Lebanon can afford the cost of waiting

Saad Hariri will not form a government according to Iranian dictates and will not bow down in 2018 to conditions he had refused in 2010.
Wednesday 21/11/2018
Unminced words. Lebanese Prime Minsiter Saad Hariri speaks during a news conference at his residence in downtown Beirut, on November 13. (AFP)
Unminced words. Lebanese Prime Minsiter Saad Hariri speaks during a news conference at his residence in downtown Beirut, on November 13. (AFP)

It’s no secret that Lebanon is going through a profound crisis manifested by the inability to form a government urgently needed to tackle the enormous problems plaguing the country.

In this crisis, all possibilities remain open, including reviewing the governing system, which is based on the Taif Agreement of 1989 that established the quota system.

The reasons behind the delay in forming a government go beyond disagreements about the relative cabinet quota for each political force. They even go beyond the desire to harm Saad Hariri, the prime-minister designate.

One party insists on imposing its will and on making it clear who is boss in Lebanon. It is the same party that chose the president of the republic. In fact, the election of Michel Aoun as president occurred only after all other political forces in Lebanon were forced to accept that position had to be filled by Hezbollah’s candidate.

Lebanon is moving from an era of Syrian hegemony to one of Iranian hegemony. Syria’s guardianship over Lebanon went through several terror stages, including the assassinations of Kamal Jumblatt, Bachir Gemayel and Rene Moawad. Then on October 13, 1990, Syrian armed forces seized the presidential palace at Baabda and the Ministry of Defence at Yarze.

This happened in well-known circumstances — all-too-well-known even — considering the inability of many Lebanese, especially the Christians, to read regional and international power balances.

What seems to be required in 2018, through the formation of a Lebanese government headed by Hariri, is the completion of a final transfer of guardianship from Syria to Iran. This is all there is to it. Hezbollah, which is but a brigade of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, never hid its desire to build on Rafik Hariri’s assassination and subsequent assassinations to move the country to the place it is today.

It is difficult not to make the connection between Rafik Hariri’s assassination, which spelt the death of all projects aimed at restoring life to Lebanon, and the current status quo. What is happening now is an endeavour to consolidate the transition from a Syrian tutelage to an Iranian tutelage.

Consolidating the Syrian tutelage over Lebanon went through several stages and so did the consolidation of the Iranian tutelage. It began with refusing to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 in 2004. The resolution, rejected by the Syrians and the Iranians, called for the dissolution of all Lebanese militias, meaning Hezbollah because it was the only militia in Lebanon at that time.

After the death of Rafik Hariri, Hezbollah continued its efforts to gain control of the Lebanese government. That was the goal behind the targeting of all those Lebanese personalities. Nothing happened by chance in Lebanon.

There were multiple phases to the process of imposing Iranian tutelage, or rather the attempt to impose such guardianship. It is a process that honourable Lebanese, most prominently Saad Hariri, are resisting.

What paved the way for the current phase was the shutting down of the Lebanese parliament for more than two years. Hezbollah did not conceal at any time that the target of its strange electoral law, under which the recent elections took place, is the Sunni community. The party achieved through the law what it had sought for a long time.

Naturally, Hezbollah was not satisfied and wanted more control but Saad Hariri made tremendous efforts to stop it. He risked his life by going down to the streets and mixing with people in many regions of Lebanon.

Lebanon is in the last chapter of the Iranian plan to take over the country in a constitutional way, that is to say, by transposing and reflecting the results of the parliamentary elections. Iran wants Saad Hariri to be just a facade. It wants him to implement the Iranian terms he rejected when he visited Tehran as prime minister eight years ago.

Certainly, Saad Hariri has not changed. He will not form a government according to Iranian dictates and will not bow down in 2018 to conditions he had refused in 2010, including giving Iran access to the Lebanese banking system, while knowing the potential calamities of such a move on Lebanon and its citizens.

There is no doubt that, despite Iran’s tremendous political investments up to the 2018 elections, Lebanon is not like Iran had imagined — an easy morsel to swallow. Lebanon therefore could end up paying dearly for standing in the path of Iranian ambitions.

Can Tehran be considered to be in a position comfortable enough to allow it to act in Lebanon the way it has in the past? Can it be said that post-US sanctions Iran is going to be the same as pre-sanctions Iran? Those are the big questions. It seems Iran and its cronies can wait to find out.

Lebanon and Saad Hariri can wait, too, even if it will cost them dearly but any potential loss would be less damaging than falling entirely under Iranian tutelage.