Mustafa Fahs

Lebanon’s Implosion Between Kyiv and Damascus

Lebanon’s currency continues to plummet. It is in freefall, and a dollar could well equate to one million Liras soon. Indeed, the central bank has lost its capacity to exert any control over the currency’s value, a harbinger of monstrously obscene deprivation and chaos as prices skyrocket. The government has failed to make even a minor impact because of faulty monetary policies that have left citizens weighed down by heavy financial burdens.

The plummeting value of the country’s currency and the collapse of its citizens’ living standards come as the political situation falls apart. The likelihood of a president being elected in the near, or even medium, term is receding.

Both external and domestic factors are making the emergence of political solutions less likely because some local actors are betting on a settlement among foreign powers that still seems almost impossible. Meanwhile, other foreign powers seem ready to pursue appeasement once again as they seek perfunctory solutions they believe will satisfy local and regional players.

Over the past few days, we have seen many local media outlets report on an imminent compromise agreement on a president among the parties in power and those in the opposition domestically, and between Riyadh and Tehran externally. These outlets claim that the French are facilitating this compromise, which will lead to the election of Suleiman Franjieh, the candidate for the presidency backed by Hezbollah, and Judge Nawaf Salam, the man the opposition wants to see as prime minister - a compromise has been linked to regional and international shifts framed to suit the agenda of the party doing the reporting.

What is strange is that the French, who have taken it upon themselves to promote this compromise sought by both the ruling clique and its ruling party, have overlooked the fact that Arab and international actors will not relinquish on the stipulations of the Kuwaiti Paper. An international and Arab consensus has emerged around this Paper, and those behind it, especially Riyadh, have not put the name of any figure forward, though some would be acceptable and supported.

Rather, the Kingdom insists on criteria being met and the candidate being a reformist. With its proposal, France has made the mistake of putting forward the vision of one side, that of a party that has refused to walk back on the idea of imposing its terms on local and foreign players despite the fact that the state it now controls is imploding.

The ruling clique has yet to back down from its insistence on reproducing its authority. It behaves as though it were stable despite all the shifts that are underway. Regardless of what this clique considers stable, it has failed to read the major changes in the region and the world correctly.

On the contrary, it has opted for a segmented view of a scene that will not fully develop anytime soon. Despite the fact that the main actors who have the capacity to put Lebanon on track and facilitate solutions have remained silent about these transformations, the clique has allowed its hopes and desires to drive it to behave as though reality corresponds to its aspirations.

Meanwhile, the clique bet that some Arab states opening up to the Syrian regime would help accelerate a Saudi-Iranian settlement (especially following the visit of former Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to Tehran, as he had mediated previous rounds of negotiation between Saudi Arabia and Iran).

Though one can never say never in politics, Lebanese actors’ bet on the success of Saudi-Iranian dialogue succeeding is premature. Even in the event that breakthroughs are made, Lebanon will not necessarily be a priority, especially since Iran’s negotiating position does not allow for the Lebanese clique to make the gains it aspires to. The Assad regime, meanwhile, has no political influence, and there is thus no need to appease it.

On the other hand, the ruling clique and its propaganda agencies, which have put words in Riyadh’s mouth in its discussion of political settlements and the political figures at the forefront, have not comprehended the significance of the Saudi foreign minister’s visit to Kyiv and the $400 million aid package that Saudi Arabia has offered Ukraine. While it has adopted balanced and neutral positions regarding international issues, Riyadh is not neutral on issues of Arab national security and preventing foreign interference in Arab affairs.

This has prompted it to push back against Iranian influence. In Kyiv, it met Iran’s involvement in the war against Ukraine and the deepening of Iran and Russia’s strategic partnership in Ukraine and Syria. The Lebanese political class has overlooked this fact and has yet to understand the reason for the absence of Riyadh, Doha, Kuwait and other Arab capitals from the visit by “Arab parliamentarians” to the regime in Damascus.