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

So that Lebanon Does Not Remain Victim to an Organized Crime!

So that Lebanon Does Not Remain Victim to an Organized Crime!

Thursday, 2 September, 2021 - 11:00

As of this Thursday, September 2, 389 days have gone since Lebanon last had a government. The August 4 Beirut blast had toppled Hassan Diab's government by the tenth of that month. And those who were designated to form an alternative government have been made to fail: Mustapha Adib and Saad al-Harriri have failed to form a government, and now Najib Mikati is on course to announce his failure to do so. This is the longest Lebanon has ever gone without a government, but it is also the most dangerous, as every day has felt like an eternity to the country's people. Is Lebanon fated to remain a victim of organized crime in service of a project of subordination and “lust” for power?

Let us examine the image; what do we see? The collapses have broadened and began to affect most of the Lebanese' lives. They have been impoverished after the money they had deposited at the banks was plundered, and thousands of their jobs and businesses were lost to bankruptcy. An existential threat now threatens the country, and it is impossible to eliminate it. The robbery of the century's chapters is being undergone successively, with the worst decision to go into effect since October 17, 2019, allowing for the transfer of wealth abroad, whether it is through money smuggling or a result of the legalized smuggling of fuel, medicine, and flour, strategic commodities subsidized through citizens' deposits.

The scenes in Lebanon are terrifying, and the many dangers lurking around the corner can be anticipated. Hopelessness overwhelms the lives of the people, who have been thrown into gas station queues or queues facing the country's bakeries or its still-operational hospitals. The most intense suffering was embodied by the cancer patients who protested in downtown Beirut despite their pain to demand the medicine they have been deprived of because a criminal cartel is profiting off of patients' lives and leaves them facing the specter of genocide. On the other hand, chaos and a lack of security are tied to the black market for fuel, which has even led to fuel being delivered to homes. This phenomenon seems protected by sectarian factions clinging to power, who have sent thugs to the streets so they can impose their control, further exacerbating matters. Terrifyingly, the scenes we are witnessing resemble a project to develop organized gangs, and amid the scenes of lawless intimidation, sectarian incitement and clannish and regional fanaticism, the authorities are nowhere to be found. We only saw the minister of the interior declare that he "warned us about this" a long time ago, without explaining to the people the measures he has taken to prevent this crisis.

In parallel, we saw the families of the port blast victims surround Prosecutor General Ghassan Oweidat's home, insisting that the truth be revealed, and justice achieved, exposing some high-ranking judicial figures and their efforts to protect those accused of murder from justice. Oweidat announced that he would not enforce the subpoena for Hassan Diab, forgetting that he had recused himself due to a conflict of interest. In doing so, he adopted the position taken by the nitrate deputies who signed the notorious petition. It is disgusting for judicial authorities to leap over the crime of the port blast, a genocide that took 219 victims, and it demonstrates an indifference to justice being undermined and the judiciary being marginalized. It is a disturbing scene for what it symbolizes, as domesticating the judiciary and hijacking justice serve the project to impose a change to the country's identity by tying it to the Iranian imperial project and turning it into a site for missiles and Captagon used against the countries of the region and Lebanon's traditional friends.

It was a given that the formation of an alternative government would, at least partially, shift the current landscape and bring the collapse to a halt. However, the quarrels of the Presidential Palace prevented the formation of a government, and claims about "Christian rights" and "the mandate" persisted to return to before the Taif Agreement and the constitution. It seemed as if there were no limits to the avalanche of claims and demands coming from Baabda, as the Lebanese 'Titanic' continued on its collision course. Matters reached the extent of prioritizing control over the government, or else not having a government at all, in total disregard to the repercussions of the dissolution of institutions, and the hijacking of the state, the only party that could provide stability and prosperity. There are many questions about the moral and political competence of those with a choke-hold over Lebanon. Let us contemplate the fact that no reactions were given to the increasing possibility of closing the national university and suspending public education, a prospect which Lebanon has averted even during the civil war years. Let us consider the disregard for the darkness shrouding Lebanon due to the lack of electricity, or the shortages of fuel and medicine, the scarcity of food, and the fact that 4 million people in Lebanon are threatened with not having access to drinking water or that 77% of young Lebanese have decided to emigrate, an exodus which may be the largest since the civil war, one which would cause Lebanon to lose the elite of its society.

The transgression of the role of President of the Republic regarding government formation has become obscene. The president has ready constitutional interpretations when needed, even though the notion of "government formation" is mentioned only in Article 64, which states that "[the Prime Minister] shall conduct the parliamentary consultations for forming the government. He shall sign, with the President of the Republic, the Decree of its formation." As such, the role of the president is strictly limited to signing the formation decree because the prime minister is responsible before Parliament. This was confirmed by conventional political practice before the Taif Agreement. In 1975, Rashid Karami was mandated to form a government, but after two visits to the Presidential Palace, Karami discovered the obstacles in his path and announced that he was heading to his summer destination of Bqaa Safrin, and that, "if you agree to the government formation, call me." 35 days later, the government was announced, and on that day, President Suleiman Frangieh neither protested nor rebelled. Before this, Riad Al Solh included a remarkable phrase in the ministerial statement of the first government after independence: "This is the title of the government that I had the honor of forming and presiding over." Similarly, President Bechara El Khoury did not object to this explicit claim from Solh that he, himself, formed the government.

However, the formation wars of governments of sectarian-based-quota spoil sharing unfolded, and none of the prime ministers would not disregard the presidents' wishes regarding figures of merit. However, what is new is the course of totally disrupting the country, which is a consequence of a change made after the 2008 Doha agreement, when the country's decisions were tied to the statelet of abundant power (and Tehran behind it). The blocking-third was imposed to constrain the government's ability to issue decisions. The question of forming governments became part of the Iranians' considerations. Nonetheless, the push and pull we are seeing, as well as its repercussions, indicates that the abundance of power allows for control but has failed to meet the requirements of governance, its minimal demands, or address basic concerns. Regardless of the increased despotism and the attempts to mobilize followers on sectarian grounds and stir factionalism, the majority continues to confront the regime, and few Lebanese are in the ruling clique's pocket. And, even amid the worst of conditions, with Lebanon's friends turning their back on the country, it was apparent that the country had not been completely abandoned.

They have turned Lebanon into a site for experiments; its system of government, in which rulers share spoils and distribute them in line with quotas based on sectarian affiliation, is one of constant pillage and corruption. The country has been forcibly engulfed in the conflict between rival axes, which has left an imbalance between its components, and joining the axis of resistance has led to isolation, weakness and collective migration. It is unjust for this state of affairs to persist, as, with every passing day, Lebanon's collapse expands, and it will be difficult to remove the country from the pit it finds itself in so long as this approach continues to be taken. We can deviate from this course by pointing fingers at the person primarily responsible and centering political actions around the demand for resignation, thereby foiling the attempt to turn the palace into a facade for a foreign project that wants to change the county's identity and whose friends deludedly think that the perpetuation of the void is the fastest route to achieving this. Bringing down the cover protecting this project would leave it exposed. Time is of the essence, and the gravest danger is the country remaining a foreign agenda's bargaining chip and a victim of personal ambitions.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks