The recent kidnapping of a Turkish businessman in Lebanon by a powerful Shiite clan retaliating for the abduction of one of its own by members of the opposition Free Syrian Army near Damascus is bad news for Ankara on several fronts. On the most basic level, it demonstrates that holding a Turkish passport no longer an indication that its bearer is somehow removed from or able to hover above the Middle East's current troubles. Quite the opposite -- it now appears that being Turkish makes one a major target. As Today's Zaman reports, the Turkish citizen kidnapped on Wednesday by the Lebanese Meqdad clan appears to have been abducted specifically because of Ankara's support for the FSA, which was responsible for detaining one of the clan's senior members, Hassan al-Meqdad. From TZ's report:
A spokesman for the Meqdad clan has said Turkish nationals were targeted because of Turkey's support for the FSA. The Gulf countries, which also openly support the Syrian opposition, have ordered their nationals to leave after the wave of abductions.
"If Hassan [al-Meqdad] is killed, the first hostage we will kill is the Turk," Maher al-Meqdad told Reuters on Thursday. "Regarding Saudis, Qataris and Gulf nationals, they are not targets for the Meqdad clan," he said, speaking in an area of southern Beirut controlled by Hezbollah, the Iran-backed, Shiite Lebanese party and guerrilla group.
The kidnapping has evoked memories of Lebanon's civil war, reinforcing fears that the Syria conflict could trigger more instability in a much smaller neighbor where Damascus has had a major influence over politics and security for decades.
The clan said Hezbollah, a party closely allied to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has nothing to do with the kidnappings. But analysts say it is unlikely that Hezbollah is not involved.
“Despite both Hezbollah and the family's claims rejecting any link between them, the fact is that the kidnappings took place in Dahiya, a Beirut neighborhood largely controlled by the Hezbollah,” said Ceren Kenar, a Beirut-based columnist of the Turkish Taraf daily. “Any action is not possible there without the permission of the Shiite movement. Even though there is no organic link between them, Hezbollah might act behind the scenes,” she told Today's Zaman this week.
"The snowball will grow," warned Hatem al-Meqdad, a senior member of the powerful Meqdad family.
The kidnapping of the businessman (another Turk, a truck driver, was reported to have been kidnapped in Lebanon yesterday) takes Ankara far away from two years ago, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Lebanon in an effort to present Turkey as a regional power that could help bridge Lebanon's -- and the Middle East's -- sectarian divide. Instead, the kidnapping seems to indicate that, as the crisis in Syria drags on and Ankara's efforts to help topple the Assad regime become more pronounced, Ankara is in danger of getting further dragged into the region's Sunni-Shiia rivalry.