There is no hope for democracy where illegitimate militias roam

The armed sectarian militias in Lebanon and Iraq are trying to force the culture of death on the Lebanese and the Iraqis.
Sunday 05/08/2018
No democrats. Iran-backed fighters march during a parade in Baghdad.  (Reuters)
No democrats. Iran-backed fighters march during a parade in Baghdad. (Reuters)

The strangest phenomenon in the Arab world — or perhaps the Arab worlds for a more accurate label — is the dominance of militia mentality in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere. But there is worse. Take Syria, for example. There, the main concern of the regime is to satisfy Israeli demands or implement Iran’s purely sectarian expansionist project.

Wherever there is militia mentality, there is no logic. In Lebanon, it’s been more than two months and Saad Hariri’s new government composed of Lebanese competences could not be formed. Where is the logic in that? What’s the logic behind suppressing the election results in Iraq and preventing a new government led by Haider al-Abadi or some other Iraqi politician to be formed there?

In the cases of Lebanon and Iraq, the answer to these questions is fairly simple: There cannot be a normal political life in any country where sectarian militias dictate their wishes to everyone else. Only a miracle can save Lebanon and enable Hariri to form his government so the country’s institutions, economy and banking system can be saved.

Lebanon’s general elections were May 6. Six days later, general elections were in Iraq. We know the winners and the losers in the Lebanese elections but we also know that a weird election system had been put in place to enable certain political figures from the Christian community to get into parliament. These people have no popular base. One Maronite figure in particular had failed to win every single previous “normal” election. Yet it had to be done. That person and his list of opportunistic and shallow yea-sayers had to have seats in the parliament.

The scheme is clear. That person and his group have a mission. Their job is to provide a Christian cover for Hezbollah’s demands. What Hezbollah wanted was to give a concrete form to Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani’s words about the balance of power in the Lebanese parliament.

Soleimani declared that Iran controls a majority of 74 members out of the 128 members in the Lebanese legislature. So it is clear that Iran’s next move is to impose on Hariri and Lebanon a government that will be taking orders from Tehran. The prime minister’s role will be reduced to managing government meetings.

I wonder if there are people who understand that the logic of illegitimate sectarian militias does not build states but destroys them. In a country such as Lebanon, the situation could be catastrophic. What the country needs is to take advantage of the outcomes of last April’s Cedre conference in Paris but that is not going to be possible without a balanced and united government. Lebanon must reject Iran’s dictates even though the latter keeps waiving the threat of Hezbollah and its illegitimate weapons.

The Iranian regime is rather amusing. In Lebanon, the regime gives its own reading of the election results but in Iraq, where it has several sectarian militias at its command, it simply rejects the election results. In this situation, who in Iraq is going to form a government? There is no doubt about it. Militias do not build states or successful institutions.

The militias roaming free in Iraq, regardless of whether they follow Iran or some other foreign state, represent the quickest way to wipe out what is left of Iraq as an independent state. It’s no longer a question of whether there will be a new Iraqi government. The question is what to do with an Iraq in which popular uprisings have demonstrated the alarming and shameful weaknesses of a regime based on a system of sectarian quotas.

Let’s face it, militias of all kinds cannot build states and cannot feed people. What really builds states is respect for state institutions and constitutional rights and processes. In a country where the armed forces are not in the hands of the state, there is no sense for laws or democratic processes. One armed militia here imposes its own understanding of election results and another there simply invalidates them.

What’s going on in Lebanon and Iraq requires a closer examination. The connection between the difficult situations of both countries jumps to the eye. It’s the dominance of sectarian militias on public life. Lebanon, it must be said, is still resisting. Hariri, while showing a great deal of flexibility, remains the symbol of Lebanon’s rejection of Soleimani’s dictates.

The armed sectarian militias in Lebanon and Iraq are trying to force the culture of death on the Lebanese and the Iraqis. They have nothing else to offer but misery and despair. They have only two goals: ethnically and religiously cleanse both countries in the service of a hopeless project and tear the Arab world to pieces.