Why Christians should counter Hezbollah’s tutelage over Lebanon

Lebanese Christians maintain some importance in Lebanon’s economy but if the economy collapses, it would be the practical end for Christians in Lebanon.
Saturday 19/10/2019
A church in the Lebanese village of Hadat, where only Christians can rent or buy property, near Beirut, June 24. (AP)
A church in the Lebanese village of Hadat, where only Christians can rent or buy property, near Beirut, June 24. (AP)

The farce is not in celebrating the anniversary of October 13, 1990, the day the Syrian Army seized the presidential Baabda Palace and the Lebanese Ministry of Defence. That day was the beginning of the 15-year Syrian tutelage over Lebanon until Syrian security forces were forced out of the country on April 26, 2005, after Rafik Hariri’s assassination.

Rather, the farce lies in not absorbing the consequences of that event, which marked the political end of what is called — in good faith or in bad faith — “political Maronism,” a label invented by the late Lebanese thinker Manh al-Solh.

1990 marked the political end of “political Maronism” and it was the political end the Lebanese Christians. The Christians of Lebanon had embarked on all the impossible adventures.

It began with their leaders’ acceptance of the Cairo Agreement of November 1969. Then came the election of Suleiman Frangieh as president of Lebanon in 1970. They could not foresee the consequences of appointing a president who knew nothing of what was happening on the regional stage during one of the Middle East’s most critical periods.

The most dangerous event during that period was the imposition of the Cairo Agreement and the influx of armed Palestinian militants on Lebanese territory after the defeat of the Palestinian resistance in Jordan.

At the same time, Hafez Assad was consolidating his rise to stardom as the head of a Syrian regime that brilliantly mastered the game of regional and international balances and knew how to play it in Lebanon by igniting fires then rushing in, at the right moment, to achieve stability in a region where conflicts with Israel could erupt at the drop of a hat.

Perhaps the most important thing that Lebanon’s Christians could not understand was that no Western party, US or European, could go to their aid if there was a confrontation with the Palestinians, whom the Syrian regime had encouraged to establish a state within Lebanon, as it is happening now with Hezbollah, which is working to advance Iranian interests and nothing else.

Lebanon’s Christians’ adventures were interrupted in 1982 by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its devastating consequences for the Christians before everybody else and despite that that invasion played a decisive role in driving Palestinian militants out of Lebanon, for the benefit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as it turned out.

The Christians’ adventures, starting with the signing of the ill-fated Cairo Agreement, ended with the Syrian regime achieving what it wanted. This would not have been possible without the miscalculations, especially at the regional level in 1988, 1989 and 1990 when General Michel Aoun was at Baabda Palace as head of an interim government that the Lebanese Muslims boycotted. The only mission of that interim government was to secure the election of a president to succeed Amin Gemayel.

Aoun and his appointment at the head of the interim government was a case of a rebellion that fully demonstrated the Christians’ inability to absorb the consequences of a confrontation with the “Lebanese Forces,” just one of the militias engaged in the Lebanese war. Like all other militias, it was guilty of many mistakes, including the “Mountain War.”

October 13, 1990, was the end of a stage in Lebanon’s modern history. For the first time since independence, Syrians were in control and not a single Lebanese region was spared their hegemony.

That was also the time the political role of Christians in Lebanon ended, especially after the Syrian regime’s assassination of President-elect Rene Moawad, who had tried to establish a balanced Lebanese regime with Arab and international coverage under the terms of the Taif Agreement.

It is difficult for those who do not grasp the meaning of the end of “political Maronism” to understand the situation in Lebanon in 2019. There is a new political system in which Iran’s tutelage has replaced the Syrian one.

What is more shameful than when the Lebanese judicial system goes after Nidaa al Watan newspaper because of a headline that reflected the reality of the country, while ignoring the words of Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah affirming his absolute loyalty to Iran and to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?

The most serious danger is when Lebanon’s Christians do not want to understand the far-reaching consequences of having Hezbollah decide who is going to be president of Lebanon and that such a crime is as disastrous as accepting the Cairo Agreement. Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims and Kamal Jumblatt bear a great deal of responsibility for the second crime.

Let’s not forget that the position of the president remained vacant for two-and-a-half years until it was decided to elect a Hezbollah candidate. There would be consequences for that, too.

At the top of these consequences we find the final chapter of the political presence of Christians in Lebanon, unless, of course, they are enrolled to pressure the Sunnis and the Druze in case the Arabs, Europeans and Americans abandon Lebanon’s Sunnis.

Lebanon’s Christians must realise that the next stage in Lebanon is not going to be the restoration of their rights, especially since those rights have become hostage to Iran.

It is not a matter of Christian rights and of wildfires that “affect only Christian areas,” to borrow the expression of a member of parliament from Aoun’s camp. This MP’s joke was false and shows the extent of political blindness in certain Christian communities.

The real issue is to figure out how Christians, in agreement with the Muslims and the Druze, could stop the vicious attack on the Lebanese economy and Lebanese banks, which represent their last bastions in Lebanon. It is clear Hezbollah is targeting Lebanese banks, citing as excuse the US sanctions on Iran and its proxies.

Lebanese Christians maintain some importance in Lebanon’s economy but if the economy collapses because of damage that might be done to the banking system, it would be the practical end for Christians in Lebanon.