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On the Importance of Lebanon’s Neutrality

On the Importance of Lebanon’s Neutrality

Thursday, 23 July, 2020 - 10:15

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai’s proposals on the neutrality of Lebanon have turned into a shocking event, garnering both internal and external attention, and have appeared to be a serious attempt to take Lebanon out of the rock bottom that it has been tumbled into.

Amid a collapse implicating every level, the positions and performance of this government-front have oscillated, ending its sixth month in power between a total absence and watching the Lebanese starve and drown in poverty until suicide as a way to reject humiliation invoked very little reactions from any official.

The Patriarch moved stagnant waters by inviting the President to liberate legitimacy and restore the capacity to make decisions, affirming that “Our salvation is through neutrality, the way towards living in luxury again” announcing that “Lebanon is originally neutral, and the National Pact stipulates neutrality and openness to all countries but Israel”. He also called Lebanon to ask the Security Council to obtain a decision that guarantees neutrality.

It was clear from the very beginning that the neutrality proposed by the Maronite Patriarch follows from the fixed constitutional formulation in the introduction of the constitution saying “[Lebanon] is a final homeland for all its citizens”, and neutrality is the real translation of that.

All ministerial statements since the independence up until very recently have focused on neutrality, i.e., on Lebanon not being connected to or dependent on another country.

The experience of the state at the time of independence proves that every time this principle has been violated, Lebanon would live through tensions and internal conflicts. However, the parties that have plundered the state through corruption and arms have intentionally spread a misconception of the idea of neutrality, exculpating Hezbollah from the responsibility of isolating Lebanon and consequently accelerating its collapse by deferring neutrality until the region’s problems and conflicts have been resolved, undermining the importance of the proposition because neutrality is impossible when Israel is at our doorstep!

The parties that support this mini-state then overlooked the fact that what is required is neutrality towards Arab conflicts and that turning the page on proxy wars for the Iranian regime is inevitable, as is the commitment to Arab solidarity, and that what is required is not neutrality towards Israel. In fact, not being involved in regional conflicts would empower Lebanon to stand against the ambitions of the enemy [Israel].

Patriarch al-Rai’s priorities appear to be restoring Lebanon from the isolation that it was forced into after Hezbollah’s wars in the region cost Lebanon its traditional Arab and international cover.

Al-Rai’s proposals illustrate that the priority is the citizen’s interests, both resident and expat, who was forced to endure the consequences of policies that are of no use to them. Of course, it is no secret that this proposition is aimed against policies that are related to foreign agendas that Hezbollah has imposed on the country. They are policies that have gone above the constitution and national and individual institutions and interests, throwing Lebanon into a struggle of axes.

Not only Hezbollah is responsible, but some parties enabled it and its partisans and provided them with cover. The beginning was during the Doha Agreement where there was a partial coup against the Taif Agreement and the constitution, culminating in the presidential agreement of 2016 when all sides delegated the country’s decision to Hezbollah and consequently Iran. The Agreement also culminated in the government that was “formed” by Hezbollah and brought Hassan Diab into office.

In this sense, the slogan of neutrality that had taken priority as a real aim was broken by all of the official political choices that President Aoun made based on his understanding with Hezbollah since 2006, revoking all of his alliances. Had he wanted to, he would have found the Patriarch’s proposition to be the way out from Hezbollah’s adventures. Either way, the proposal took away what was called the Christian cover for Hezbollah’s ways and policies after the magnitude of their consequences on Lebanon became apparent to anyone who has sight.

It is certainly not the first time that an issue like this has been proposed, and perhaps the October Revolution that called for a restoration of the abducted state implicitly demanded neutrality relying on the deepest and widest cross-regional and cross-sectarian popular movement. However, the “Baabda Declaration” that was announced by the Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, from the Presidential Palace remains the most important point to stop at. It took place on June 11, 2012 and was later stipulated by the Lebanese institutions and adopted by the Arab League and United Nations as an official document alongside the National Reconciliation and the constitution.

Its 17 articles show an unambiguous commitment to the Taif Agreement, an emphasis on Lebanon as a “final homeland”, a warning against the threat of the Israeli enemy, the importance of Lebanon being neutral towards politics of axes and regional and international conflicts, and protecting it from the implications of regional tensions and crises out of caution for its interests and national unity.

This famous declaration, which was signed by Member of Parliament Mohammad Raad on behalf of Hezbollah and Michel Aoun on behalf of the Free Patriotic Movement, emphasized “controlling the situation across the Lebanese-Syrian border” and a refusal for Lebanon to be “a headquarters, passageway, or starting point for the smuggling of arms and armed men”.

Not long after did Hezbollah repeat its 2006 mistake when Hassan Nasrallah had predicted a nice summer and then took Lebanon into the atrocities of the July War, the war of “had I known”! Once again, Hezbollah betrayed its promises and signatures with Raad claiming that the “Baabda Declaration was stillborn and is not more than ink on paper”.

This was not enough to cover Hezbollah’s commitment to the Iranian agenda, so its militias crossed the borders under the umbrella of al-Quds Force and fought Syrians to defend the Assad regime! Its militias then spread everywhere, from Iraq to Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait. Nasrallah was quick to tell the Lebanese that whoever wins the region wins in Lebanon!

The current situation in the region may not be in Hezbollah or Tehran’s favor, and there is a big difference between what Lebanon was in 2006 during the July War and today, after corruption and foreign allegiances have caused the most dangerous collapse with starvation now looming over the majority, rendering the Patriarch’s proposition a rescue policy despite the difficulties and obstacles surrounding it.

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