Hezbollah’s military power cannot give the Lebanese Christians their rights

No Lebanese should claim his or her rights by resorting to illegitimate forces.
Sunday 15/07/2018
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil pauses during a news conference in Arsal near the border with Syria, last June. (AP)
Risky manoeuvring. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil pauses during a news conference in Arsal near the border with Syria, last June. (AP)

Why is Hezbollah insisting on a new Lebanese government made to its measure? Is it because it is misreading the balance of power in the region or perhaps Iran wants to emphatically demonstrate that Lebanon is just a card in its hand?

For Iran to feel the need to make such a demonstration is a sign of weakness rather than strength. Iran could play the card of southern Lebanon if it wants to but for what? Everybody knows that a war with Israel in southern Lebanon would lead to an outcome quite different from the war of the summer of 2006 when Israel — for strictly self-serving reasons — let Hezbollah score a victory over Lebanon and the Lebanese.

Hezbollah is indirectly behind the tug of war on the composition of the new Lebanese government. There are many questions raised by this insistence that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri accept what he could never accept — form a faulty government — if he were to go along with the pressure to marginalise the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party.

The composition of the newly elected parliament does not show a clear majority or a clear minority; unless of course, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) considers itself among the 74 parliamentarians whom Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps considers as representing Tehran in the Lebanese parliament.

The FPM and its president, Gebran Bassil, have not indicated that they do. Bassil’s manoeuvrings indicate he is not far from doing so, however. He acts as if he wants to settle old scores with Samir Geagea on the one hand and get out of the Taif Agreement on the other. He has shown oversensitivity towards the Sunni community and its weight at the national and regional levels.

It is not in the interest of Lebanon to get involved into an adventure of this kind. Hariri will be asked to form a government and he will refuse to head a government dictated by Hezbollah.

In Lebanon, every child would know that there is a pressing need for all parties to maintain the Taif Agreement and not to undermine them with talk about the “strong pact.”

When all factions of Lebanese society stand behind any pact, it will become strong. Any pact can become strong when you have a strong balanced government capable of draining Arab and international aid.

It would be better to make sure that the foundations of authority and the constitution are respected instead of blabbering about regaining the rights of the Christians or about sending Syrian refugees home regardless of their safety or of what the UN refugee agencies think.

Above all, however, it is not right to have any faction in Lebanon wave Hezbollah’s illegitimate weapons in the face of other Lebanese.  No Lebanese in general and Christian Lebanese, in particular, can score victories by relying on the illegitimate weapons of a sectarian pro-Iranian militia.

Whoever thinks that Hezbollah has a civilisational project for Lebanon is in for a big surprise. The party is simply in the service of Iran and will do everything to patch any damages done to its master. The Iranian regime has no civilisational model to offer. How can we explain that more than half of the citizens of this rich country live below the poverty line? The Iranian regime knows only how to rule with an iron fist and spread misery and backwardness.

These efforts to impose a government composition in Lebanon that would be subservient to Hezbollah are part of Iran’s “my way or the highway” strategy. What the regime in Tehran is interested in is to prove to the Iranians that it really does control Beirut, in addition to Baghdad, Damascus and Sana’a.

Regardless of whether Iran’s expansionist project is progressing or waning, it would be unnatural for Lebanon to have an unnatural government. We know that Iran’s project is waning. Iran is on the run. The new US sanctions are killing its oil exports and anti-Iranian sentiments are running high in Iraq, even among the Shia community.  In Iraq, a popular leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, is elected; so Iran hurries to undo the election results.

So, how do we bring harmony to Lebanon? First, we need to agree that Hezbollah’s military power cannot give the Lebanese Christians their rights, that is in case their rights have indeed been spoiled. No Lebanese should claim his or her rights by resorting to illegitimate forces.

Second, we need to agree that the Taif Agreement, despite shortcomings, guarantees the rights of all Lebanese. This frivolous talk about abandoning the Taif Agreement is dangerous and aims at dragging everybody towards a “constitutional congress” that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah called for a few years back. It represents the shortest way to a triangle of power among the Shias, the Sunnis and the Christians rather than equal power sharing between Muslims and Christians.