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Fake Heroism During the Vienna Talks

Fake Heroism During the Vienna Talks

Thursday, 10 June, 2021 - 12:00

Whenever I can, I take a look at the Lebanese press; and these days I find it necessary to read what the poor Lebanese are suffering under incessant lectures about “patriotism” and “achievements”, as well as floods of “exclusives” and “deep analyses”.

Among both the leading qualities and faults of the Lebanese media – particularly, newspapers – is the wide variety in their loyalties. Thus, going through their coverage of major political issues, one gets the impression that they are published in various countries, reflect more than one culture and promise their readers different futures.

The principle of diversity under the banner of media freedom, has been well-known since Beirut became the “Arab media capital” between 1945 and 1975. However, this diversity was somehow limited to inter-Arab conflicts, and the ongoing discourse between Lebanese nationalists and Arabists of all organizations and currents.

Indeed, for some time, a group of “independence leaders” succeeded in bridging the schism between the two camps. Secular ideological parties, particularly during the Cold War, also managed to penetrate the traditional walls of separation between a predominantly Muslim (Sunni, Shiite and Druze) bloc making up the majority of believers in identities transcending the 1920 Lebanon’s borders, and a Christian – majority bloc with strict Lebanese nationalistic “special” affinities.

Such division, however, did not last long, as national common denominators began to wither away under the pressures caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict and super-power politics. Hence, diversity soon metamorphosed into a confrontation imbued with polemics, cruelty, cancel-culture and hypocrisy.

Eventually, the inter-Arab conflicts started to gradually disappear in Lebanon and somehow, the Lebanese affinity issue crossed the dividing sectarian line. This took place thanks to several factors, including:

1 - The end of the Cold War with the collapse of the USSR; subsequently, the end of the classic Right vs. Left rivalry.

2 - The weakening of the pan-Arab vision, as a result of the 1967 War followed by the Camp David Agreements, with Israel; then, the emergence of “Political Islam” in its Shiite and Sunni forms.

3 - The 2003 US invasion of Iraq which led to the entrenchment of Iranian sway there, and the expansion of Iran’s rampant sectarian project throughout the Arab Middle East under the watchful eyes of the international community.

4 - Israel’s “satisfaction” with the religious and sectarian – sometimes, armed – polarization, which later acquires the added element of the retreat of secular Ataturkism in Turkey in the face of the Erbakan/Erdogan Islamists, and the return of Turkey as a third major regional player in the Middle East, complementing the tacit Tehran – Tel Aviv – Ankara “triangle”.

Today, Lebanon’s media painfully reflect the Arab world’s disunity and inability to confront this reality armed with a coherent and comprehensive counter-strategy, with clear goals and perspectives. Foremost, among the signs of this disunity that appear in the analyses of some Lebanese media and the wishes of their sponsors are: the lengthy Lebanese governmental crisis, the recent developments in Syria, and the question marks about the true nature and seriousness of Washington’s policies towards the Middle East regardless of friendly pronouncements and promises or claims of “deterrence” and effectiveness of “sanctions.

As the loyal mouthpiece of Iran’s regional policy, Hezbollah’s media are celebrating these days with Hezbollah’s sidekick and Christian cover – i.e., the party of President Michel Aoun – the “amazing achievements” of Tehran’s resistance axis at the expense of Israel and the US. The so called “victories” begin with undermining the Taif Accords and trying to concentrate executive powers in the hands of Aoun, the “great electoral victory” of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad “against the global American-Israeli conspiracy” against his regime; and “Israel’s certain demise under the hits it recently suffered” during its Gaza war … as celebrated by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards-sponsored media.

What Tehran is indeed disseminating, whether through its Western-based lobbies, its local mouthpieces, or platforms of its Arab followers, deserve a thoughtful look that goes beyond wishful thinking.

No doubt that Iran enjoys many strong advantages.

For example, it has truly succeeded in escaping forward since 1979, while becoming a fully-fledged police state, exporting its internal problems to its Arab neighbors, and exploiting the tenuous balances, and calculations of interests with/and inside the superpowers it has been dealing with, led by the US.

Tehran’s foreign policy officials understand Washington well enough, and they are also aware of the moods and interests in Western Europe. Moreover, they have mastered the art of tactical alignment with Russia and China, which are the global powers best qualified to compete with the US. Thus, with the principle of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” we have witnessed for some time Tehran’s growing economic, developmental, political and military relations with Moscow and Beijing; in parallel with its JCPOA nuclear negotiations in Vienna.

Also, ever present in Tehran’s consideration are the Israeli and Western geopolitical calculations. Part of these calculations is how would Tehran “control” the Palestinian issue, specifically, weakening Palestinian unity through using one faction against another. This has been proven a great service to Israel since the breakup between the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, and Hamas which controls Gaza.

On the broader Arab front, through its destructive expansionist policy in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, Iran has been effectively blackmailing the rest of the Arab world. Its expansionist policy has not only diluted traditional Arab animosity towards Israel, but also rehabilitated it in several Arab capitals.

Finally, on the global scene, Iran – regardless of who rules it – remains a pivotal regional player that major superpowers would be interested in exploiting. A sizeable nation of around 85 million inhabitants, Iran has one of the greatest oil reserves in the world. Moreover, it enjoys a highly important strategic position for two reasons: the first, is that it is a great “non-Sunni” mass in the heart of the Muslim world; and the second, is that it is an ideal conduit and terminal to trade, oil and gas lines linking China, Russia and central Asian nations with the Arabian Sea.

The Iranian leadership is well aware of these facts, which is why it plays its cards smartly within set red lines. It blackmails, but never goes overboard, threatens but through others and on their own soil, and agitates but with the full knowledge that its “enemies” know its goals and how far they go.

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