A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

one more reason to avoid fast food …

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 4, 2007

A kind soul forwarded the most recent warden message from the US Embassy:

The U.S. Embassy has learned that extremist organizations may be plotting an attack against the McDonald’s restaurant franchise in the area of Sidon in the near future. U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise added vigilance when near this establishment and to report any suspicious activity to the authorities immediately.

I’m sure this is a very serious warning, and I’m sure that a cabal of angry extremists will be gnashing their teeth and lamenting: Curses! Foiled again! when they learn that the Americans are onto them.

As you can probably tell, part of me really wants to laugh about this – a McDonald’s in Saida? How random. How minor. How unlikely to kill any Americans. What if it isn’t extremists at all, but some guy opening a Dunkin Donuts franchise who wants to kill the coffee competition?

But if the plot is for real, it isn’t random, and it isn’t minor. Sidon/Saida is the hometown of Rafiq Hariri and Fouad Siniora. Copious amounts of Hariri money have gone into educational initiatives, heritage projects and, of course, the beautiful Hariri mosque there. Its known to be deeply Sunni (and also, although less relevant here, for having particularly delicious sweets and knafeh).

An attack in Saida – an extremist Sunni attack in the heart of Hariri-land – would not be good. At the very least, it would suggest that Hariri money isn’t going as far as it used t0 – and that while still influential, the family can no longer be assumed to control the city.

And it would represent a major shift in terms of Lebanese political violence. Since 2005, most bombings here have been aimed at political targets. The spring bombings in Achrafieh, Verdun, etc. were aimed at ordinary people – and even they seem to have been very carefully designed to create fear without taking lives. An attack on a restaurant sounds to me like an attack on ordinary people, and one in which the prospect of a high body count doesn’t bother the attackers.

Luckily warden messages and travel warnings generally air on the side of deep caution, so I’m not terribly worried. What I wish the Embassy would send out are warnings about the daily dangers of life here, like: “WARNING: poor drainage system may cause local flooding in intersections and outdoor plazas”. I was nearly swept away by a wave of water cascading down the street last night – and if it didn’t threaten my life, it certainly did destroy my favorite black leather heels.


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