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Assassinations in Lebanon and Iraq: The same fingerprints

Faris Khashan

Published: Updated:

Many Lebanese followed all the disclosures relating to the Iraqi authorities' announcement of the arrest of police officer Ahmed al-Kinani, the prime suspect in carrying out the assassination of Hisham al-Hashemi, on July 6, 2020, in front of his home in Baghdad.

Lebanese interest in this incident did not stem from curiosity, but rather from the identical situation that unites not only the martyrs in the two countries—but their criminals as well.

The details so far disclosed reveal that the accused is a sympathizer with the Iraqi Hezbollah Movement, whereas al-Hashemi, on the eve of his assassination, was labeled by the side that hilled him as an American agent.

This is a common factor that unites Lebanese and Iraqi blood, as all the martyrs – whether those who ascended to Heaven or the ones who are waiting for their turn – such as Marwan Hamadeh and Luqman Salim, had been subjected to a similar smear campaign – accusing them with treason before attacking them.

The person accused of carrying out the assassination of al-Hashemi stirs the memory of Salim Ayyash, who was convicted of assassinating Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and is accused of the assassination of George Hawi and of the attempted assassination of Elias al-Murr and Marwan Hamadeh. In the same vein, Ayyash was a member of the Civil Defense staff, whereas Ahmed al-Kinani is a policeman.

Both assassins, legally characterized as "sympathizers," live in the shadows of state institutions.

Thanks to the “popular movement” which is railing against political corruption and Iranian domination simultaneously, the Iraqi government headed by Mustapha al-Kadhimi, differs from its Lebanese counterpart, in that it exposed the assassin and his accomplices, arrested them and is preparing to put them on trial. On the other hand, the Lebanese government stood still like a neutral spectator vis-à-vis the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s accusation and conviction of Salim Ayyash.

However, this differentiation cannot overturn the fact that the Iraqi authorities were very careful about how to profile this "security triumph," as they completely ignored all talk about the affiliation of al-Hashemi's killers, making it seem more like a civil criminal case, rather than a terrorist operation.

Here the Iraqi-Lebanese identical situation resurfaces, as the Iraqi government fears for itself, as a whole and individually, from the fury of the parties involved in perpetrating this crime. This government—whenever it takes action against such perpetrators who expand their influence by way of their crimes—is threatened by a bloody attack reminiscent of the "May 7 Battle" that Hezbollah had launched against the pillars of the Lebanese government back in 2008.

David Ignatius quotes in the New York Times al-Kadhimi justifying this government’s approach by saying: "When I became Prime Minister, I had three options; either to wage an open war against the militias and factions; or to surrender to the factions and militias and become a subordinate Prime Minister; or to adopt a gradual strategy of hit-and-run, which is what I opted for.”

The current Iraqi government has a broader margin of action than its Lebanese counterpart which was formed after May 7, 2008, given that the former tries to satisfy a street exhausted by submissiveness to Iran, and seeks to have Baghdad regain its esteemed position in the Arab world, as well as in the international community.

The Lebanese government lost this margin when Hezbollah hijacked its decision and decision-makers, sometimes by the use of force, and other times by temptation.

The Lebanese political components, including those that present themselves as "sovereign," have failed to benefit the country from the popular revolution that erupted on October 17, because —fearing for their authoritarian gains —they practically joined the ranks of Hezbollah, which led the process of thwarting this revolution, both politically and on the ground.

What Hezbollah perpetrated against the Lebanese revolution, its "brothers" perpetrated against the Iraqi revolution, with a level of bloodshed that resulted in the killing of more than 600 people, not to mention the assassination and kidnapping of dozens of others.

On the occasion of arresting the killers of Hisham al-Hashemi, the Lebanese-Iraqi resemblance is not limited to this incident’s background story, but goes beyond it to an astonishing point: disinformation.

In his article published in daily Al-Nahar al-Arabi last July 17, Muhammad Soltani wrote the following:

“After every assassination that targeted an Iraqi activist opposed to Iranian influence and militias, such as the assassination of journalist Ahmed Abdel Samad in Basra, Hisham al-Hashemi in Baghdad, or Ihab al-Wazni in Karbala, the electronic and media brigades affiliated with Iran and the Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) militias would flood the social media and television screens with a coordinated and unified narrative, through which they accuse the United States, or Israel, or the UAE, or Saudi Arabia, or the activists themselves of carrying out the assassinations, and exonerate the groups associated with the PMF and Iran of any involvement in the bloodshed.”

Sultani went on to say: "The campaigns were launched with the same tempo; starting with accusing Shia activists of being ‘the Shia of the American embassy,’ the Sunnis activists as being ‘terrorists,’ and the Christian activists as being ‘agents of the United States,’ and then ending with physical assassinations. Afterwards comes the role of the media machine associated with Iran and the PMF in stoking questions and diverting attention towards the UAE or Tel Aviv or any side that the media discourse shaper decides to blame, as he sees fit.”

Sultani’s observations regarding the misleading stratagem adopted by the killers’ propaganda in Iraq does not differ at all from the notes previously made by writers, journalists, observers and investigators about the stratagem employed by the killers in Lebanon in the wake of every crime occurring in the country.

This indicates that the martyrs of Lebanon and Iraq belong to the same liberation orientation, just as their opponents belong to the same murderous orientation.

Those who rely on crime to further their agenda, notwithstanding their military, security, financial and propaganda strength, fear the influence of personalities who have nothing to protect themselves from, not even against "a draft of wind."

This fear is due to the fact that the national conscience interacts with the propositions of the assassination’s victims, because it awakens a reality slumbering within people.

He who takes a compromising stance towards any assassination is committing an anti-patriotic crime that cannot be redeemed, whether he is an official or a private citizen, because whoever submits to any assassination today will become his victim tomorrow. We must keep in mind that that advocates of change do not resort to liquidation, but rather to persuasion, by all available legitimate means. Only those who want to hurl nations into the abyss of destruction do so.

And whoever has misgivings regarding the importance of confronting the killers, he has only to examine the situation in Lebanon, which began to deteriorate at that moment when the killer assumed a political, national, military, security, media, economic and financial status.

This article was originally published in and translated from the Lebanese newspaper Annahar al-Arabi.

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