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A Superman Is Needed for Lebanese Diplomacy

A Superman Is Needed for Lebanese Diplomacy

Monday, 20 January, 2020 - 12:00

It is expected that a new Lebanese government would be announced soon, after more than two months of arduous efforts. All hopes have been put on it to save the country from the exceptional circumstances it is going through. Lebanon is facing an existential threat that includes several governance, economic, financial and monetary crises. They are compounded by internal tensions between different political actors and a deadlocked regional situation with many implications on the Lebanese interior. In addition, only a thin line separates the popular movement from absolute chaos.

What we know about the supposed government confirms, without a doubt, that it will be a cabinet of masks both comically and tragically acting as proxies for the same politicians, proving that the authority continues to employ the same traditional power-sharing system to outsmart the local and international community, a trick that has become obvious to everyone except for the magician, who still believes in his superpower to manipulate and undermine people.

If this government were to be born, it would have one political color that is too bright to hide from anyone. It would be a government that unambiguously speaks the language of the Iran-Syria axis. How could such a government be considered independent, which is what the popular movement is demanding, let alone be a salvation government, when it wears the clothes of the party that raises a banner of open war against both the Arab and western worlds? How could it succeed after Hezbollah’s Secretary-General announced that its next battle, and his axis’ next battle, is eliminating American presence from the region? How could it manage in light of the negative implications of Hezbollah being the political decision-maker in relations with Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia?

In reality, if we set aside Lebanon’s internal problems, however grave, we would see that what the country is facing regionally and internationally, and what the new government would have to address in this regard is even graver.

Regionally, the first test for the government would be to manage Lebanese-Syrian relations while Syria is still embroiled in its destructive war. How would they deal with the Syrian regime having lost its status being caught between the Russian anvil and Iranian hammer and having lost its internal legitimacy? How would they deal with the Syrian regime with our reservations towards its legitimacy to begin with, after all of its brutal practices against its people, as well as its international legitimacy among Arab countries and the international community?

What is the policy that the government would adopt towards Syria, given Hezbollah’s military presence there? Even if the latter leaves, its solidarity with this oppressive regime would not be forgotten by the Syrian people for a very long time. How would it deal with the problem of Hezbollah having opened the border between the two countries with all of the security, political and economic implications of that? What will its position be on the Syrian refugee crisis with the regime still insisting on not allowing their return except under its own terms, which would force Lebanon to confront an international community that insists on their voluntary and safe return?

All of these questions can be summarized in one: Would the new government normalize relations with the Syrian regime? The most likely answer is that it will. Parties who oppose Assad’s regime and who had been part of the previous government did not stop Hezbollah and its allies from normalizing relations with the regime and did not prevent its foreign minister from going against the Arab consensus that Syria should be expelled from the Arab League. What then will stop them today when the government and its sponsors’ agendas go beyond national borders and interests?

The second test is how the new government would address relations with Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia. There is no need to affirm the importance of these relations, whether in regards to the large number of Lebanese workers in the Gulf or to the aid and solidarity these countries have provided to Lebanon during all its crises. There is also no need to remind ourselves that tensions in Gulf-Lebanese relations are due to Hezbollah and Lebanon’s official agreement with its positions. We cannot, in this context, but explain Lebanon’s unfriendly attitude towards Gulf countries in the context of the Iranian-Saudi conflict and Hezbollah’s success in dragging the country into the mullah system’s orbit. What will change with the new government?

The third test would be on relations with Iraq and the position on the developments there after it turned into an open battleground between Iran and the US after the eruption of the popular uprising against Tehran’s meddling in the country. Taking over Iraq is a strategic achievement for the Iranian expansionist policy in the region, whether to threaten the stability of Gulf countries or it being considered a main supply line for its forces in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Also, taking over Iraq provides means to bypass US sanctions.

What terrifies Iran the most at the moment is the popular movement in Iraq that rejects its control through its political class and armed militias. What concerns us in Lebanon is Hezbollah’s involvement once again in the oppression of an Arab people, with party official Mohammad Kawtharani’s name being tied to Tehran and its militias’ efforts in suppressing the Iraqi uprising. Is Hezbollah’s popular base ready to pay a new price? What would the new government’s position on that be? And what nonsense would it use to justify it on top of the “self-dissociation” nonsense?

Internationally, the new government would expect a significant rise in tensions with the US and western countries in parallel with the rise in tensions between the US and Iran. How would it deal with Hassan Nasrallah’s announcement of war on the US presence in the region? How would it address Britain’s classification of Hezbollah and all of its wings as a terrorist organization and the German parliament’s proposal to sanction all their activities in their country? How would it deal with Britain, France and Germany almost falling in line with the American position, by triggering a dispute a mechanism under the nuclear deal with Iran? Many other issues remain, such as Hezbollah’s weapons, the decision to go to war or peace, and Lebanon’s rights in the dispute over oil and gas in the area.

All of the questions that we have posed fall under the framework of foreign policy, but answering them is essential to addressing internal problems, starting with the economic and financial crises. Lebanon cannot solve these crises while being hostile towards all regional and international parties able to help it.

In light of Hezbollah’s control over both the internal and foreign decision-making, would the new Lebanese diplomacy have enough courage to remove Lebanon from the politics of axes and formulate diplomacy that brings it back to its positive historical neutrality away from the “self-dissociation” farce? Would it cease its provocative stances and return to its traditional balanced approach? Would its president be able to protect Lebanon from international isolation after Qassem Soleimani’s killing and the escalation of the international crisis with Iran? Would it return to the approach of diplomatic of greats, such as Khayreddin al-Ahdab, Saleem Takla, Hamid Frangieh, Youssef Salem, Philippe Takla, Khalil Abu Hamad, Fuad Butrus, Fouad Ammoun and Ghassan Tueni?

May God help whoever takes over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the government, for they will need to be more like Superman than human.

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