A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

So Who Killed Hasan Lakkis?

Lakkis (Al-Manar TV)
Last night's assassination of senior Hizbullah military figure Hasan Lakkis (اللقيس) was the latest direct attack on Hizbullah and Iranian interests in Lebanon. Just before it, Hizbullah keader Hasan Nasrallah had blamed the bombing of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut on Saudi Arabia, but Hizbullah quickly and reflexively blamed Israel for Killis. What is interesting is that Israel, instead of declining comment as it usually does in such cases, flatly denied the accusation and said it was likely Sunni elements.

That underscores the increasingly complex situation in Lebanon (though it doesn't mean Israel didn't do it), where Hizbullah is deeply embroiled in both the conflict with Israel and the civil war in Syria, as well as broader regional sectarian rivalries. Discussing suspects quickly takes on a  Murder on the Orient Express feel: everyone has a motive. Even if we leave out conflicts within Hizbullah or with other Shi‘ite elements, reasonable suspects would include Israel; Syrian rebels; Lebanese Sunnis; Saudi Arabia; Jordan; Turkey; France; and the US. If he had been killed by a drone I'd put the US first (though Israel has used them this way in Gaza), but he was shot at close range, so I think the US is probably off the hook on this one, though unlikely to send flowers.

I'm not sure it matters, or if we'll ever know for sure. For decades, Hizbullah mostly limited itself to Lebanon and Israel, or to US targets in the region. By throwing itself openly into the Syrian conflict it has found itself with a whole spectrum of new enemies, and further destabilized Lebanon, which more than ever seems to deserve the title Michael Hudson used in his 1968 (several wars ago) book, The Precarious Republic.

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