The lessons of Lebanon's protests
After painstaking efforts, the Lebanese government adopted a series of rather good measures to end the budget deficit and give citizens hope for improved living conditions.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri delivered an address aimed at defusing the crisis, during which many people had taken to the streets. Hariri did not hide his sympathy for the demonstrators, showing an understanding of the reasons that led to what can be described as a “Lebanese popular revolution” that cut across all social classes, regions and communities.
What is clear is that the average Lebanese citizen no longer trusts the political elite that governs the country or the system of government imposed by Hezbollah on the Lebanese people. This system dragged the country into a series of crises, including jeopardising the country’s banking system, the last bastion of Lebanon’s economy, by Hezbollah’s unrelenting efforts to isolate Lebanon from its Arab environment.
Reform measures announced by Hariri, measures that were supposed to have been adopted several years ago, are not problems in themselves. The problem with the government’s bailout plan is that there is no homogeneous task force in the government capable of implementing it, instead letting Lebanon become an Iranian playing card.
One of the reasons for the disappearance of the US dollar from the Lebanese market was flooding the market with Syrian currency in exchange of all available US currency to finance oil purchases for Syria and not just for Lebanon.
Lebanon finds itself in an unenviable position. It will take more than one package of economic reforms to pull the country out of its enduring failure to address its many problems, from electricity to waste.
The reason for this failure is the profound change in the Lebanese government system that had been imposed by Hezbollah. This party insists on controlling the formation and composition of the Lebanese government so there won’t be room for serious debate.
Hezbollah, for example, imposed the current president on the Lebanese people and what it terms as “consensual democracy” is nothing more than the shortest way to impose on Lebanon an authoritarian regime to turn the country into an Iranian colony.
What we are witnessing in Lebanon is Iran’s effort to take the place of the Syrian tutelage over Lebanon that began in 1990. Following the assassination of former President Rene Mouawad, in 1989, the Syrian regime took it upon itself to implement provisions of the Taif Accord, which is the basis of the Lebanese Constitution, in accordance with the Syrian regime’s vision for the region.
What has become required following the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005 was the implementation of the Taif Accord in accordance with the Iranian vision for the region. Didn't Qassem Soleimani, commander of al-Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, say after Lebanese parliamentary elections in May 2018 that Tehran had a majority in the Lebanese parliament?
When the Lebanese took to the streets following Saad Hariri's reform package announcement, it was a clear indication of the people’s desire for deeper reforms. There is a need for a profound change in Lebanon, a change that would bring the country back to normal.
This clearly means that Lebanon needs to return to a democratic system with a government and an opposition in place. The role of the opposition is to hold the government accountable and not to create a network of partnerships among political leaders with a view to mutually covering up corruption, waste and smuggling.
Undoubtedly, Hariri has the best intentions but he can’t do much, especially because most Arabs have withdrawn their hands from Lebanon. He had no choice left after it was no longer a secret that Lebanese citizens, from all sects, had grown tired of the manoeuvres of Free Patriotic Movement President Gebran Bassil, who believed that playing nice with Hezbollah would lead him to Lebanon’s presidency one day.
The Arabs are not the only ones who have withdrawn from Lebanon. The current US administration is acting towards Lebanon just as Barack Obama's administration was reacting to the Iranian people's revolution in 2009.
Keen on appeasing Iran's mullahs, Obama abandoned the Iranian people as well as the Syrian people. His aim was to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear file regardless of what happened to the Iranians and the Syrians. He achieved what he wanted in the summer of 2015.
What does US President Donald Trump want these days? What kind of deal is being cooked up with Iran, or anyone else for that matter, that is making him blind to what is happening in Lebanon?
Let’s not forget Hezbollah’s repression of the Shia rebellion in southern Lebanon. By rebelling against Hezbollah’s domination, the Shias wanted to show they are Lebanese first and that all that is said about the absence of any resistance to Iranian domination of Lebanon's Shias is false.
If there is need for confirmation of a genuine Shia movement in Lebanon resisting Hezbollah and its satellites, there are events in the Sunni-majority city of Tripoli where Lebanese demonstrated that they still adhere to a culture of life.
Many in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, described Tripoli as another Kandahar but Tripoli, which has not slept for days because of the continuous stream of loud music announcing its adherence to the people’s revolution against Hezbollah’s regime, has revealed its true face.
Tripoli is another Lebanese city that rejects injustice. Those who do not know Tripoli do not know that it is a city that rejects the culture of death and terrorism that many accuse it of. The Syrian regime had long tried to plant sectarianism in Tripoli but Tripoli remained Lebanese, despite its past and geographical ties to the Syrian city of Homs and the Syrian coast but most of all to the Syrian Sunnis who have been subjected to all forms of oppression for half a century.
The Shias of southern Lebanon, in conjunction with Tripoli’s Sunnis and Christians, wanted to send a message to the world. They are Lebanese first and foremost. That message was picked up by Hariri in his speech announcing the reforms. Hariri declared that he stands with the demonstrators. The latter are the ones deciding Lebanon’s future. They are confirming their faith in Lebanon by resisting Hezbollah.
In Lebanon, the biggest need remains for a task force to carry out reforms announced by the prime minister. There is no need for political partnerships between groups bent on looting the country. There is a need to end the reign of Hezbollah and its Christian proxies. Without this, there is no hope the Lebanese revolution will achieve its promises.