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A Lebanese drama with Turkish, Iranian and Syrian players

Octavia Nasr

Published: Updated:

I’m not one to make light of kidnapping or hostage situations. As a matter of fact, I condemn both as acts of violence regardless of whether groups use them as negotiating tools or practice them as a sport. I also condemn media and governments that insist on talking down to the public and insulting our intelligence with tall tales that have little or no supporting facts.

In 2012, 11 Lebanese Shiite’s were captured by Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. The Lebanese were held on suspicion of being Iranian spies. The families of the kidnapped Lebanese claimed however that their relatives were simply religious pilgrims visiting Syria.

The release of two Turkish pilots is tightly linked to the release of nine Lebanese Shiites that were held in Syria since 2012.

Octavia Nasr

Earlier this year, two Turkish pilots were taken hostage in Beirut setting off a regional frenzy to free the Lebanese “pilgrims” in an exchange. An unknown group claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and communicated their demands and proof of life through local media. The hostages were reportedly treated very well. One of the released Turkish hostages stated that they got along well with their kidnappers. He even said that one of the kidnappers decided to name his new son Murat after him. A video circulating online shows the pilots partying and smoking hookah with the kidnappers.

The release of two Turkish pilots is tightly linked to the release of nine Lebanese Shiites that were held in Syria since 2012. After intensive talks involving Qatar, the nine Lebanese captured in 2012 and the Turkish pilots were set free. Lebanese authorities claim it was a carefully and artfully negotiated deal, but the truth will be known only when the other shoe drops. Lebanon is a playground for ugly games such as kidnapping and counter-kidnapping, as well as assassinations that never lead to suspects or arrests. Let history speak for itself. How the capital of Beirut remains listed at the top destination in the world for travel and tourism is beyond comprehension!

The timing of the negotiations was favorable as it coincided with Iran’s successful nuclear talks with the West in Geneva.

Now that this crisis is over, the Lebanese have a renewed sectarian animosity, Turkey is enjoying a much-needed victory, Iran seems to be an inch closer to being a player again with the West and in Syria, rebels gave in to regional pressure to release the hostages. However, Assad has not yet released female prisoners as he was expected.

Since in hindsight vision is near perfect, we can look back at the genesis and evolution of this Lebanese drama and weep!

This article was first published in Lebanon-based Annahar on Oct. 22, 2013.

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Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

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