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Lebanon and the Gulf... Remarks on the Crisis’ Wall

Lebanon and the Gulf... Remarks on the Crisis’ Wall

Friday, 5 November, 2021 - 11:45

The majority of Lebanese politicians running the country are professional procrastinators. They are incredibly skilled at pushing dates and delaying stances and solutions. They behave on the basis that this profession grants them the ability to steer their public and private affairs, playing devious tricks to defend their gains and exploiting what remains of the bare minimum needed for the state to operate. The approach of equivocation, buying time and procrastination was adopted with every tragedy that the political class has faced, from the October insurgency to the explosion at the port, as well as the economic crisis and government failures. This approach also shaped how they managed the diplomatic crisis with the Gulf states, which, despite being unprecedented in the history of Lebanese Gulf relations in terms of the dangers it poses, did not compel the country’s officials to rise to the occasion.

The crisis that followed the statement by Information Minister George Kordahi has practically done away with the official Lebanese policy of trying to outsmart others. That is true for all the parties in power, who are split between those who decided to adopt and support the statements and those who opted to distance themselves from them. The political class dealt with Kordahi as though he were the reason for the crisis to avoid admitting that it is the result of a systematic policy that has imposed on Lebanon an alignment that undermines the requisites for the entity, state, belonging, and economy to endure. That has split the crisis into two levels. The first is external, with the crisis in Lebanon’s relations with the Gulf states; as for the second, it is one of internal dynamics between domestic communities.

The dangers of this division for the national fabric haunt the faction that senses victory. Even with its triumphalism peaking, the Aoun-Hezbollah duo’s government sought the help of Washington’s mediation to contain the crisis that followed Kordahi’s statements. The support, though limited, granted by Washington for a government that embodies the zenith of Lebanon’s alignment with the Iranian axis has been remarkable. Of course, that does not conform with Hezbollah’s hostile rhetoric about an American conspiracy and a siege being imposed on Lebanon. Even this US mediation, though, as the President’s foreign minister admitted, has failed. This political class has not understood that Western interests with the Gulf states are too significant for Lebanon to undermine them. It is as though they have forgotten that those states do not see undermining their national security interests as a viable option.

Another paradox of the Western support for the Hezbollah Aoun duo is that Paris, which was behind the government settlement and, in a way, went along with the official game of procrastination, has seen its initiative blow in the wind. Neither is the government able to convene, because of the port explosion investigation, nor is it able to endure, because of the Gulf stance on Kordahi, nor is its prime minister capable of convincing those he represents of the need to stay in office in light of that stance, nor are those who made concessions that undermined his position, role and government capable of convincing those they represent of the need to facilitate his task. Mikati is surrounded by speculators who are not interested in giving him any chance to allow his government to succeed.

The fact of the matter is that the crisis is deeper than Kordahi’s statements and goes beyond them; it is tied to the nature of Lebanon, its future, and how its position and inclination are determined. That was clear for the Saudi foreign minister’s statements on the nature of the crisis in relations with Lebanon, which puts the government’s international sponsor that created the government settlement, facing difficult challenges. Either the government is kept regardless of the costs at the international and domestic levels, or failure is declared. That equation will be settled more by internal dynamics than the international cards that could be played. Thus, the main party concerned, the Gulf states, chose to distance themselves after Lebanon failed to do so.

And so… it seems that the Lebanese state’s crisis with the Gulf states has hit a brick wall that is difficult to climb over in the near and medium term. It seems as though this wall, like the Berlin Wall before it, requires major domestic and international shits to fall, and conditions at this moment in time are not suitable for such shits. We will have to wait a long time to see them crystallize, and that was clear from the tweet posted on Wednesday evening by Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Beirut, Waleed Bukhari, which demonstrate the Saudis’ “Gramscian” approach to dealing with Lebanon.

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