Nabih Berri, head of Lebanon’s primarily Shiite Amal Movement who has served as Parliamentary Speaker since 1992, has finally confirmed what many Lebanese have long suspected. Rather than a senior official representing all religious sects and a respected mediator between Iran’s radical proxy Hezbollah and the 14 March /Future Movement, he seems to have indelibly stamped Hezbollah’s flag on his forehead.
His speech, delivered before a crowd of thousands on Wednesday August 31 marking the disappearance of one of Amal’s founders Imam Musa Al Sadr and his companions in Libya 38 years ago, included the obligatory muscle-flexing against Israel and was so one-sided it could almost have been penned by Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.
While blaming Libya’s late leader Muammar Qaddafi for “the worst type of abduction,” Berri expressed the belief that Sadr, born in the Iranian city of Qom in 1928, is still alive. It seems he was creating a crowd-pleasing scenario to give the mesmerised hope that someday their founder will pop up sporting a beard down to his knees.
A host of conspiracy theories whirl around the cleric’s disappearance, each more farfetched than the other. In 2008, Lebanon indicted Qaddafi but Libya denied the accusations asserting Sadr and his delegation left the country on a plane to Rome while suggesting he may have been the victim of a Shiite power struggle. That sounds more plausible than the idea that 88-year-old Sadr is in hiding or imprisoned or that Qaddafi had him killed over theological differences of opinion.
Qaddafi was quirky but in my mind he was no Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s supreme leader who reportedly thinks nothing of executing officials for the crime of slouching in their chair. The Libyan leader had no motive. Amal should research closer to home to find out who benefited from their former chief’s vanishing.
I feel deeply sorry for the Lebanese people and worry for the fate of their homeland, a country that grabbed my heart during my first ever visit in the early 1970sKhalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor