BEIRUT: Rival Lebanese political leaders remained at odds Thursday over where Lebanon stands vis a vis a possible US strike on Syria, with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea reminding Speaker Nabih Berri that Lebanon had committed itself to a policy of dissociation.
On Wednesday, Berri blasted Israel’s use of Lebanon’s airspace to launch a missile attack on Syria which killed 14 people including an Iranian revolutionary guard colonel. Questions were raised on whether Israel was working alone or as a proxy for the US in the aftermath of the attack.
“These attacks on Syria are planned by the west and backed by certain Arab states,” he said, adding that “the policy of dissociation does not entail Israel violating our airspace and using it to bomb Arab lands.”
“Those in favor of this dissociation policy are contributing to Israeli aggression,” he said.
Berri’s comments drew a sharp response from Geagea, who took to Twitter to maintain that “a policy of dissociation means just that, case closed.”
Israel’s raid came in the wake of an alleged chemical attack perpetrated by Assad’s forces on a rebel-held town in central Damascus, targeting a Syrian base which housed both Iranian and Russian personnel.
Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun reaffirmed his commitment to file an official complaint with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), labeling Israel’s move as an “attack on our sovereignty.”
Speaking during a Cabinet session held at the Baabda Presidential Palace, Aoun unequivocally “rejected Israel’s illegal use of our airspace,” while condemning any “attack on our Arab neighbor.”
During the session, Minister of Agriculture and Hezbollah affiliate Hussein Hajj Hassan criticized the now-defunct March 14 coalition for “their lack of condemnation of Israel’s illegal use of Lebanon’s airspace.”
“Is Israel now part of the Arab League,” he bemused.
Lebanon agreed to abide by a dissociation policy - which stipulates the non-interference in regional affairs - following Prime Minister Saad Hariri withdrawing his resignation in November 2017.
Yet Hariri, who cited Hezbollah’s incursions in Syria and Yemen as the reason for stepping down during his televised address from Riyadh on November 4, assured that his government would not deviate from this policy.
“We have a clear position and that is the policy of dissociation, and it is my duty as Prime Minister to protect Lebanon from any regional conflicts,” Hariri said.
Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt mirrored Hariri’s response, tweeting that “all parties should abide by the dissociation policy.”
“Lebanon cannot be used as an axis in the conflict,” he said.
The current standoff in Syria has reached a boiling point, approaching levels not seen even at the height of the cold war after US President Donald Trump signaled a possible U.S missile attack on Syrian bases.
“Nice, new and smart missiles,” will be used said Trump earlier this week, before pivoting to a more measured response.
On Thursday, Trump announced that an attack on Syria could take place “very soon or not soon at all,” arguing that he had never signaled the timing of retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack that he had suggested was imminent a day earlier.
An attack on Syria, which Russian officials said would lead to a direct confrontation between the two world powers, would have a ripple effect on the region while increasing the threat of nuclear peril.
Berri warned of “the serious repercussions that may result from any military action targeting Syria,” highlighting Thursday that the “region’s stability is at stakes.”
The U.S., France, and Britain have been in extensive consultations about launching a military strike as early as the end of this week, U.S. officials have said. With AP
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