A former high-ranking Hezbollah official who has now become among the party’s most ardent critics has been saying that Hassan Nassrallah has a deep hatred for Beirut and everything the city represents as a space where civilizations come together socially, economically, politically, culturally, and intellectually. During closed-door meetings, Nassrallah would mock those who spoke positively about any aspect of life in the city, even if they had been praising its art, culture, or architecture.
Nasrallah’s father moved from his southern village of Bazouria to Bourj Hammoud, where his son Hassan was born, in the sixties. Many others from the south did the same, moving to the capital in search of work and taking up residence in the suburbs of the city, which would eventually be called a “belt” of misery because of the population density, chaos, and poverty rampant in those suburbs. There, Lebanese mixed with Palestinians, some Areminians, and other minorities. Many have not forgotten that Nassrallah was shocked that, after the July War of 2006 ended and his men took him on a clandestine tour of Beirut so he could see the destruction that the war had left, he remembered only the young men out in Beirut’s cafe’s eating ice-cream. They “were not concerned with the martyrs who had fallen,” explaining what he saw as their callousness with what he called the curse of Beirut.
In a study entitled Social Mobility and Political Development, political scientist Karl Deutsch says mobility occurs when old social, economic and psychological values shared by large groups of people break down or disappear. This opens people up to new- mostly radical- ideas and behaviors. There is no better place for these new ideas to flourish than the misery belt. Nasrallah, those who had preceded him, and those who came after him offer perfect case studies for how such novel ideas are broadly adopted. In his case, it was religious radicalism that defined his personality after going through the circles of Dante’s hell, continuing along that path until it reached the place it is today.
There is no doubt that the thought of Hezbollah, his aides, and his masters in the Iranian Republic is founded on the principle of “establishing an Islamic state of which Lebanon is a part and is justly ruled by Imam Khomeini.” This is an ideology Nasrallah says he does not have a say in. He also says that toppling the Lebanese regime is a necessary prerequisite for achieving this goal. Chaos and destruction must be spread for Imam al-Mahdi to arrive, as former Iranian President Ahmadinajad used to remind us incessantly. If we were to place Nassrallah in this context and assume that he believes that we believe what we hear from their “spiritual texts,” so to speak, we would understand different dimensions of his involvement in worthless domestic issues.
He gets involved in frivolous local disputes, orchestrates bogus reconciliations, and interferes with how shares are distributed, obliging one team to concede in favor of another. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, he never deviates from the strategic course laid since the party’s inception: bringing down Lebanon as a political entity and establishing another, the “state of justice.” If some have doubts regarding this matter, they can simply look at the state of the country after 15 years of Hezbollah controlling the state’s institutions.
The party was content with all the corruption and destruction, and it was content with seeing the country collapse economically and monetarily, hunger spread, state property being vandalized, and the state’s prestige being undermined. Nassrallah welcomes all of this because it takes the country a course to destruction. What he does not welcome are the attempts to bring back the old Lebanese spirit, and he does not hesitate to use violence, terror, and assassination to foil attempts to do so, especially by destroying culture and people’s ability to think differently.
General Michel Aoun entered a coalition with the party so he could become president amid this atmosphere. He believed Nassrallah’s claims that the latter had no intention of turning Lebanon into an Islamic state. He would ask the Lebanese: do you think the party is going to force women to wear shadors? The women in his party would laugh the hardest, as though changing the country and its regime could be summed up in how women dress. Aoun thought that he could bring the party closer to the state, making a fatal, catastrophic mistake as he had done many times before.
Three months from the end of his term, it seems that Aoun has understood that bringing the party closer to the state is an impossible task. Many of those close to him and defectors from his party say that he will not leave office when his term ends and that he will try his best to paralyze what remains of the institutions of the state, in order to ensure that he has the final say on the next president. If this endeavor fails, he will strive to establish a “Aounistan” statelet led by his stepson Gebran Bassil. Hezbollah is well aware of Aoun’s intentions and very familiar with how he thinks, and they suit the party because they help it achieve the goal of bringing down the entity to achieve a higher goal.
Aoun’s alliance with Hezbollah was founded on the idea of him being elected to the presidency and restoring the powers of the presidency by abolishing the Taif constitution, in return for Aoun granting the party Christian cover and supporting it at home, regionally, and internationally. Hezbollah benefited from the Christian cover that Aoun had granted at first, but the isolation that Aoun brought on Lebanon due to the foreign policy and anti-Arab positions adopted by Gebran Bassil, who dominates the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in addition to the international sanctions imposed on Bassil, have made it all but impossible for Aoun to garner support at international forums.
At home, Aoun and his movement have lost their supposed monopoly on Christian representation, which essentially only ever existed in Aoun’s imagination. Indeed, the recent parliamentary elections speak volumes in this regard, as many of the parliamentary seats that the Free Patriotic Movement ended up winning are owed to the support it had been granted by Hezbollah, which mobilized Shiite constituents to vote for FPM candidates. In short, as far as the party is concerned, Michel Aoun is no longer useful, and the only thing he is good for now is helping it finish off what is left of the entity.
On the other hand, Aoun failed to obtain what he had wanted from the party. He failed to restore the powers of the presidency by abolishing the Taif constitution, and he lost the support he had enjoyed from the majority of the Christians in the country, who had hoped to bring back the glory day they had been deprived of. The attempts of President Aoun and his son-in-law to incite sectarian fanaticism will not succeed, as this tactic no longer deceives the Christian community. He and his party have been exposed, and their slogan “they didn’t let us do the work” has turned them into a laughing stock.
Aoun is facing two major obstacles. One, major global powers oppose his plans to disrupt the election of a new president, and extremely harsh sanctions would be imposed on him and many of his aides and consultants if he goes through with them. This would break up the Aounist alliance and leave the general sitting alone, isolated in his Rabieh home, just as he had been alone in the French embassy on October 13, 1990, after his misadventure of refusing to accept the election of a president. His decision to remain in the presidential palace gave the Syrian forces that had been the country a reason to enter it, shelling it and killing the best officers in the army, who defended him as he fled in his pajamas.
The other obstacle is Hezbollah’s failure to destroy the country as a political entity. There are many reasons for this failure; among them are the winds of change that began blowing with the uprising against Iranian influence in Iraq led by Muqtada al-Sadr, which could be the beginning of the end for Iranian expansion. Another reason is Israeli attacks on Islamic Jihad after their delegation returned from Tehran for talks regarding a plan to “attack Israel from three fronts: Gaza, South Lebanon, and the Golan Heights.”
The attacks made it seem as though a mistake had been made as Nasrallah remained busy moving Lebanese chess pieces and accepting congratulations because Lebanese politics is founded on vexatiousness, which suits Nasrallah perfectly. Moreover, there is also internal discontent within Iran, as many are opposed to sending resources and arms to Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, and Iraq while most Iranians cannot make ends meet and even with an agreement that lifts the sanctions imposed on the country, many other hindrances to improving these conditions would remain.
The Shiite duo has left Lebanon behind an impenetrable wall. Aoun providing Christian-Maronite safeguard for Hezbollah’s control over the country, is no longer possible. If the Shiite duo resort to Suleiman Franjieh, they will discover that the northern Maronite cover that Franjieh would provide them with would not suffice. The party would then begin searching for a third party to provide it with the cover it needs to complete its project by destroying what remains of the state. The danger lies in the prospect of the country reaching a breaking point and splitting. Wherever you turn now in Lebanon, you hear that splitting the country- into a half where people live in freedom and another ruled by the fatwas of imams- is the only solution.
As it awaits parliament’s election of a new president, Lebanon is undergoing uncertain times. No one knows who will fall and who will remain standing. In a sentence, the lethal disease Lebanon is sick with is called Hezbollah. Will the party sacrifice all of its affiliations with Iran and go back to being a Lebanese party, or will it commit suicide with the rest of the Lebanese? No one will remain standing if we all go to hell.
That is how Aoun found out, after many long years of the party not inviting him to even a single lunch meeting that did not involve negotiations on the distribution of shares, during which the Shiite duo and those in bed with them ate the meat and threw bones to the people.
Let us not kid ourselves.