JNS.org – “what goes around comes around»Is a French epigram immortalized by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the January 1849 issue of his journal The wasps (” The wasps “). Literally: “The more things change, the more they stay the same. The maxim seems to be a good summary of the Lebanese quagmire: caught in an endless political impasse, Lebanon has become a failed state, unable to ensure governance due to its political system based on sectarianism. Having declared bankruptcy, his future is uncertain.
Modern Lebanon is an artificial creation of the French Mandate which, at the request of the Maronite patriarch of the time, in 1920 added geographic areas populated by Sunni and Shiite Muslims to a homogeneous Maronite Christian territory. The act laid the foundation for today’s failed state; the myopic Maronites became the victims of their own creation. Adding insult to injury, the leaders of the Christian and Sunni communities decided in 1943 on a division of national leadership positions that ignored the rights of the Shia community and left the richest national ministries and institutions. in the hands of the Maronites and Sunnis. , which consolidated Christian supremacy over other sectarian and religious communities.
The resulting imbalance could not last long. Lebanon, the only Arab state ruled by non-Muslims, could not resist the onslaught of Arab nationalism and later the growing resentment of Shiites and Sunnis. Three civil wars (1958, 1975 and 1983) changed the formula of government by reducing Christian representation in parliament, as agreed in the 1990 Taif Accord, which was to serve as “the basis for the end of the civil war and return to political normality in Lebanon. However, it was only a short lull.
The tectonic shift in Lebanon has occurred slowly but surely among the Shiites, the country’s most disadvantaged and persecuted community, who, even before independence, were treated as second-class citizens by the Lebanese elites. Inside Lebanon, the Shiites suffered from Palestinian mistreatment in the 1970s and 1980s until Israel’s military incursion into Lebanon in 1982. They eventually became Lebanon’s largest political faction, with the active contribution of their Iranian sponsor.
September 19, 2021 5:24 am
The Shia revival was sparked by the cleric Imam Musa Sadr in the early 1970s, followed by the creation of the Amal movement and the formation of Hezbollah by Iran in 1982. As a result, the basic formula used to rule the Lebanese state has undergone unprecedented change, culminating in the collapse of Christian and Sunni supremacy enjoyed by these communities until the beginning of the 21st century.
The assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 was the catalyst. Following massive protests and accusations that Damascus was behind the assassination, the Syrian military presence in Lebanon ended and exiled Lebanese politicians returned to the country. The architect of the change was Michel Aoun, exiled in France for 15 years (after having fled the Syrian invading forces and found refuge, in pajamas, at the French embassy in Beirut). In 2005, he signed a strategic agreement with Hezbollah, which replaced the historic alliance signed in 1943 between the Maronites and the Sunnis with a new one which served as a basis for the “new Lebanon”.
President Aoun bows to Hezbollah
Aoun followed the example of his predecessors, making deals with foreign powers to secure his tenure. (Examples include Camille Chamoun, who allied with the United States; Fuad Chenab, who allied with Nasser of Egypt; Suleiman Frangieh with Hafez Assad of Syria; and Bashir Gemayel with Israel.) d’Aoun, he decided that aligning himself with the Iranian Shia Hezbollah movement would ensure the continuation of Christian rule in Lebanon. In doing so, Aoun changed the political course of the country, bringing it closer to Hezbollah’s vision of an Islamic republic, a province of the largest Shiite empire ruled by the Supreme Leader in Iran.
After its “successful” military confrontation with Israel in 2006, Hezbollah was hailed as a hero throughout Lebanon and the wider Arab world. However, Hezbollah became the target of criticism and mockery when, under Tehran’s leadership, it mobilized to fight in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and to organize subversive activities in the Arab Gulf states.
This intimate Hezbollah-Iran relationship has taken its toll in Lebanon. In 2013, a large number of Arab depositors withdrew their investments in Lebanese banks, signaling the start of Lebanon’s “descent into hell”. Hailed as a hero in 2006, Hezbollah, along with its leader Hassan Nasrallah and Iranian sponsors, has become the target of vitriolic attacks as being responsible for the calamity in Lebanon. Nasrallah was hanged in effigy in the streets of Beirut, and Hezbollah was discredited in the eyes of many Lebanese, including some Lebanese militias, who even dared to confront Hezbollah in scattered skirmishes.
Lebanon is now a failed state and is heading towards a fourth civil war, collapsing into an unprecedented economic and political crisis.
Despite its recent setbacks, Hezbollah remains the sole power in the city, having built a state within a state and an essential component of the Lebanese economy, military and politics. The more the crisis spreads, the more Hezbollah dares to make state-type decisions, such as its recent announcement of its intention to resolve Lebanon’s severe energy crisis by importing oil from Iran.
As is its nature, Hezbollah will seek to fill the void and get the job done. In the case of energy imports, Hezbollah’s seemingly altruistic actions are nuanced: most petroleum products will go to Hezbollah facilities (mostly hospitals and social institutions), and the rest will be sold to Hezbollah’s political allies. or smuggled into Syria.
Silent and willing President Aoun is eager to secure political support from Hezbollah in the 2022 presidential elections for his son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, the former foreign minister and leader of the “Free Patriotic Movement”.
Recent reports from Lebanon indicate that under Tehran’s instructions, Hezbollah convinced its strategic partner Aoun to compromise and agree to the formation of a new government, just 13 months after Hassan Diab resigned following to the mega-explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4. By accepting Hezbollah’s mediation and solution, Aoun not only gave Tehran the keys to Lebanon’s political puzzle, but also made Tehran the kingmaker in Lebanese politics.
All observers and commentators on the Lebanese scene agree that Hezbollah is the real winner after the announcement of the formation of the Lebanese government led by Najib Miqati, especially since the formation of the new government represents the self-determination. saying “typical Lebanese compromise”. Newly appointed ministers and leaders represent the same sectarian equation in the distribution of portfolios and are totally dependent on traditional political parties.
At present, it appears that there is no cure for Lebanon’s dire economic situation, a situation that favors further steps by Hezbollah to replace the functions of a failed state. Hezbollah will be bold enough to blame failed Lebanese institutions for other areas of neglect: water, energy, medicine and social services. If Hezbollah tries to absorb the duties of the police, intelligence or the Lebanese army, then the entire structure of the Lebanese state will be in the hands of arsonists.
To come back to the introductory sentence of this article, about Lebanon, “The more it changes, the more it is not the same chosen”- things definitely don’t stay the same.
IDF Colonel (retired) Jacques Neriah, special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was previously foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and deputy head of evaluation of Israeli military intelligence.
This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.