Will Lebanon regain its independence?

Friday 27/11/2015

For the second year in a row, Lebanese Inde­pendence Day came and went at a time when the republic lacks a president. So is the country beginning to get used to life without a head of state?

This vacuum is a clear indica­tion of the challenges facing this small Mediterranean country, as well as the ability of the Lebanese to endure the crisis, which each day takes new and unexpected turns.

There is only one side prevent­ing the election of a new presi­dent, reflecting genuine efforts to carry out a political coup that could not only change the nature of the Lebanese regime but also the make-up of the country.

This would have seen the crea­tion of an alliance that begins in Iran, includes Iraq and Syria and reaches Lebanon. But the Syrian revolution and Tehran’s failure to save its client regime have largely put paid to this plan.

But this only increased the pressure on Lebanon and there are genuine aims to change the very identity of this regime — similar to the attempts that are being made to change the country’s unique social identity, which had been known for its progressiveness and cohesion.

Lebanon just celebrated the 72nd anniversary of its independ­ence, but where is any sign of this independence?

There are members of parlia­ment who are failing to carry out their democratic duties, refus­ing to attend parliament, which means that there is not even enough MPs to secure a quorum for a vote to fill this vacant post.

The work of parliament, just as the work of all other government agencies, is being disrupted. This includes Lebanon’s cabinet, which is also unable to meet to find a so­lution to the country’s trash crisis.

Is there any other country in the world that is suffering from such problems that can be so easily solved?

Lebanon has stalled on a num­ber fronts. It is no longer a place that Arabs visit. The Lebanese have forgotten what Arab tour­ists look like, particularly tourists from the Gulf who used to flock to the country every year, bringing a much-needed economic boost.

Lebanon’s economic lockdown has coincided with political shut­down following the collapse of the national unity government led by Saad Hariri. This was succeeded by a Hezbollah-led government with Najib Mikati as prime min­ister.

During this time, Lebanon has become isolated from its Arab neighbours. It has become a coun­try with open borders with Syria, with Hezbollah fighters crossing into Syria to take part in the war that Syrian President Bashar Assad launched on his own people.

How does this state of affairs serve Lebanon’s interests? How are the Lebanese people served by a sectarian militia embroiling the entire country in a conflict that has nothing to do with them?

In addition to the presidential vacuum, Lebanon is facing a deep economic crisis. There are a num­ber of major sectors that are under threat, not least banking and the service industry.

This presidential vacuum is deliberate, with the objective of harming Lebanon’s state insti­tutions and creating a state of general misery across the country. Nothing happens by chance in Lebanon. Lebanon is facing an un­precedented attempt to change its historic nature. So Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah may talk about a political “settlement”, but this is meaningless so long as Hezbollah fighters are taking part in the con­flict in Syria without any regard for Lebanon’s national interest.

Political settlements usually take place between parties that have the freedom to make this choice and enjoy a minimum parity of power. But the Lebanese people are oppressed, negotiat­ing with an armed militia that is implementing an Iranian agenda, nothing more, nothing less. Tehran is seeking to confirm its control over Lebanon now, due to the setbacks it suffered in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

So in 2015, Lebanon finds itself isolated from its Arab neighbours, facing an economic crisis that is getting worse by the day, while there is no real political leader­ship capable of addressing these problems

There are a range of major inter­related problems facing Lebanon, any single one of which would be a relatively small hurdle to overcome. But taken together, Lebanon is facing a major crisis. Will Lebanon be able to regain its lost independence? That is the question.

11