Concerns are mounting in Lebanon over Turkey’s political interference under the pretext of providing aid to alleviate the financial and living crisis.
Closed political circles are discussing the purpose behind Ankara’s food, medical and in-kind assistance to the most destitute families, and warning against attempts of a “political expansion towards Lebanon.”
Security services are monitoring these moves to ensure that they don’t intersect with Turkey’s security and political intervention in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and other countries in the African continent. Ankara’s interest in Lebanon was first manifested in Sidon with the establishment of an ophthalmology hospital with direct Turkish funding.
Analyzing the Turkish intervention, which is currently of a humanitarian nature, official Lebanese authorities do not hide their fears over Ankara’s attempt to benefit from the current situation to strengthen its presence, with the aim to expand politically in the medium or long terms.
The issue of foreign interference was raised in several meetings of the Higher Defense Council chaired by President Michel Aoun. While participants refused to enter into the details and to openly discuss the matter in the media, the minister of Interior, Brigadier General Mohamed Fahmi, hinted at such intervention in comments he made last week.
Senior political sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that talks about foreign intervention reflected the reality of the situation that would threaten to exacerbate Lebanon’s financial and political woes, which require a fast response by Arab brotherly countries “before it’s too late.”
The same sources revealed that Ankara assigned the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Coordination (TIKA) the task of overseeing the distribution of aid through offices it had established in Tripoli, Akkar, Bekaa and Sidon, benefiting from the presence of Lebanese of Turkmen origin, and said that it maintained a direct relationship with the so-called representatives of the Turk tribes in North Lebanon.
The sources stressed that TIKA was not only active within the Sunni community, but has also begun to expand towards a number of other sects and within municipalities, universities and medical institutions.
They also noted that Turkey has a distinctive presence in the Bab al-Tabbaneh area in Tripoli, where Turkish flags and pictures of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are raised.