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Sectarian Polarization Bears Down on the Lebanese, and Their Revolution

Sectarian Polarization Bears Down on the Lebanese, and Their Revolution

Wednesday, 29 April, 2020 - 12:45

Lebanese religious sects seem mobilized and polarized between two wings, one symbolized by the Governor of Lebanese Central Bank Riad Salameh, the other by the Prime Minister Hassan Diab.


The first wing is more drawn to the old Lebanon, to services and banks. To the “nucleolus” represented by Beirut and the Mutasarrifiyya of Mount Lebanon. They want good relationships with “the Arabs and the West”, allowing Lebanon to play a mediatory role.


Thus, the religious authorities of the two sects of the 1943 pact, the Maronites and Sunnis, defended Salameh. The Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai repudiated what he considered “premature judgement” of him, adding that “insulting the dignity of Salameh and the Central Bank is unacceptable”, and warning of “an approach that is unfamiliar to our political culture”.


From Dar-al-Fatwa, another attack was launched at Diab, which was seen as being in support of Salameh and the monetary and economic policies that had been implemented over the past years. The attack that brought together former Prime Ministers Foad Siniora and Tammam Salam, and former Minister Nouhad El Mashnouk, followed by the harsh words of the last Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who spoke of “wide-open revenge against a whole period” and said that Diab had been tasked with enacting it in order to fulfill “their dreams of destroying the free market economic system.” The Annahar newspaper expected "many statements and steps" to be taken in the same direction following this violent rhetoric.


The Druze leader Walid Jumblatt added his voice to theirs and was extremely critical.


The other wing is more attached to the era after old Lebanon’s collapse, to the peripheral regions and the political forces that emerged after the Taef Agreement (1989). It cares little for the relationship with “the Arabs and the West”, either out of disappointment (the Free Patriotic Movement) or hostility (Hezbollah). This political line created a figure for itself out of nothing: he is Hassan Diab, who has neither a sect nor a region behind him, the Sunni Emile Lahoud that has always been needed in Lebanon. The Al-Akhbar newspaper talked about "an approach being enshrined by Hassan Diab, who is determined to leave his mark as the first prime minister who dares to try to raid the enclaves of the corrupt regime." This was written after Diab’s sudden and acrimonious attack on the governor of the Central Bank, in which he described the latter's performance as “dubious.” Hariri, on the other hand, spoke about Diab's use of “militaristic language, as though he were a general playing the role of a Prime Minister.”


While some journalists claim that “Salameh breaking his silence is likely”, and a substantial number of sect’s “fears” of other sects’ “conspiracies” have been slipped to the press, other sources claim that the American Ambassador in Beirut informed Deputy Gebran Bassil, the regime's strong man, “that the Lebanese Central Bank Governor RiadSalameh is a “red line”, counterbalancing the other red line drawn by Iran: Hezbollah's weapons.


Thus, the two sectarian blocs continue to crystalize, mobilizing religious authorities and consolidating their "foreign diplomacy". When we recall the precarious communal relations, especially in the mountain, a security deterioration scenario cannot be ruled out.


This crystallization is no doubt incomplete, and many pertinent questions around its culmination remain:


- Can the Aounists go to the end with their new position, which contradicts with the sensitivities of the Mountain Christians?


- Can the Shiite speaker Nabih Berri continue to play the role of transcendental guardian of the totality of regime's interests, which are not being taken into account by the "regime's first family" (Berri's minister Ghazi Wazani opposed Salameh's dismissal, and his Deputy Anwar al-Khalil said that Diab's position was a "smoke bomb")?


- Will the leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea maintain his balanced proposal: "financial auditing of the Bank of Lebanon is very necessary but financial auditing is also very necessary in the sectors of electricity, telecommunications, customs, and the port"?


In the meantime, it appears that the Lebanese are facing two alliances; one is defending a policy that no longer has any of its old pillars. It has only bankruptcy, debt, and the war on depositors' savings. The other, does not in fact defend anything except for the maintenance of appropriate regional conditions. Its cause is merely putting obedient people of a single partisan affiliation in the place of others, while clinging to the narrative of a technocratic cure - which does not cure anything - for the pressing economic-political problem.


Assigning the auditory firms may be a reflection of the current balance of power and the impossibility of reaching a decisive solution. What we can be certain of is that the sectarian politicians are moving to revive sectarian polarization (March 8-14, or any other formula) at the expense of the polarization that emerged from the October 17 revolution. All of this is happening as the weight of hunger bears down on the Lebanese and the dollar jumps over the four thousand pound threshold...


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