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Is Lebanon really secure?

Diana Moukalled

Lebanese newspapers have, over the past two weeks, extensively published reports of local security services thwarting terrorist plots targeting the country. These reports have presented scenarios for risks that could have aggravated the security situation in Lebanon, suggesting that tightened security measures have thwarted such threats.
The country seemed as if it was about to explode due to all those reports about a series of busted plots, including a suicide bombing targeting Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve celebrations, double bombing attacks, and the arrest of people planning to launch attacks on places of worship and public places.
Such reports indicated that suicide attacks and bombings that took place in recent years could be repeated on a larger scale. The news, leaked by security agencies, suggested that Lebanon has been saved from dangerous plots and that several terrorist networks have been dismantled.
Such news may be true, or it may be somewhat exaggerated. In Lebanon we are not used to separating security and politics, so it is difficult to estimate how serious the Lebanese media were in dealing with those alleged terrorist plots.
Regardless of whether this information is true, it will not change the basic reality that Lebanon is of little importance compared with what is going on in Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Turkey. What is happening in these and other countries has an indirect impact on Lebanon, but local political changes are of little consequence.
Internal developments — such as government decisions, settlements, political conflicts, and the Lebanese leadership’s preoccupation with oil and gas deals and promises of a wealthier future for the country — are marginal details. They cannot cancel the fact that Lebanon is partly involved in what is going on around us via Hezbollah’s role in Syria, Iraq, and even probably Yemen.
Lebanon is still far away from the major explosions taking place nearby. It has not been triggered into armed confrontation between local and regional communities. But do some victories over Daesh-linked marginal cells in Lebanon actually protect the country from the repercussions of Lebanon’s involvement in Syria via Hezbollah?
Politically speaking, Lebanon is living a big lie of the “self-distancing” policy that the country officially adopted years ago. There are experts affiliated to Hezbollah fighting alongside the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq, and Lebanon’s role in Aleppo cannot be denied.
In Lebanon, we try to distract ourselves from what is going around us by engaging in talk of a new president and government, oil and gas deals, and campaigns to improve the Internet. But all this, and all talk of preventing security risks, do not mean we are safe. Any talk of Lebanon’s alleged safety is nothing but a distraction from Lebanese involvement in conflicting zones nearby. This cannot be controlled by just dismantling a few terrorist cells.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.

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