Lebanon needs a realistic Shia voice

Lebanon has much to lose if it circumvents required reforms and pursues a policy based on the fact that Hezbollah is a Lebanese party.
Sunday 05/05/2019
A problem of loyalties. Hezbollah fighters hold flags as they attend a rally in Tefahta village, south Lebanon.  (AP)
A problem of loyalties. Hezbollah fighters hold flags as they attend a rally in Tefahta village, south Lebanon. (AP)

Considering the increasingly complex regional conditions, Lebanon’s predicament is getting worse. At the root of this is a refusal to deal with reality, which says the Lebanese formula is open to improvement and is much stronger than believed.

Who among us had imagined that the Syrian Army would one day exit Lebanon? Who could have imagined that Palestinian militants would no longer be deployed all over Lebanese territory after they had established a banana republic?

Realism dictates that Lebanon must be reconciled with itself, preserve its interests and learn from its mistakes, especially from those made since 1969.

That year Lebanon signed the Cairo agreement. There was no awareness of the reality then and not even a minimum of common sense. The political class in the Arab world was oblivious to the reality on the field, including that all the Arab armies were defeated in 1967 in the war against Israel.

Given that reality, how could the Palestinian territories be liberated by Palestinian militants based in Lebanon?

Frankly, what Lebanese leaders lack is openness. Sheikh Pierre Gemayel was very realistic when he said Lebanon’s strength was its weakness. Unfortunately, he, too, fell into the trap of resorting to weapons in the confrontation with the Palestinians when that step should have been avoided.

He failed also to understand the implications for Lebanon of the rise of Hafez Assad and his regime in Syria and the latter’s desire to make full use of the Lebanese Christians to push his agenda in Lebanon.

Assad’s goal was to have Lebanon in his grip, sometimes by claiming that he wanted to protect the Lebanese Christians at all times by playing the Palestinian card.

This largely explains why he objected to any settlement that would have benefited the Palestinians. He used to say that an independent Palestinian decision was “a fallacy.” Without being aware of it, Yasser Arafat helped Assad’s project because he believed that Lebanon would lead him to Palestine.

Arafat returned to the Palestinian territories to be buried there only after his departure from Lebanon and after realising that he had to deal with the balance of power prevailing in the world and without any illusions. He died without achieving for his people what he had always wanted.

Obviously, Arafat did not receive any help from Israel. Even less helpful was his belief that he could exert military pressure on it. Arafat went as far as importing weapons from Iran.

Those familiar with that affair know that it was an Iranian trap and Arafat fell for it, just as he had fallen into all the traps set for him in Lebanon by Assad.

The truth is that Lebanon’s power resided in its reliance on reason. For example, when Lebanon refused to take part in the 1967 war against Israel, it was able to preserve its territory.

Why, then, doesn’t Lebanon continue to resort to reason to protect itself and its experience? This question is becoming urgent, particularly because Lebanon has missed all the opportunities that followed the “Arab spring” and shoved itself in the Syrian war.

Lebanon should have stayed out of that war and dealt with the issue of Syrian refugees by setting up camps for them in certain areas to facilitate their repatriation when circumstances would permit it.

Will Lebanon regain the path of reason and understand that there is no such thing as “economic resistance”? Those who say there is such a thing are unaware of the pressure exerted by the United States on Iran and are especially ignorant of what the US administration can do if it decides to destroy Lebanon economically, using the excuse of Hezbollah’s and consequently Iran’s control of political decisions in Lebanon.

This is not the time for bragging and useless showing off. This is the time to avoid sacrificing Lebanon for Iran. This is the time for any politician possessing the smallest dose of courage to stand up and tell it like it is to the Lebanese.

One brave man named Saad Hariri has done that. He warned the Lebanese against dragging their country to a fate like Greece’s. Greece’s economy and its banks had the good fortune of having the European Union intervene to save them. Who will intervene to save Lebanon when the disaster occurs?

The Lebanese need to know that their country is at a critical stage and they must understand the balance of power in the region and the world.

The Syrian regime, which some naive people believe has recovered, is but another copy of Saddam Hussein’s regime. To flee from its internal crisis in 1990, that regime found nothing better to do than embark on a crazy adventure in Kuwait.

There were in Lebanon at that time some who were betting on Saddam to win. What happened was the consecration of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

Perhaps the first thing that Lebanese leaders, including Shias who are not affiliated with Hezbollah, should do is adopt a frank and transparent stance motivated by the need to face reality and avoid delusion. Shia leaders should tell Hezbollah that Lebanon is more important than Iran and that Iran must not remain in Lebanon, nor can it remain in Syria, Iraq or Yemen in the long run.

Lebanon has much to lose if it circumvents required reforms and pursues a policy based on the fact that Hezbollah is a Lebanese party. If Hezbollah is far from calling itself Lebanese, why do some Lebanese officials resort to that ridiculous subterfuge?

Reality says Iran cannot win its war with the United States. It certainly can cancel its agreement to the nuclear deal but that wouldn’t change anything.

The problem of Europe and the United States with Iran is no longer residing in the nuclear deal. Their problem concerns Iran’s ballistic missiles and its behaviour outside its borders. Iran has no solution to its internal crisis other than continuing to increase its meddling outside its borders, including in Lebanon.

Are there in Lebanon politicians who want to understand that the country’s interests require a new balance of power that does not consider the world as a charity?

Most important, there should be Shia voices that dare say the game of “resistance” and “refusal” is outdated and that Lebanon must deal with reality and not with the illusion that Hezbollah is a Lebanese party. There is a need for a Shia voice that will reconcile Lebanon with reality.

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