Bomb in Beirut: Lebanon teeters after a brazen high-level attack

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A major car bombing in Beirut last week that killed seven, including a former minister of finance and Lebanese ambassador to the United States, Mohammed Chatah, diminishes the prospects for peace in Lebanon and the Middle East.

Car bombs are nothing new in Beirut, having claimed many lives, including President Rene Moawad in 1989 and former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. They have tailed off in recent years, a sign of a relatively durable post-civil war peace in that divided country.

When they do occur, there is no shortage of suspects. The Dec. 27 blast is most likely a spillover from Syria’s civil war. Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia and political party backed by Iran, has provided military assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad. Sunnis in Lebanon have supported the predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels against the Assad regime.

Other candidates for having perpetrated this attack include the political rivals of Mr. Chatah; the Israelis, who welcome trouble between Shiite Hezbollah and the Sunnis to keep them from bothering Israel; the Saudi Arabians, who may have considered Mr. Chatah too much of a peacemaker for their taste; and Maronite Christian militias, who also like to see strife among the Muslims.

Whoever did it, it is important that neither the Lebanese themselves nor the U.S. government lose sight of the need for a stable and peaceful Lebanon in a very troubled region, particularly as negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, between Iran and the rest of the world and among the parties to the Syrian conflict go forward this year.

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