By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
10 December 2014
Some thought that the arrest of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s ex-wife and daughter in Lebanon was the weapon that would finally force the most famous terrorist in the world to kneel.
However, instead of the terrorists releasing the abducted Lebanese soldiers and policemen, things took a turn for the worst as more of the hostages were killed, Qatar withdrew the promised mediation and some figures called for taking women and children hostage in response to the actions of the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
It turned out that the Lebanese authorities ruined one of their secret operations as a result of political rivalries. The arrested woman is of no value when it comes to ensuring the release of the hostages as she and Baghdadi have been divorced for years - i.e. before he led the newly formed organization of ISIS. Therefore, she cannot be a means to pressure Baghdadi and her arrest rather thwarted the Lebanese security forces’ plan and lost them perhaps one of their most important sources of information.
Lebanese Interior Minister Nuhad al-Mashnouq voiced his anger regarding the issue but used neutral statements to express himself. He said that arresting the women provoked terrorists and threatened the safety of the hostages. Truth be told, arresting Baghdadi’s former wife, his daughter and the wife of ISIS commander Abu Ali al-Shishani has ruined chances of a successful surveillance operation that could have exposed ISIS plans and this is a major political folly.
The only information detectives can glean from these women concerns the history of ISIS figures - just their history. Terrorists don’t care much about human sacrifices or women’s dignity because to them anything is worth sacrificing for the sake of war!
On the other hand, terrorists’ families have always been put under surveillance but this is not optimal when it comes to blackmail operations and cannot be made use of politically. This is why the family members of Osama bin Laden - the slain al-Qaeda leader – returned without any retribution from Iran, Pakistan and Syria. Baghdadi will not give up anything in exchange for the release of a family member and would rather use the situation to prove his loyalty to the organization and his willingness to sacrifice even those closest to him.
We understand the pain of the abducted Lebanese soldiers and policemen families who are at the center of ongoing political and media battles in Lebanon. But unfortunately, who cares about the fate of a few people in a country where more than a quarter of a million have been killed over the last few decades? It’s a huge tragedy where details are difficult to find.
I think Hezbollah needs to seriously reconsider its involvement in Syria and that of other different Lebanese constituents, whether military or civilian. It must comprehend the size of the problem and its possible duration, as it may be protracted. After the Syrians, the Lebanese are paying the highest price. The Turks and Jordanians are not a direct party to the conflict and the same applies to the Iranians. Iraqis are part of the war because Iraq itself is a battlefield and it’s not possible to separate between Iraq and Syria.
Lebanon’s problem lies in Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war which comes as a result of its desire to fight alongside the Syrian regime. It’s an unfortunate consequence that Lebanon becomes part of the battlefield.
The Lebanese people must realize that their problem is not with the terrorist al-Nusra Front and ISIS but with Hezbollah because it insists on involving itself in the Syrian war and brags about this. It’s therefore quite normal for the battle to be transferred into the Lebanese arena and it will not stop at the blood line we see drawn today.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.