Mustafa Fahs

2023 and the Dates Set by Lebanese Prevaricators

The political class has met the political, social, and economic crises facing the country with prevarication, neglecting their responsibilities and delaying any sort of solution. They gave themselves several years to find a solution that suits them and safeguards their interests and gains.

However, none of them accounted for the social and political changes that have been underway since October 17, 2019, and the implications that the economic crisis and plummeting living standards have had on Lebanese citizens.

Indeed, on this date, the Lebanese regime that was engineered between 1992 and 2005 - when Lebanon was under Syrian occupation - was genuinely under threat for the first time. After the Syrian army left the country, the Iranians were tasked with protecting it.

The ruling political clique is behaving like a cohesive unit despite their internal rivalries. They are delaying solutions to push the inside - the people - to conclude that change is impossible and to push the outside - the international and Arab community - to change their behavior and walk back on their demands.

Rumors intended to facilitate this prevarication have been spreading, especially since President Michel Aoun’s term ended.

Some claim that the solution will emerge in the first half of 2023, while others set almost exact dates. Among the latter, some pushed the idea that it would begin in spring, with more optimistic others claiming it would emerge in February, presenting information about local and international developments to back up their claims.

From Paris to Riyadh, through Tehran to Washington, Lebanese speculation about imminent solutions is on the rise. That is why political and media “elites” have begun trying to convince the public that a new regional and international deal will be concluded in February or March.

The irony is that local actors are projecting their wishful thinking on Arab and international players. Some have linked this scenario to the Iranian nuclear agreement, building their analyses on information that would make one think they were personally inside the closed negotiating rooms in Vienna.

However, these analyses overlook the fact that Iran’s drones in Ukraine and the ongoing protest movement have had serious repercussions for these negotiations themselves. Indeed, the West is not concerned with the negotiation any longer, and they will not give Iran what it wants for itself, so they won’t concede on Lebanese matters.

Meanwhile, another side links the solution to the resumption of negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad, claiming that Lebanon is central to these talks. Another group affirms that a Qatari-French initiative will be made immediately after the World Cup, with Doha getting directly involved to resolve the issues in Lebanon.

Several scenarios for a solution have emerged late this year then. Some are trying to convince us that international players will each take one seat of the two seats of power. When those whom it was claimed had been behind this initiative did not engage with the claims, another scenario in which both seats would be chosen through consensus emerged.

More imaginative rumors claim that Saudi Arabia and Syria had reached a deal, speaking as though the latter has a foreign policy to speak of and is not under Iranian-Russian tutelage.

French President Emmanuel Macron is the only foreign leader who has found refuge in Lebanon and continued to launch initiatives. However, in his latest statements, he contradicted himself. Macron, who bears some responsibility for his role in safeguarding the clique’s hold on power after the crime of the port blast, is now arguing for the need to get rid of the ruling political class, accusing this clique of hindering solutions. Meanwhile, those who represent him in Lebanon insist on adopting the position of those obstructing the solutions.

One fact the prevaricators have not addressed is that ending the presidential vacuum does not need much time. It only needs the will to do so, which most of them do not have. They have also ignored the fact that the crisis goes beyond who is elected president or prime minister; Lebanon’s future as a political entity is now under threat.

And so, the prevaricators in Lebanon have prevented the country from playing its role and tried to change its identity. The saying of religious scholars thus applies to them. “The prevaricators are not of one religious confession; they come from all sects and confessions.”