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Lebanon: Vague Int’l Stances and Regime’s Provocative Practices

Lebanon: Vague Int’l Stances and Regime’s Provocative Practices

Monday, 9 December, 2019 - 13:00

Since the beginning of the Lebanese uprising on October 17, those following the events are asking the question of Lebanon’s geographic importance in the strategies of major countries. Especially given what this popular rage across sects and regions has embodied and the regime denying the uprising’s magnitude and significations on the one hand, and the regime’s responses that have provoked the majority of Lebanese people who have filled the streets and squares across the country.

Perhaps the most vulgar of these practices is the atmosphere that has surrounded the formation of a government, from the delays in the binding parliamentary consultations, trying to come up with a line-up before appointing a prime minister and imposing an action plan on it. All of this goes against the constitution, traditions, and the balances in the country.

Surveying international positions could help the Lebanese uprising persist and not retreat and could motivate it to move to more advanced stages and positions.

It is no secret that the phase Lebanon is currently going through is decisive, and it is the most delicate after Iran began expanding in the region after the collapse of the Iraqi Baath regime in 2003 and the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011.

Lebanon is now in the eye of the storm, while international and regional positions towards it have changed as a consequence of unbridled Iranian influence reaching hazardous levels. This has posed an existential threat to Lebanon by toppling the values of democracy in it, the balance of its components, and the positive neutrality that has characterized its foreign policy. All of these factors have contributed to periods of stability and sometimes leisure in Lebanon.

Today, regional and international powers only view Lebanon through their interests in their conflict with Iran and how to tame its influence in the region. Within this framework, we cannot but look at the international and regional positions on the Lebanese uprising. Subsequently, we must also look at the practices of the Lebanese regime with its Shiite duo and their Christian cover, and what implications that may have on the Lebanese regime and its existence.

In reality, the question about international and regional positions on the uprising poses many problematics: Are the international and regional forces interested in the uprising? Would this be in the interest of the uprising, or will it carry dangers that threaten its continuity and success? In both cases, what are the international and regional forces’ positions on the regime’s reactions to the uprising and on managing the political, economic, financial, and monetary crises?

Washington views Lebanon as one of the fronts in its struggle with the Iranian regime. The severe sanctions on Iran are not separate from those imposed on Hezbollah in Lebanon, and they are aimed at weakening the Mulla system and its affiliated militia extensions.

It is clear that Washington has abandoned military confrontation in the region, at least for now, and has leaned more towards enhancing its military presence in the Gulf. Also, the US is pursuing a plan to delegitimize the Iranian regime both politically and religiously by disseminating images of the massacres committed against Iranian protesters and information on hundreds of deaths and thousands of prisoners. It is doing so to unmask Iran both religiously and morally and to expose it for the monstrous and authoritarian regime that it is.

Regardless, the US is very patient with its strategy in the region, while Lebanese patience runs out very quickly.

Russia, on the other hand, is relentlessly attempting to fill the gaps the US has left to retrieve its traditional role in the Middle East and enable its new role in Syria, and to some extent, in Iraq. It is doing so by holding extensive communications with Lebanese parties, officially and at the level of leadership. In fact, it is also doing the same with the uprising, and of course, with Hezbollah, in an attempt to infiltrate the Lebanese sectors that are still distant from it, such as arming the Lebanese army, after reaching deals to extract oil and gas. The Russian strategy, so to speak, is advanced in Lebanese decision-making, which completes its presence and role in Syria and its objective alliance with Iran based on common interests.

Russian diplomacy is aware of the Lebanese concerns around Iran and its ambitions in the country, and it takes advantage of the reservations the US’ traditional allies have towards the unstable Trump administration and its blind support of Israeli policies.

However, is Russia capable of playing a rescue role in Lebanon, and to impose itself as a partner that can negotiate with the Trump administration and even co-exist with it such as what is happening in the Qamishli Air Base, and the أmeimim Air Base that are not far from American deployment and the Hamat Air Base in Lebanon?

Despite all of this, Russia will not make any compromises that would not satisfy Hezbollah, for reasons that go beyond Lebanon and are more important for Moscow. Nevertheless, it announces that it is responding to the uprising’s demands while maintaining its support for the regime and communicates with it, leaving the doors of the presidency and Free Patriot Movement wide open in front of it.

European positions, on the other hand, are not very reassuring as they indicate some satisfaction, at least, if not motivation, towards the regime’s position and the formation of another Hezbollah-approved government, disregarding the popular uprising that has no precedent in this small country.

As for Arab silence, some consider it an attempt not to put the uprising in an awkward position and leave it to take its course, while others consider it a result of expelling Arab influence in Lebanon. Both theories may carry some truth, but it can be said that the Arab position on the Lebanese events, both at the level of the regime and the uprising, is that of watching and waiting. It views Lebanon through the lens of strategic confrontations that it has in the region. We cannot forget the unstable circumstances that Arab countries are going through, in addition to regional threats, drawing most of its attention to achieving internal and external security.

Have Washington, London, the Arabs, and Paris, especially President Emmanuel Macron, let go of Prime Minister Hariri returning to the government? It may not be merely giving up Hariri as a person but the role of the Lebanese Sunni sect in Lebanon on the one hand, and the fate of the popular uprising on the other.

Has overriding the Taef Agreement and the constitution become this easy?

Are these positions merely the result of a receding western influence facing Iran and Russia retrieving its role? Or, is it the result of the failure of the forces confronting Iran in Lebanon, particularly Hezbollah, and the region to attract international and regional support? These blurry international and regional positions on the popular uprising is a cause for worry, as it leaves things to the regime. This may drag Lebanon into a situation similar to what is happening to the Iraqi uprising in terms of violent repression by the Iran-backed regime and its proxies across Iraq.

Today, there is concern that whoever is deciding the fate of the Lebanese uprising is the same as whoever decided to confront the demonstrations at the beginning of the war in Syria and the protests in Iraq.

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