A few hours after the explosion in Beir el-Abed, in Beirut's southern suburbs, a number of international actors issued statements condemning it. Israel announced that it was not involved and set the explosion within the context of the sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in the region. Paris condemned the bombing and confirmed its commitment to the security and stability of Lebanon.
In a statement by US Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly, Washington condemned the bombing and all forms of violence in Lebanon and called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation. Connelly confirmed her country's commitment to a stable Lebanon.
These responses offered some sort of relief to Beirut, given that they reflect a continued international commitment to Lebanon's stability and security. It also became clear that what happened was not part of an international or regional plan involving repercussions for Lebanon in response to Hezbollah's intervention in the fighting in Syria.
According to diplomatic sources who spoke with Al-Monitor, Beirut received guarantees, via diplomatic channels, from Washington in June that it had warned the Syrian opposition not to respond to the battle for Qusair with operations in Lebanon targeting Hezbollah. Washington informed states supporting the Syrian opposition of the need to respect Lebanon's security.
There have, however, been recent fears that such international guarantees might be compromised as a result of growing political tensions between Hezbollah and Saudi Arabia. In an atypical move, the two sides have launched aggressive media campaigns against each another.
High-ranking Lebanese government sources told Al-Monitor that despite the severity of the bombing, initial international and domestic reactions had been reassuring, indicating the possibility of containing the incident's repercussions at both the political and security levels. According to these same sources, the attack could represent a positive shock and lead to two outcomes currently the topic of intense internal debate.
The first is consensus on extending army commander Jean Kahwaji's term, which is set to expire in September. There is currently no possibility of appointing a replacement, since it would require the government to pass an appointment law, which is something it has no authority to do given that it is a caretaker government. The second result is that it could force the political factions to relax their rigid positions and move closer in making political concessions to facilitate the formation of a new government. Indeed, the security developments in Lebanon require the response of an effective government capable of dealing with a dangerous situation.
The government sources, however, warn against being overly optimistic, because the internal disputes — as well regional conflicts that affect Lebanon — are still having a negative effect on reaching internal consensus. These disputes are hindering the process of forming a new government and drawing a road map for overcoming Lebanon's crises, rescuing it from its current state of paralysis.
Nasser Chararah is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor's Lebanon Pulse, as well as for multiple Arab newspapers and magazines, and the author of several books on the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict. He is also the head of the Lebanese Institute for Studies and Publications and has worked for the Palestinian Research Center.
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