Lebanon’s Demise Now Concerns Only its People
Lebanon’s Demise Now Concerns Only its People
Whether Lebanon’s Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri is ‘the man of the moment’ or not, or whether the demise of Lebanon is a ‘landmark’ in the series of Arab collapses or not; these matters mean little in the calculations of major world powers, including those of the G7.
The G7 world powers’ concerns and interests are as big as themselves. They are truly big and numerous, such as Covid-19 and its variants spreading throughout the Third World and India, the pandemic’s economic repercussions, and the Chinese challenge with its technological, economic, geo-strategic and demographic dimensions. Then, there is also Putin’s Russia which is fiddling with Western democracies through cybertechnology and stirring up populist racism, while along with Beijing is expanding its influence in several areas in Africa.
The World powers are by far bigger, smarter and much more ruthless than us. This is why they do not care less about our sufferings and existential obsessions, except when they blemish their city streets and border posts with a ‘terrorist’ here and an ‘illegal emigrant’ there. They are not the least concerned with the threat posed by remnants of the Middle Eastern entities – once home to world’s greatest cultural centers – if they became ‘failed states’.
Even worse, these World powers do not expect that our frustration, extremism, backwardness, and political ignorance to pose any threat to them, so long as the damage affects us, with barely rare sparks discomforting them.
We remember only too well when Barack Obama’s attempts to rehabilitate the Mullahs’ Iran to become Washington regional ‘security partner’, gave Qasem Soleimani and his Arabic-speaking militias a free hand in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Now, President Joe Biden, Obama’s VP, seems to be going back to the ‘rehabilitation’ strategy through the JCPOA talks in Vienna, after Donald Trump’s withdrawal from that nuclear deal.
Regarding Trump, however, it must be said that while he managed to ‘temporarily’ halt Iran’s expansion inside the Arab countries, his Middle East policy had two damaging negatives;
1- His confrontation of Iran’s expansion was limited and haphazard, so it neither undermined it nor changed the status quo it created. As a result, the Popular Mobilization Forces still dominate Iraq, Hezbollah and the Houthis in control in Lebanon and Yemen respectively, and the Assad regime has survived in Syria under Russian-Iranian protection.
2- Trump’s unreserved support of Israel was a heaven-sent gift to the fake ‘resistance cause’ which has been the lifeblood for Iran’s expansionism, and its ready-made propaganda platform throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. Trump’s full adoption of Benjamin Netanyahu’s extremist policies – many of which lack Israeli consensus – honored Iran with a fake ‘resistance’ credibility, and forced the frustrated average Arab to seek refuge in what he saw as the less threatening of two fascist, theocratic, armed and expansionist occupations.
On the other hand, as far as European powers are concerned, we recall that two of the G7 countries, Great Britain and France, were the mandatory powers in the post-1920 Near East; following the end of WW1 with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and its withdrawal from the Arab ‘Mashreq’.
Indeed, Great Britain and France drew the maps of the region, based on the ‘Sykes-Picot Agreement’ and the ‘Balfour Declaration’. Each has also had a long history in the affairs of the region thanks to political, diplomatic and military reports, church and trading links, as well as oil concessions.
However, after the 1956 ‘Suez War’, the influence of the two countries weakened as the USA and USSR assumed both global and regional leadership during the ‘Cold War’ era. But, if London’s pragmatism led it to satisfy itself with the role Washington’s adviser and ally in the Middle East, Paris has kept its special ‘romantic’ relationship with the Christians of Greater Syria in particular. With this in mind, one would recall, since the days of President Charles De Gaulle, ‘independent’ French initiatives and policies towards the Middle East. The last of such initiatives has been the one launched by President Emmanuel Macron to ‘solve’ the latest Lebanese crisis.
In this specific case, there is one major problem, which is that Macron is a key supporter of the JCPOA reached with Tehran by Obama but opposed by Trump. Furthermore, France is among the leading European countries that are eager to reach political, commercial and oil agreements with the Iranian leadership.
Paris’ cordiality towards Tehran has frequently been evident in its ‘moderate’ stance towards the Assad regime in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Actually, after Lebanon’s October 2019 uprising, and later the Beirut Port explosion, Macron visited Lebanon twice in 2020 carrying his ‘initiative’. However, he managed to undermine his effort when he accommodated Hezbollah’s conditions pertaining to the issues of general elections and forming the new cabinet.
The French president totally ignored the reality known to all Lebanese; which is that Hezbollah de facto runs Lebanon. It has imposed its candidate as president, and later on imposed its favorite electoral law. An experienced banker and business expert, Macron also ignored how the economy and financial institutions perform under virtual ‘occupation’; in the presence of a ‘parallel economy’, ‘illegitimate border-crossings’, budgets, money collections, monetary services and ‘activities’ that are not only outside government control, but some are even outside Lebanon itself.
Between Macron’s two Lebanese visits there was a failed attempt to form a cabinet of ‘technocrats. He then tried hard to ‘cut corners’ despite his full knowledge of the situation in both Lebanon and its influential region, and gave promises he perhaps knew he could not or would not keep.
As for Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri, he committed the two mistakes of putting his name forward, and agreeing to form the cabinet, when he should have known that such a cabinet will not be allowed to govern. Incidentally, he heard some advices to that end, warning him that if he accepted the post, he would be nothing but a cover to a ‘plan’ beyond his control. Unfortunately, this plan that includes undermining the Lebanese constitution, bringing down the ‘Taif Accord’ and marginalizing the Sunnis, has its regional depth, since it extends from Beirut to Tehran, via Damascus and Baghdad.
The picture in Lebanon is now clear. While the ‘real’ rulers continue to paralyze the country, without being openly accused perpetrators, Hariri’s threats of aborting his venture have at last gained a serious nature.
Ultimately, no one obeys the powerless. and it is far better to make the unsavory truth known, than heading a ‘puppet government’ that legitimizes an ‘occupation’ with tacit international approval.