Zuwwar Imam Ali Al-Reda—a counterfeit organization—has claimed responsibility for the abduction of two Turkish Airline pilots. The group said the two Turkish nationals would remain in custody until Lebanese pilgrims kidnapped in Azaz are released. The Turkish government advised its citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Lebanon and called on its nationals to leave the country. Turkey also stepped up security measures near the headquarters of the Turkish forces operating in southern Lebanon.
Most of the Arab and international forces deployed in Lebanon to protect the country’s unity, independence and sovereignty were forced to leave overnight under circumstances different from those that had led to their intervention. Turkey is also withdrawing from Lebanon, although the decision to withdraw forces was made weeks before the abduction.
Zuwwar Imam Ali Al-Reda decided that Ankara should pay a price, although it remains unknown whether the abduction was related to Azaz or not.
The Turkish government will not fall into the trap of accusing Hezbollah of the abduction. According to the Lebanese–Armenian MP Jean Ogassapian, the kidnapping took place in a Hezbollah-dominated area. Another MP, Atef Majdalani, emphasized that nothing can happen in the area without Hezbollah’s knowledge.
We will ignore reports that families of the pilgrims kidnapped in Azaz pressured Hezbollah to retaliate. We will not be provoked by reports of people in Bir Al-Abed setting off fireworks in celebration of the abduction of the Turkish pilots.
This is not to mention that some Lebanese journalists rushed to justify the abduction by placing complete responsibility on the Justice and Development Party (JDP) and Erdoğan.
Sheikh Abbas Zogheib, who was tasked by the Higher Shi’ite Council to follow up on the issue of the kidnapped pilgrims, blamed the Turkish government on several occasions and held it responsible for potential reactions and what might happen in the future. These reactions include kidnapping Turkish nationals in Lebanon, especially since—according to Zogheib—the families of the kidnapped pilgrims have a legitimate right to damage Turkey’s interests. Moreover, following the announcement of the abduction, Zogheib openly called on “honorable Lebanese” to side with the kidnappers.
Daniel Shueib, who is described as the spokesman for the families of the kidnapped pilgrims, could not wait to thank the kidnappers and was quoted by the National News Agency (NNA) as saying, “May God bless them.”
Some state institutions in Lebanon not only watch the events unfold, but also attempt to add fuel to fire.
We in Ankara have to take steps before some Lebanese media outlets construct new scenarios.
According to one theory, Tehran encouraged the abduction to do Erdoğan’s government a “humanitarian favor,” in repayment for Ankara’s important role in the release of dozens of Iranian citizens who were kidnapped by Syrian rebels a year ago.
Another theory claims that by abducting the two Turkish pilots, the Egyptian intelligence wanted to direct a blow against the Turkish government for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
All of these defiant attitudes is remarkable indeed, but we must turn a blind eye for the sake of preserving what has already been built in Lebanon.
Turkey is paying the price of its policy towards Syria, but through Lebanon. It is also paying the price for enhancing its political and commercial ties with Lebanon over the last few years. It is paying the price for waiving visa requirements for Lebanese nationals who, before anybody else, fully realize the significance of this step, and for its openness to a wide segment of the Lebanese society, angering Iran and its allies in Lebanon.
This Syrian–Lebanese issue has been transformed into a crisis between some Lebanese people and Turkey. The issue is more than Azaz. Those involved are using the abduction to politically defeat the Turkish government. Turkey then was in the process of reaching a solution for the issue of Azaz, in cooperation with the Lebanese government.
Reports from Turkey claimed that the Syrian government had commissioned Hezbollah to do the kidnapping in retaliation for the setbacks Assad’s forces have recently suffered in Aleppo and on the Syrian coast. This is not to mention that the rebels are approaching the town of Qardaha, where Assad’s family come from.
Other Turkish writers indicated that Turkey should persuade Iran to urge Hezbollah to move towards releasing the pilots.
The issue is no longer about abducting Turkish nationals or releasing Lebanese pilgrims held in Azaz. Otherwise, Hezbollah would not have to open the door for its fighters to fight inside Syria alongside Assad’s forces.
I wonder if Hezbollah acts on its own, without cooperating with Iran.