The World from Berlin: ‘Lebanon’s Fragile Balance Can Quickly Be Destroyed’
Syrian violence had already crossed the border into Turkey. Now, following the assassination of Lebanese security chief Wissam al-Hassan, there are fears that Lebanon might be next. German commentators fear that, should protests lead to instability in Beirut, the West might get pulled in as well.
Violence from the conflict in Syria spilled into neighboring Lebanon this weekend, after a Lebanese security chief was killed in a car bomb and his funeral triggered protests against the government in Beirut. Though the violence lasted only hours, it exposed the fault lines in Lebanon that could erupt as the civil war rages in Syria.
On Friday, a car bomb killed eight people including Major General Wissam al-Hassan, a polarizing figure who is associated with Lebanon’s Sunni led anti-Syrian faction. Hassan’s investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri ended up assigning blame to Syria and the Shiite militia Hezbollah, which the US government considers a terrorist organization.
After Hassan’s state funeral on Sunday, opposition protests erupted into violence in Beirut, with protesters accusing Syria of being behind Hassan’s assassination. Protestors say that Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati is too close to the Syrian government, led by autocrat Bashar al-Assad.
Mikati, who assumed power in 2011 and is backed by Hezbollah, denounced Friday’s attack and called for a national day of mourning, but was criticized for failing to make a public appearance. On Saturday, he had originally suggested that he might resign from office, but then announced he would stay in power after all.
Protestors gathered for the funeral in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square and then moved to the streets in front of the prime minster’s office, calling for him to step down. Security forces fired shots into the air and lobbed tear gas canisters into the crowd. By nightfall, violence had dissipated.
On Monday German newspapers said that it comes as no surprise that Lebanon is now being dragged into the Syrian civil war. They argue that if violence continues, it will only be a matter of time before the West will have to become involved as well.