Mustafa Fahs

The Demons of the Void

Between a European envoy leaving and an Arab envoy arriving, the space for dialogue among the Lebanese forces (from both the loyal and opposition camps) narrows and the gap widens.

However, in the Lebanese case, the ongoing political crisis since the end of the President of the Republic’s term is taking a different turn this time, as the country is shifting from a political vacuum to a security void that is difficult to contain or adapt to.

In less than 48 hours, several security incidents occurred in Lebanon, geographically dispersed and different in form, but could be somewhat politically connected, with direct repercussions on the general situation, which is already threatened by the status quo.

These incidents revive the principle of self-security, which is enshrined in the Lebanese collective memory and is based on the fear of the close other, who is seen as an existential threat to the different other, who is already worried about his existence and fate.

Therefore, the most dangerous aspect in the relationship between the Lebanese sects and their political parties at this stage is the decline in the possibility of coexistence, that is, the collapse of the minimum level of coexistence that could be triggered by intentional or coincidental incidents.

The prevailing internal tension among the Lebanese, which is the result of the economic situation and the struggle between the sectarian parties over political gains, seems to be heading towards the stage of rough friction.

At the political and diplomatic levels, some may consider the shooting at the US embassy on Wednesday evening to be the most politically dangerous message, which may be linked to external pressures to advance names for the presidency of the Republic, other than those that were voted on in Parliament, and the reluctance of the strongest party to intervene in this proposal.

However, what may be most dangerous to the internal Lebanese fabric are the repercussions of the killing of former Bint Jbeil regional official in the Lebanese Forces, Elias Al-Hasrouni, outside the southern town of Ain Ebel.

Since his death, a video was circulated, revealing that the incident was in fact a premeditated killing operation and not a car accident, as stated in the official story, subsequently leading to tensions between supporters of the political forces in that mixed region and to indirect accusations against influential political parties of killing the LF official.

Tension has spread among the region’s residents, as more than one incident has been registered in the last two weeks on the public road between the towns of Aita, Ain Ebel and Bint Jbeil. In a recent incident, masked men blocked the road leading from Bint Jbeil to Ain Ebel. These tensions are likely to increase the longer the unveiling of the perpetrators of Al-Hasrouni’s killing is delayed.

Among the accelerating security events, media outlets reported that a center for the Lebanese Forces party in Housh al-Oumara, also in the mixed Bekaa region of Zahle, was exposed to gunfire by people riding a four-wheeler.

Earlier on Thursday morning, clashes erupted between the Lebanese Army’s land border regiment and some smugglers, as the army is trying to control the border to prevent the crossing of Syrian refugees, whose numbers have increased remarkably in the last two months.

It is clear that failure to fill the political vacuum may lead to a security void that is difficult to control or identify the number of people controlling it, due to the large number of players and their different agendas. But these events remain tied to the extent of the ability of the military and security institutions to deal with them.

What would be more dangerous, however, is that these events be aimed at conveying a message to these institutions to distance themselves from the political crisis and not present themselves as a compromise solution between the conflicting political blocs, especially as some political parties are ready to overthrow the military structure and empty its positions with the aim of curbing its national role and removing it from competition.

Therefore, since the end of the Lebanese Civil War, the war has not ended. There is a long list of wars, assassinations, and acts of violence. But there was a quasi-state. Now, there is no state and no statesmen.