How Iran has got Lebanon on a string

Across the political arena, the priorities of the foreign minister - who is also Aoun's son-in-law - look totally different.

By Eyad Abu Shakra

Published: Tue 23 Oct 2018, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 Oct 2018, 9:27 PM

Few hours separated the optimism expressed by Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, and the frustrated reply that came from Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement (founded by current President General Michel Aoun).
Given his incessant talk about the economy, Hariri seems to be obsessed with the worrying economic situation, which is why he wants to form a government that receives and manages the promised and much-needed international aid, in the hope that it saves Lebanon from an economic collapse.
Across the political arena, the priorities of the foreign minister - who is also Aoun's son-in-law - look totally different. In intentionally sabotaging Hariri's 'optimism', Bassil seems keen to build 'another Lebanon', a Lebanon based on the advantage of armed hegemony, and on the ruins of The Taif Accord. Bassil now believes that the new "balance of power" imposed by Hezbollah's military might since 2008, and enhanced by the new electoral law based on proportional representation has effectively nullified The Taif Accord. Thus, Bassil is tacitly working to deprive the prime minister of almost all extra powers given to the post - the highest reserved to Sunni Muslims under the Accord - and bring Lebanon back under a 'strong' Christian President, albeit empowered by Hezbollah's arms.
In the meantime, the Lebanese continue to wait for the formation of the new cabinet around five months after the general elections in early May. Many would rather be optimistic, even with few encouraging signs that the future will be better than the present. One of those is none other than PM Hariri. Enjoying the much hoped for economic well-being may become a common denominator that brings the Lebanese together.
In fact, although Lebanon's problems are seen as being too complex to allow for magical panacea made up of solicited loans, investment and financial aid, Lebanon's history, since its independence in 1943, has witnessed periods when money helped in resolving political and sectarian crises, without eliminating them.
Among these periods was President Camille Chamoun's term (1952-1958), when military coups, and the ensuing mass nationalisation of private businesses in neighbouring countries led to an exodus of capital and investments towards Lebanon. The country, then was a safe haven thanks to its laissez-faire economy, banking secrecy and active services sector. The generation that remembers this boom period says Lebanon was fairly stable despite acute regional struggles fuelled by the Cold War polarisation and its pacts -  among which was "The Baghdad pact" -  created by the "Policy of Containment". However, the "1958 Revolt" that was backed by President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and prevented Chamoun from securing a second term in office, ended relatively fast and with no high costs.
The second experiment came with prime minister Rafik Hariri, near the end of The Lebanese War (1975-1990). Again, injecting money and investing in the Lebanese manpower as well as infrastructure projects, were crucial in making the Lebanese discover the absurd suicidal circle they were in, after paying the heavy price of foreign interventions, most of which were welcome, if not invited, by their local leaders and parties. Indeed, most Lebanese people found a "common" interest in peacefully coexisting and in giving entente a chance, although some opposed the settlement that ended the war, and became known as The Taif Accord of 1989, signed in the Saudi city of Taif.
The second turning point was in 1992. The Syrian regime, which was in control of Lebanon, ignored the widespread Christian boycott of the first post-Taif general agreement. It later strived to emasculate the Accord by turning "The Syrio-Lebanese Security Apparatus" into the real powerhouse in the country, along the lines of how pre-2011 Syria's security agencies turned into a "police state", and becoming the 'nanny' of Iran's greatest investment in the region,  Hezbollah!
The assassination of Rafik Hariri, on February 14, 2005, was an inseparable part of the strategy of killing The Taif Accord, and what is now taking place is an attempt to confirm Iran's hegemony over Lebanon albeit behind a Christian façade.
-Asharq Al  Awsat

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