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Lebanon … An Accumulation of Disasters and Coups

Lebanon … An Accumulation of Disasters and Coups

Monday, 1 November, 2021 - 08:00
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The Arabs have become angry with the Lebanese state and they have the right to be. They have for years demanded that it act like a state. For it to defend the rights of its citizens and to deal with brotherly Arab countries based on real interests and Arab agreements and international norms.

The Arabs conveyed their messages through several means, but the answer was always not up to expectations. The reply always sidestepped handling issues at hand or applied temporary solutions. It avoided diagnosing the problem and its actual repercussions and avoided proposing solutions. The hope was for Arab countries, which have always been tolerant of the mistakes committed by the Lebanese or the Lebanese forces, to continue in the same vein no matter how great the offenses.

The Arabs have for years resisted calls to deem Lebanon a hopeless case. They resisted suggestions that they were much better off distancing themselves from it rather than becoming involved in it. They resisted the position that said Lebanon had taken the path of no return and that it had lost its voice, lost its way and the principles that had controlled its internal and foreign life.

The Arabs long resisted the calls to abandon the Lebanese cause because this country had a prestigious reputation and was a unique financial, services, tourist, education and health hub. The prosperous Lebanon did not pose a challenge or threat to any of its brothers. They always treated it like a younger brother and spoiled it like no other. A review of the funds donated by the Gulf Cooperation Council, starting with Saudi Arabia, to Lebanon reveals this truth. Unfortunately, the Lebanese state mismanaged the Arab aid and the Arab and Gulf friendship and goodwill.

World governments have the right to demand that the Lebanese state act like a state. Meaning it should not allow its territories to be a platform to support hostile attacks against other countries. Meaning it should curb the river of drugs that is flowing through its borders and which has become as famous as the Silk Road. Meaning its state officials should act responsibly in line with fraternal Arab relations when they speak of bilateral ties or regional issues.

Obviously, Lebanon was never asked to be subjugated by an Arab country or to echo their stances. It was asked not be hostile or biased against countries that are home to a massive number of its expatriates and that have never hesitated in helping it. The Arabs grew angry when they did not receive a convincing answer to a question or inquiry. They are demanding that the state act like one. They grew angry for the same reason. They call on the state only to realize that it is deaf, illiterate, unhearing and cowardly.

The truth is that in recent years the Lebanese state has turned into a quasi-state or even less. The clownish events that take place every now and then do not change the reality. The Lebanese state has grown rusty and fragmented. It has been hollowed out and swept aside. It has lost its power and its voice that can no longer be found at the government hall, presidential palace or parliament. The Lebanese administration has grown old and judicial and security institutions have lost their authority. They have lost their ability to impose their “authority” and only do so over the weak.

The Arabs address a state that no longer exists as it had in past. A large segment of the Lebanese people do the same. The state has cracked under a series of successive crises and disasters. Rafik Hariri’s assassination was a disaster because it first and foremost targeted Lebanon’s regional and international standing.

The coup against Lebanon’s former regional standing was taking place at the same time as the coup that was happening in Iraq. It is forbidden in both countries for stable rule that is friendly to Arab moderation and the United States to be formed. The May 7, 2008 operation that Hezbollah launched in Beirut and Mount Lebanon was another disaster and coup because it broke the will of Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt, the leading Sunni and Druze figures in the country.

The act of subjugating the Christians took a different form. It took place through allowing Michel Aoun to become president as a reward for his stance from the court trying Hariri’s murderers, from the May 7 attack and from the 2006 war. The process of bringing Aoun to the presidential palace itself changed the rules of the political game in Lebanon. Hezbollah put the Lebanese before two worrying choices: Aoun or presidential vacuum. Aoun’s rebellious tendencies encouraged him to gamble with vacuum that he had previously used during the formation of government when he held political life hostage in order secure a significant seat for his son-in-law Gebran Bassil.

Amid the major imbalance of power in Hezbollah’s favor, Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geagea had to agree to support Aoun’s election. Aoun did not hesitate to accept the presidency, sealed with the approval of his three rivals, who believed that the general in the palace will only be a shadow of the general who was afflicted with the “palace curse.”

Many believed that Aoun will make up for the acts he made before become president, by taking reasonable stances that would seek to rebuild the Lebanese state. Some were deluded in believing that he would invest his position to restore some balance in the Lebanese state’s favor. The truth is he never really seriously tried to rebel against the weakening of the state. Instead of championing the state, he belatedly tried to wage battles against corruption. He appeared so weak that he could not even close fuel smuggling routes.

After the terrible financial collapse, Aoun returned to settling old scores with Hariri, Geagea and Jumblatt. The political calculations of Mr. President became hostage to the political calculations of his heir.

Clearly, with the fate of the Syrian war becoming evident, Hezbollah no longer feels the need to present gifts to Aoun, who will be associated with the major collapse during his term even if he wasn’t the sole or major player in this fall. Aoun could not, or perhaps he did not even try to, convince Hezbollah that binding Lebanon’s foreign policy and supporting the Houthis was too dangerous a move and more than Lebanon’s ability to contain.

In the past two years, Lebanon was pushed increasingly towards being isolated from the Arab world. This isolation was clear after it steered away from its past solidarity with Arabs and after Iran widened its influence in making Lebanon’s decisions. It was revealed on more than one occasion that the Lebanese decisions were being taken from outside official institutions and that the state’s role was limited to adopting these decisions.

It is therefore, obvious that the current crisis, which has demanded Saudi and Gulf measures, goes beyond offensive remarks made by the Lebanese information minister. It revolves around the difficulty in reasoning with a quasi-state that no longer controls its decisions. It is a state that is sponsoring the major collapse and compounding it as if it is paving the way for the establishment of a Lebanon that does not resemble Lebanon.

The Lebanon of the past was built on openness, diversity, dialogue, moderation, respect and bonds of friendship and interests with brothers and friends. The new rhetoric imposed on Lebanon manipulates phrases and consolidates the language of disasters and coups. Internal coups and external coups. The price Lebanon will have to pay for being forced against its will to join an axis designed by Iran - after it breached four Arab maps - will be very hefty and much greater than its ability to withstand. The figures of Lebanese immigration are frightening and some people are escaping on the “boats of death.” Only a vast Lebanese awakening can avoid the Lebanese the hell of living on an island called Lebanon in the shadow of a quasi-failed and complicit state.

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