Al-Monitor asked Lebanese Deputy Speaker Farid Makari his opinion regarding the impact of the accusations made by the Bulgarian authorities that Hezbollah is responsible for the bus bombing in Burgas. He responded, "There is a big difference between Hezbollah being placed on the list of terrorist organizations within the European Union — and thus at an international level later on — and it not being included on this list."
He continued, "In my personal opinion, at least based on policies we have observed up until now, European states will not classify [Hezbollah] as a terrorist organization."
He pointed to "the great efforts being made by France and Germany in particular to keep other European countries from condemning Hezbollah as a whole. Of course, those who are following the situation will notice a big difference between the attitudes of the northern and southern EU states in dealing with this issue. The majority of the northern states tend to take a more hardline position. Some might say that those states that participate in the United Nations Interim Force in South Lebanon (UNFIL) would prefer not to expose their military units to the risk of retaliation from Hezbollah. They know that the party is capable of moving its supporters in southern towns and villages to harass their soldiers, and thus they prefer to distance themselves from these confrontations and their consequences. In many ways, these soldiers could be transformed into what resemble hostages. I, however, believe that this possibility is not the greatest motivation behind the position of states that tend not to take a hardline stance toward Hezbollah on this issue."
Makari, who recently returned to Beirut following a visit to Paris, clarified that there is a conviction among influential political circles in the EU that putting pressure on the Lebanese government — financially, economically and politically — with regards to the claim that a terrorist group participates in this government, or rather this is their government, would inevitably lead to its downfall. In this case, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati would not wait for someone to ask him to leave. This is despite the fact that he enjoys nerves of steel and an unmatched ability to withstand pressure. This issue goes beyond the ability to resist. As everyone knows, there is an economic crisis in Lebanon. Investments have stopped and production sectors — especially tourism and real estate — are nearly inoperative. Sanctions against the government would mean its inevitable downfall."
He noted: "At this stage, the West is interested in keeping the country from erupting. However, what we see in terms of stability provided by the current government is not real stability in the minds of the Lebanese. Day after day they are witnessing massive violent acts. This is true in the east in Arsal, as well as in the north in Tripoli, where armed clashes occur from time to time. This is in addition to political assassinations, such as the assassination of the head of Lebanon's intelligence branch Maj. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan. Meanwhile, the capacity of citizens to continue with a minimum of a decent life is decreasing, or rather has become almost nonexistent.
"We do not see stability in Lebanon. With regards to the West, from afar they see things from another perspective. European states are saying: 'Let us focus on what is happening in Mali and Syria.' For us, this Arab Spring seems to have become a winter, when we look at what is happening in this troubled region of the world. These conflicts are not confined to Syria and Mali. Tunisia is returning to violence, things have not calmed down in Libya, Egypt is on the verge of a new phase of confrontation and things are still boiling in Iraq. Westerners do not want to see Lebanon in a similar situation, something that would only cause them more headaches."
He concluded by saying that "Westerners will coordinate with the Lebanese government. In my opinion, they will find a way to accuse Hezbollah's military wing, and not the party itself, of responsibility for the bombing, as a way to get out of this mess."
Elie Hajj writes on politics for An-Nahar, Lebanon. He previously wrote for Al-Anbaa (Kuwait) and the online paper Elaph.
Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
- The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
- Archived articles
- Exclusive events
- The Week in Review
- Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly