Lebanese circus

THE way Lebanese labour unions’ strike over pay disputes spiralled into armed conflict between government and opposition groups makes for the worst round of tension since the end of the bloody civil war besides showing how close Lebanon has come once again to a similar conflict.

Like recent rounds of violence, whatever caused the latest round of clashes, the main reason remains the power tussle between western and Saudi backed government and Hezbollah led opposition with support from Iran and Syria.

So the president’s seat remains vacant for five years running, regional mediation fails to break the deadlock and Lebanon remains a proxy battle field for foreign powers. All this while the threat of an ’06-like blitzkrieg grows by the day. Hezbollah is cross at domestic rigidities as signs grow of Israel preparing for the inevitable revenge attack to make up for the loss of face two years ago.

Interestingly, Israel is playing its cards very well, indicating the thrust just when Lebanon is almost irreparably split from within and argument over its fate stands to further the wedge between regional powerbrokers. In the worst case scenario, if Hezbollah is forced into war again, not only will subsequent developments cause more fractures in Beirut’s already broken down polity, they will also allow more daylight between Saudi and Iranian/Syrian camps in already troubled times for the Middle East.

The need of the hour is restraint, which, as demonstrated in Beirut, is in precious little supply at present. Rather than let events dictate distance between influential capitals, the Arabs need to regroup at the earliest. A bulk of the responsibility must also fall on the Lebanese themselves, who embarrass themselves by allowing outside forces to take their own system hostage and maintain the choke with complete abandon with native forces unable to much about it.

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