Mustafa Fahs

Lebanon... Has Paris Become Part of the Crisis?

At a suspicious time at the internal and foreign levels, Paris shocked the Lebanese people again, after it had surprised them following the Beirut Port explosion, on Aug. 4, 2020.

This calls for questioning France’s intentions in dealing with the Lebanese crisis. In fact, Paris has previously abandoned its political commitments towards the Lebanese interior, but this time, it violated its international obligations, and went back on its pledges to its regional and international partners to end Lebanon’s presidential vacuum.

In the aftermath of the Beirut Port catastrophe, most Lebanese believed that the solidarity visit of French President Emmanuel Macron had caused a moral disaster that stained the French foreign policy, because he met with representatives of the ruling system, who are blamed for the political, economic and security crimes that have befallen Lebanon.

In that famous meeting at the Pine Residence (the official residence of the French ambassador), the French president thought that by uttering harsh phrases, he would be able to force the armed political mafia to concede. It is as if he had forgotten or disregarded the fact that this mafia does not hesitate to resort to violence, outside the framework of state institutions, against those who try to subdue or ask it to surrender.

This time, Paris was the one to shock the Lebanese people, by retracting once again from the commitments made at the meeting of the five countries concerned with addressing the Lebanese crisis (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the United States and France). France put forward names to fill senior positions (the president of the republic and the prime minister), in a deliberate violation of the pledges made at the Paris meeting, which tackled the required qualifications for the figures who will be selected to end the constitutional vacuum in Lebanon.

Paris’ insistence on the principle of barter to end the presidential impasse – proposing Suleiman Franjieh as president and Nawaf Salam as prime minister – clearly and explicitly aligns with the desire of the Shiite duo and its allies and defies the interests of all the Lebanese who are trying to re-establish the state against a political system that is trying to reproduce itself.

Added to this is a French denial of what President Macron said at the Pine Residence meeting, that the “time has come to leave the political arena for a new reformist generation.”

It seems that the Elysée insists on bartering the values of the French Revolution with the interests of major French companies, and therefore does not hesitate to bargain with an authority that represents a financial and political minority at the expense of the future of the majority.

In fact, the French approach to the Lebanese crisis stirs regional suspicion, especially as it opposes the policy adopted by active Arab countries that are partners in the five-member committee, including Saudi Arabia.

Along with Doha and Cairo, Riyadh insists on reform criteria in selecting candidates, and refuses to discuss names.

This means that Paris is following a policy of local and regional bias, outwardly calling for political consensus, but deeply searching for economic interests, extending from the Beirut Port on the Mediterranean to the port of Bandar Abbas on the Arabian Gulf.

However, Paris has not realized that its commitment to the presidential barter, which is rejected at both the internal and foreign levels, will turn into part of the crisis, or one of the factors delaying the solution. The total collapse and the dissolution of the remaining state institutions is moving at an accelerating pace, as a result of the actions of a political class that the Elysée has taken the initiative to protect, under the pretext of political pragmatism. Meanwhile, the daily reality of the Lebanese people portends great dangers that threatens the safety of the state.

Accordingly, France’s credibility is at stake. From the Pine Residence meeting in Beirut, in August 2020, to the Paris meeting, last month, France is repeating costly mistakes not only for it and the Lebanese, but also for the Europeans it represents. It also stands in the way of the Arab will that refuses to trade stability for reform.