Eyad Abu Shakra

Concerning the Situation in Lebanon… ‘It’s Demography, Stupid’

In general, it is easy to use a "demographic bomb" to destroy fragile entities like Lebanon. Despite having been around for over 100 years now, the country lacks a national consensus and coherent identity to this day. Lebanon has no ceilings or walls to protect it from regional storms and upheaval.

Even worse, the keys to resolving Lebanon's political crises are in the hands of regional powers - none more than two "theocracies" whose rulers premise the legitimacy of their rule, dominance, occupations, and decisions of war and peace... on the commands of the divine!

Thus, there is nothing easier than for these big theocrats to exploit the open field of small "sectarians", to do everything from exchanging messages to drawing maps and furthering regional strategies.

Today, with the Israeli war and settlement machine close to finishing much of its plan to destroy Gaza and displace its people, and as it aggravates tensions in the West Bank, the leaders of the Israeli "war authority" are upping the ante of their threats to Lebanon.

For their part, Iran’s leaders have responded to Israel’s escalation in their own unique and usual manner. In this confrontation, Iran is empowered by its firm certainty that the United States, the global power backing and pushing Israel, does not consider itself to be in a "state of war" with Iran. Instead, as we have seen, the US has tasked negotiators and generals with managing the "belligerent bargaining" over the territory of others.

Meanwhile, it seems that the Lebanese have not learned any of the lessons of the past.

They remain hostage to their tribalistic mindset and wishful thinking that has been proven misguided dozens of times. Indeed, the Lebanese have never understood "causality" in politics, constantly confusing the "cause" with the "effect."

More than that, a large segment of the Lebanese political system remains easy prey to those seeking to stir their sectarian instincts and deliberately undermine the collective Lebanese memory, especially concerning two interrelated sectarian questions: first, the presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and second, the ongoing failure to elect a president of the republic.

Regarding the Syrian refugees - or "displaced persons" - some Lebanese media outlets and politicians have launched a vicious campaign against them that rivals the racism we have seen in Europe. However, those behind the campaign have not held the parties responsible for making them refugees or causing the "displacement."

No one in the Christian community, specifically, from among the Christian political forces (who were officially in power at the time) has been held accountable for supporting Hezbollah's war in Syria against the Syrians to advance Iran's project to dominate the Middle East!

We have not heard any of the Lebanese - Christian or otherwise - opposed to the presence of Syrians speak out against the Syrian regime... which, after having contributed to their displacement, does not want refugees and the "displaced" to return. Instead, these "rejectionists" have rushed to condemn international organizations providing the refugees with relief and aid.

Regarding the ongoing failure to elect a president (which the constitution stipulates must be a Maronite Christian), which has created an ongoing "presidential vacuum" that began on October 30, 2022, the loud outcry suggests that electing a president alone would fix things. Consequently, whoever eventually becomes president will be seen as someone who wields a magic wand that can overcome all obstacles, bring hearts together, protect the country, and save the people.

Indeed, seeing the "presidential vacuum" dominate evening news has become like watching a frivolous and tedious comedy series. However, this series quickly gives way to the latest rounds of "belligerent bargaining" between Israel and Hezbollah, which is exacerbating the displacement crisis - which affects Lebanese people fleeing border regions this time - and threatens to change the demography of the regions where the displaced are fleeing.

Israeli leaders, who know exactly what they are doing with their scorched-earth tactics intended to displace the residents of southern Lebanon, are not at all oblivious to the potential for stirring sectarian strife. Conversely, the Iranian project has proven that it is a "reference" whose capacity for developing and executing displacement and settlement plans cannot be underestimated. In finding irrefutable evidence of this fact, one could even overlook Hezbollah's dominance over Lebanon since 2008 and what the Houthis have been doing in Yemen since their coup. A glance at "Iraq post-2003," "Syria post-2011," and the Palestinian territories in Gaza and the West Bank after October 7, 2023, is enough.

These two regional theocratic players, Israel and Iran, are moving forward and achieving their priorities. There is no real conflict of interest between them, nor is there any global power - not in Washington or Europe - deterring them from stirring chaos, dismantling countries, and shedding rivers of blood.

The demographic game is often deadly, especially when all efforts are combined to implement it and the wise refrain from confronting it. It can bring down borders, bring societies to collapse, and turn nations into a forgotten memory!