Fears are expressed almost every day that the war in Syria will spread to Lebanon, or to all of Syria’s neighbors. The problem, however, is not that the war "will spread" as if by nature, inevitably, the way spilled water spreads, but that it will be spread--deliberately, by the Assad regime.
And that is indeed what is happening. The assassination in Beirut of Wissam Hassan, by a huge car bomb, is only the latest in a long series of such murders of critics of the Assad regime. Hassan was a senior intelligence official, a Sunni, and the man who led the investigation of the murder in 2005 of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. That investigation led to the uncovering of evidence implicating both the Assad regime in Syria, and Hezbollah.
How are we to understand what is happening in Lebanon? A Lebanese friend wrote me as follows today:
"Lebanon is witnessing a return to the 2005-2008 period when Assad and Nasrallah, feeling that they were losing ground, orchestrated their series of political assassinations, bombings, armed clashes....until they finally got what they wanted through the Doha accord. Then miraculously all violence stopped. Now that they are losing again, they are resorting to the same tactics: assassinations attempts against March 14, Michel Samaha’s bombing plot, Tripoli’s fighting, weapons distribution by the Hezbollah to various militias and yesterday Wissam Hassan’s assassination.
"Wissam will be the third IB (Information Branch) chief targeted after Samir Shahade and Wissam Eid. This is a terrible blow to the intelligence-security efforts in Lebanon against Bashar and his gang. The Information Branch is the only Lebanese security agency truly confronting the threats coming from Assad and Hezbollah. They deserve our unconditional support if we care to win our battle against the Iranian and Syrian regimes in Lebanon."
Murder in Beirut is nothing new for the Assad regime; it is how Sunni and Christian opponents are dealt with. This car bomb killing in Beirut is only the latest piece of evidence as to why Assad’s survival threatens regional stability. Well over a year ago the President of the United States said Assad must go. It is time the United States adopted an active policy that would bring that day closer--saving thousands more lives in Syria and the lives of American allies in Lebanon as well.