The car-bomb assassination of Lebanese Sunni intelligence chief Wissam al-Hassan
on Friday was a brazen assault on the anti-Syrian, anti- Hezbollah camp in
Lebanon, which might just spread the Syrian civil war to Beirut and
Hassan was keen to work for an independent Lebanon, free from
Iranian-Syrian influence, and free from Hezbollah’s shadow. He was popular among
the March 14 Sunni-Christian bloc, a bitter rival of the Hezbollah-dominated,
predominantly Shi’ite March 8 Movement.
Hassan was involved in at least
two investigations of terror plots in Lebanon that lead directly back to
Hezbollah and Syria. The first is the 2005 car-bomb killing of Sunni former
Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. The second is an alleged bomb plot involving ex-Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha, who has been
under arrest since August on suspicion of planning to plant bombs in northern
Lebanon on the orders of Damascus.
This isn’t the first time a Lebanese
security figure hot on the trail of Hezbollah and Syria has met a violent
Lebanese police Capt. Wissam Eid was in the midst of an
investigation into the Hariri murder. According to a Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation report in 2010, Eid managed to ingeniously trace suspicious
cellphone signals and use them to uncover Hezbollah teams that had allegedly
been shadowing Hariri and had gone on to kill him.
Eid, keen to share his
information with a UN investigations panel, was killed in a massive Beirut car
bombing in 2008.
The pattern appears to be clear, as does the message
behind the bombings.
All those involved in investigating Syrian-Hezbollah
crimes in Lebanon are at risk.
Then, as now, Hezbollah and the Assad
regime in Syria are at the top of the suspect list.
But this isn’t 2008.
The Middle East is in the middle of an earthquake, and the old regional order
In Syria, Sunnis have gone to war to rid their country of
the Iranian-backed minority Alawite dictatorship. In Lebanon, Sunnis and many
Christians, who are fed up with Hezbollah using Lebanon as its playground, are
watching closely. When Bashar Assad falls, Hezbollah may find itself cornered
and cut off from its Iranian master.
With sectarian tensions in Lebanon
at a peak, Friday’s car bomb may spark enough anger among the fractured
population to prompt a wider confrontation.