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What fate awaits Lebanon?

July 27, 2021 at 10:03 am

Lebanese women hold placards as they protest against the country’s political paralysis and deep economic crisis in Beirut, on 20 March 2021 [ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images]

Lebanon’s Saad Hariri has finally apologised for only forming the government nine months after President Michel Aoun tasked him with this mission. However, Aoun rejected the ministers proposed by Hariri, especially when it came to selecting Christians, which the president regards as his speciality.

Aoun also wants to keep a third at his disposal, or to be more accurate, under the control of Hezbollah, which Aoun represents and obeys, not least because the party placed him in power. That is why Aoun cannot do anything but follow the movement’s orders.

Nine months of manoeuvres by Hariri and Aoun — the latter backed by his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, who controls the country from the shadows — have been less than helpful while Lebanon is bleeding due to the unprecedented economic crisis. The value of the currency has plummeted and fuel is in short supply, resulting in car drivers having to queue for hours at petrol stations and people waiting in long lines for a loaf of bread.

In short, Lebanon has more or less collapsed, for which all branches of government must take responsibility. Unfortunately, no Lebanese official has ever shown any willingness to consider their own actions and admit their errors, despite the gravity of the situation.

Lebanon does not have a president ready to assess his actions after serving as commander of the army in the 1980s. Nor has Hariri attempted to evaluate his own previous terms in office since he inherited power from his father, Rafic, and carried on his corrupt legacy.

READ: How did Lebanon’s financial meltdown happen? 

The Hariri era extended for more than 30 years. It is regarded as one of the worst periods in Lebanon’s history, leading to today’s disastrous situation, the repercussions of which make us wonder about the factors that created such a decline 100 years after the establishment of Greater Lebanon.

This was a project for a temporary, functional state; Lebanon was founded on an idea, but this idea missed something important. It lacked the pillars of a civil state which would treat all Lebanese citizens on an equal footing and dismantle sectarianism by ratifying a transparent constitution that overtly mentions this point, in order to save the country from the domination, control and cruelty of Lebanese sects and religious groups.

Supporters of Lebanon's prime minister-designate Saad Hariri, who stepped down saying he was unable to form a government, hurl stones at a Lebanese armoured personnel carrier (unseen) in the capital Beirut on 15 July 2021. [AFP via Getty Images]

Supporters of Lebanon’s prime minister-designate Saad Hariri, who stepped down saying he was unable to form a government, hurl stones at a Lebanese armoured personnel carrier (unseen) in the capital Beirut on 15 July 2021. [AFP via Getty Images]

Colonial states created Lebanon out of Greater Syria, and divided the Levant into states based on the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France. Lebanon came under French influence and was established on a sectarian basis encompassing eighteen faith communities. The intention was to keep the country embroiled in internal conflicts and even civil war under the watchful eyes of international intelligence agencies. Conspiracies were plotted against Lebanon as regional maps were drawn and re-drawn, all the while keeping Beirut under the control of foreign forces.

Generally speaking, Lebanon is governed by a balance of interests linked to sectarian and geographical dominance. Tensions are usually eased by means of deals in which no one wins or loses. The country’s official sponsor is ever-present, making Lebanon a major regional battleground rather than a country plagued by internal disputes. It is where international and regional powers wage war by proxy.

Every sect leader is linked in some way to a foreign country providing cover for his group; an insurance policy for his leadership. This reminds me of when the late Lebanese President Charles Helou welcomed Lebanese journalists with the words: “Welcome to your second country, Lebanon!”

The sectarian system in Lebanon is completely exhausted and can neither continue nor produce a political elite capable of leading the country out of recession. Moreover, the country’s traditional function as a mediator has shifted elsewhere, notably to the Gulf, where more important states can be found. This has been exposed by the absence of any serious Arab and international response to what is happening in Lebanon. France and Saudi Arabia — the western and Arab incubators of the state — have left it to struggle alone in a dark sea.

This, of course, reflects what is happening elsewhere in the Middle East-North Africa region. Lebanon’s current plight is simply another chapter in a troubled regional history as the balance of power is focused elsewhere. What fate awaits Lebanon? Only time will tell, but the signs are not good.

READ: 15 years since the Second Lebanon War, Israel hasn’t tackled its military deficiencies 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.