and her arrest rather thwarted the Lebanese security forces’ plan and lost them what may be one of their most important sources of information.

Lebanese Interior Minister Nuhad Al-Mashnouq voiced his anger regarding the issue but used neutral statements to express himself. He said that arresting the women provoked terrorists and threatened the safety of the hostages. Truth be told, arresting Baghdadi’s former wife, his daughter, and the wife of ISIS commander Abu Ali Al-Shishani ruined the chance to carry out a successful surveillance operation that could have exposed ISIS plans, and this is a major political folly.

The only information detectives can glean from these women concerns the history of ISIS figure—just their history. Terrorists don’t care much about the human cost of their actions, or women’s dignity, because to them anything is worth sacrificing for the sake of their cause.

On the other hand, terrorists’ families have always been put under surveillance, but this is not useful when it comes to blackmail operations and cannot be made use of politically. This is why the family members of Osama bin Laden—the slain Al-Qaeda leader—were able to return home without any retribution from Iran, Pakistan and Syria. Baghdadi will not give up anything in exchange for the release of a family member, and would rather use the situation to prove his loyalty to the organization and his willingness to sacrifice even those closest to him.

The pain felt by the loved ones of the abducted Lebanese soldiers and policemen families who are at the center of ongoing political and media battles in Lebanon is understandable. But, unfortunately, who cares about the fate of a few people in a country where more than a quarter of a million have been killed over the last few decades? It’s a huge tragedy in which small details are often lost and overlooked.

I think Hezbollah needs to seriously reconsider its involvement in Syria and that of other different parts of Lebanese society, whether military or civilian. It should try to comprehend the size of the problem it creates and its possible duration, as it may be protracted. After the Syrians, it is the people of Lebanon who are paying the highest price, unlike the Turks and Jordanians, who are not a direct party to the conflict, and nor are the Iranians. Iraqis are part of the war because Iraq itself is a battlefield and it’s not possible to separate between Iraq and Syria.

Lebanon’s problem lies in Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war, which comes as a result of its desire to fight alongside the Syrian regime. As an unfortunate consequence, Lebanon has become part of the battlefield.

The Lebanese people must realize that their problem is not with the terrorist Al-Nusra Front and ISIS, but with Hezbollah, because it insists on involving itself in the Syrian war and even brags about this. It’s therefore inevitable that fighting will be transferred into Lebanon, and it will not stop at the line we see drawn today in blood.