Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Lebanon’s Paths are Dead-ends … Most Probably

Lebanon’s Paths are Dead-ends … Most Probably

Wednesday, 16 September, 2020 - 09:00

It could be said that two remedies are being suggested to us, with some transgression, we call them: one French, another American.

The French remedy is conservative, leaving things as they are and focusing on corruption and relief. The rulers remain the same, with some adjustments, primarily rotation between ministries. Respect for the legitimacy of the parliament elected before the revolution and the crime at the port is maintained. Hezbollah’s weapons are not affected and expressing the “disagreement” with it is enough.

In other words: with the French, we are before an attempt to combat corruption without addressing its causes. The possibility of what happened being repeated remains, even if we are to receive help that “puts the country’s economy back on its feet.”

Some may go further in discovering the virtues of “moderation”, explaining the benefits of Hezbollah’s possession of weapons; it prevents the eruption of civil war, which requires two armed parties. Here, another, perhaps more important, fact is overlooked: the presence of these arms hinders civil peace as well, and leaves the country constantly shaking from sporadic localized bursts of violence. This is without forgetting another fact: In light of these weapons, the possibility of suffering the ramifications of regional violence, especially Israeli strikes, persists, and is even pressing. An event of the magnitude of the port explosion may be one of those ramifications.

Ignoring these dangers is not the fault of Emmanuel Macron in as much as it is that of Lebanon’s failure to enact change. Avoiding this failure could have strengthened Macron’s position vis-à-vis the Lebanese regime’s figures and pushed him to submit more radical proposals.

But, in all cases, the French remedy remains so fragile and weak that Nabih Berri, under the pretext of the Ministry of Finance, or any other sectarian leader, can disrupt and cancel it. Even if a new government is formed, the sword of “national convention”, a twisted interpretation of it, would continue to hang over its head. If we add the sword of Hezbollah and its weapons, which could be used at any moment, the abundance of talk about “facilitating” the formation of the government, “facilitating” its work and “not obstructing it,” stops being taken seriously.

The American remedy, in sharp contrast, is radical. Unleashing sanctions. Forget aid and relief, what is required, if not the head of Hezbollah’s weapons, then the head of its position in political life and representation in government. While Paris says the party was elected by many Lebanese and is represented in parliament, Washington says that it is a terrorist organization that kills Americans, oversees drug smuggling networks and engages in other criminal activity. On top of that, according to the Americans, Hezbollah is an Iranian force that undermines US plans in the region, the most important of which today is making the paths to peace and normalization between Arab states and Israel.

The issue then, for the United States, is: either or… there are no middle-ground solutions. The region’s disputes are likely to escalate, at least until the US elections, maybe after them as well, with Trump or even Biden.

This puts Lebanon in open-ended confrontations that could slip into regional confrontations through the Lebanese – Israeli or Syrian – Israeli borders, where Hezbollah has a strong presence.

In the meanwhile, more Lebanese will die and suffer, while sectarian structures become stronger and more entrenched, whether in Hezbollah’s camp or the one opposed to it.

Our issue with both remedies, the issue of both remedies themselves, is that Hezbollah is, at the same time, both Lebanese and Iranian, elected and a terrorist group. Thus, the French characterization is as correct as is that of the US. Nonetheless, both characterizations are lacking.

Can anything avert these two remedies or avoid their ramifications? In theory, yes. A change in the Iranian regime is one that not only the Lebanese would benefit from, but all the peoples of the region, most of all the Iranian people themselves. But this is something no one can control, especially since the Iranians are still, especially since 2009, nursing the wounds of the repression of their revolts.

A change in Syria that removes Assad and his regime might help as well. However, unfortunately for the Syrians before the Lebanese, this long-awaited event has not materialized. Today, after everything that happened in Syria, it is difficult for something that benefits the Syrians and Lebanese to emerge, and developments that exacerbate sectarian tensions, instead of those that contribute to reducing them, may always occur.

In any case, even if we were to assume positive developments in Iran and even Syria emerged, whether they came from within or without, this would provide the Lebanese with the opportunity and possibility, but it would not grant salvation. What about our sects and their rotten leaderships? Can they change in a way that would facilitate benefiting from such transformations if they were to take place? In all likelihood, no, and based on what we are living and what we know and see, the answer is: no.

Thus, the paths, until further notice, seem blocked. As for historical pessimism, it seems to be the chief of noble sentiments today, rather, of rational ones as well.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks