On its independence anniversary, Lebanon is but a shadow of itself

The president’s speech confirmed that Lebanon is no longer Lebanon.
Tuesday 24/11/2020
Members of Lebanon’s militant movement Hezbollah take part in a parade in the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek on November 11, 2020. (AP)
Members of Lebanon’s militant movement Hezbollah take part in a parade in the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek on November 11, 2020. (AP)

On Sunday, Lebanon celebrated the 77th anniversary of its independence. A couple of months before that, in early September, it celebrated the centennial of the Declaration of the State of Greater Lebanon, that is, Lebanon with its current borders. The Lebanon of 2020, however, and after joining the Iranian club, is but a shadow of its former self.

Those in need of proof of this claim can simply listen to the speech delivered by President Michel Aoun on Independence Day. Take away the clear references and criticism of Arab countries that recently signed agreements with Israel, namely the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, and all you’re left with from the speech is a weak composition that could have been written by a primary school pupil.

What does Lebanon have to do with that matter, unless, of course, Aoun is following Tehran’s instructions relayed by Hezbollah? Since when does Lebanon blame certain Arab countries for the loss of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem? The irony is that it is no secret who is behind the occupation of the Golan, and why Jerusalem is lost.

The Lebanese president’s speech confirmed that Lebanon is no longer Lebanon. The man focused on corruption, but conveniently omitted the topic of Hezbollah’s illegitimate weapons. I guess the president of the republic finds nothing out of the ordinary about the existence of an armed sectarian militia that has its weapons aimed at the Lebanese people and imposes its will on them. Moreover, this militia, which is nothing but a brigade in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is allowed to intervene everywhere in the region without any supervision or control and without Lebanon having a say in the mater. When this militia began intervening on the side of the minority regime in Damascus in its war on the overwhelming majority of Syrian people, it became legitimate to ask whether the Lebanese state is sovereign or not.

Iran was able to make the border between Lebanon and Syria a joke, but the president of the republic ignored that in his speech, instead launching a crusade on corruption. The thing is, whoever really wants to combat corruption and the system of corruption would not reject the judicial appointments issued by the Supreme Judicial Council. Whoever really wants to fight corruption must have the courage to open the file of electricity in Lebanon, which has been the exclusive turf of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement for eleven years. Why has the country suffered from electricity cuts during all of these years?

Where have all of the billions of dollars allocated to the electricity file during the era of ministers from the Free Patriotic Movement gone? By the way, isn’t the president’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, in charge of the Free Patriotic Movement? Obviously, such embarrassing questions must be swept under the rug, just as it is desirable not to mention that the matter goes beyond simply launching a criminal investigation inside Lebanon’s central bank.

The president of the republic is feigning ignorance of the fact that his reign coincides with the “Hezbollah era,” during which weapons have been put to the service of corruption. Whoever turns a blind eye to Hezbollah’s weapons is turning a blind eye to the real corruption in the country; no more, no less.

It is proven that the Banque du Liban bears responsibility for the disaster that has befallen Lebanon. Bank owners were also party to the financial meltdown and bear part of the responsibility. But then, who embezzled the deposits of the Lebanese in the banks and imposed on the country a policy to destabilise the Lebanese banking system? Surely, the guilty party with the biggest share of blame in all of this mess must be “Hezbollah,” which does not believe in any of the constants upon which modern Lebanon has been built since before its independence.

The topic of the president’s composition on the occasion of the 77th anniversary of Lebanon’s independence reveals the magnitude of the country’s disaster. The president made no reference whatsoever to the martyrs of the Cedar Revolution, whose assassins are now well known. No, the president did not mention Rafik Hariri, Bassel Fleihan and their companions, nor Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Gebran Tueni, Walid Eido, Antoine Ghanem, Pierre Amine Gemayel, Wissam Eid, Wissam al-Hassan and Francois el-Hajj … all the way to Mohamad Chatah. None of these martyrs were not mentioned, nor were the names of those who have become known as the three living martyrs — Marwan Hamadeh, May Chidiac and Elias Murr. We are indeed living in another era.

An era like the one we are going through cannot admit that the Lebanon we know and love has ended at its hands and not at the hands of anyone else. The Lebanon that has ended is the Arab Lebanon, a Lebanon that was open to all countries of the region, foremost among them the Gulf states. We are talking about a Lebanon that, at a certain stage, became the preferred destination for all Arabs. This is the Lebanon that one thinks of when thinking of the best university, school, hospital, bank, hotel, restaurant, nightclub, beach, mountain, library, newspaper or tourist festival in the region. It was a good place to live in.

So now, what is left of this Lebanon? Nothing. Unfortunately, no one that is part of the country’s power structure seems to understand the danger of having banks restrict people’s access to their funds. None of them seem to care if three and a half months have already gone by since the tragic explosion at Beirut port and the Lebanese still have no answers. Do they really understand the importance and significance of providing those answers? And why does Iran insist on totally wiping out Beirut’s role in the region and turning the capital into a mere Iranian city on the Mediterranean?

The Lebanese are footing the bill of a situation in which Hezbollah decides who becomes Lebanon’s Christian president. Lebanon will in fact continue to pay for the official cover given to Hezbollah’s arms for that infamous presidential settlement and for the political class’s approval of the law on the basis of which the 2018 elections were held. Now we are beginning to understand why Lebanon was forbidden from benefiting from the funds collected at the Cedar Conference held in Paris in April 2018, just one month before those elections. The obstacles currently being placed on the path of forming a new government headed by Saad Hariri are nothing less than a continuation of the efforts being exerted in the Hezbollah era to bring about the failure of the Cedar Conference.

The policy line followed by the era is clear and has been so since October 13, 2016. This line is based on destroying whatever remains of Lebanon’s state institutions and finishing off the process of cutting off Lebanon from its Arab environment. The cat is out of the bag now that Lebanon has openly joined the Iranian club. After all, it would not have been possible for Lebanon to initiate negotiations regarding the demarcation of maritime borders with Israel had it not received the Iranian green light. This would not have been possible if it were not Iran’s wish to start courting US presidential candidate Joe Biden before the US election results were known.

Now that Biden has been declared president-elect, will his new administration not disappoint the Islamic Republic as it seeks to strike a deal with the “Great Satan”? Or will it turn out that the mullahs’ regime’s bets were misplaced? We should know the answers to these questions pretty soon, and only then will we know whether or not Lebanon has become an Iranian colony for good.