After Elections, What Kind of Government for Lebanon

Thursday, 31 May, 2018 - 13:45 Issue Number [14429]

My advice to anyone attempting to analyze Lebanon’s latest Parliamentary elections, without taking into consideration the regional and international scenes, is simply to look for something more worthwhile.

To begin with, since the period of ‘fake entente’ that preceded the current period of ‘de facto occupation’, it was quite impossible to come out with a useful reading of Lebanon’s political coalitions and tactics; so one can imagine the situation today in a country whose political system is absurd, and the ‘raison d’etre’ of its political selective discretion, opportunism and peddling illusions.

On this subject, before I decided to write this article, I thought of reviewing some opinion pages of leading Lebanese papers; but I found myself reading contradictory views and pontifications in the same opinion page of the same newspaper, which perfectly underlines the peddled illusions.

In one paper I read an ultra-realistic pained view, and next to it there was an in-denial view insisting that it would be wrong to assume that Hezbollah and the henchmen of the ex-‘Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus’ have won the elections; they have only won a battle but not the war. The latter argument then went on to suggest that Iran was in deep trouble and time does not go back.

Be it as it may, faced with such contradiction in analysis, I believe there remains one undisputable fact which is that Lebanon was, and will continue to be, a small fish in a large pond; in the absence of real political and institutional life, the country will remain a helpless hostage to the fortunes of the region, which itself is in a dangerous and volatile state.

Obviously, it is no more possible to separate Hezbollah’s actual hegemony in Lebanon from Iran’s regional project, more so since Hezbollah is a vital ingredient of that project. Time has proven, particularly since 2006, that the word ‘resistance’ touted by the Party - with all different attributes - means nothing but ‘Tehran’s interests and regional project’.

Furthermore, Hezbollah has been the fruit of a hegemony that took root in Hafez Al-Assad’s Syria, before it was extended to include Lebanon. Although Assad Sr – just like the pseudo ‘reformers’ in Tehran – was more capable of outmaneuvering, lulling and neutralizing his enemies than Assad Jr and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) generation that dominates the scene in Tehran, Syria actually assumed its role as Party’s ‘nanny’ under Al-Assad Sr..

Indeed, when the Damascus regime forces had to withdraw from Lebanon in 2005 in the aftermath of Rafic Al-Hariri’s assassination, it became clear that Syria was nothing but a ‘nanny’ to Iran’s baby. Hezbollah wasted no time to unmask its face in the Lebanese arena when it opposed setting up the international tribunal to try Hariri’s assassins. Later on, it refused to cooperate with it; and after accusing five of its members of carrying out the crime, Hezbollah rejected the summons or any negotiations regarding the five accused, although it had negotiated with Israel – albeit through a third party – to secure the release of its hostages and the bodies of Israeli soldiers.

An even stronger proof was the 2006 war which Hezbollah instigated against the Israelis. The most significant outcome of that war was that the Party left Lebanon’s southern border areas, only to point its guns toward the Lebanese interior in 2008, and later the Syrian interior since 2011. It went on to interfere in Yemen too, doing its part in executing with Iran’s regional strategy which does not care less about ‘resisting’ Israel, and the liberation of Palestine… including Jerusalem!

In the latest Lebanese elections, Hezbollah scored a spectacular victory by imposing its favorite electoral system. The international community, in turn, knew beforehand that adopting ‘proportional representation’ – as per the new system – would mean ensuring ‘penetrations’ of all major sectarian blocs and parties except the Shi’ite bloc as long as Hezbollah. This is the case because only Hezbollah among Lebanon’s parties and militias retains its military arsenal, and maintains its alliance with ‘Amal’ movement. In this ‘alliance’ between the two largest Shi’ite parties, ‘Amal’ provides Hezbollah with a comfortable room for maneuver as well as a ‘shock absorber’ between the Party and other communal parties.

Come election day, this is exactly what happened. The Shi’ite bloc made up of Hezbollah and ‘Amal’ simple ‘closed shop’ in its sectarian strongholds in northeast Lebanon, south Lebanon and Beirut winning all but one of the Shi’ite seats, while the Party’s henchmen nicknamed until recently by ‘the orphans of the ‘Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus’ from winning seat in the sectarian strongholds of other community.

Last week, ‘Amal’s leader Nabih Berri, as expected, was re-elected as Parliamentary Speaker (Constitutionally reserved for the Shi’ite community) for a sixth term. But if Berri’s election was a foregone conclusion, given the fact the Shi’ite bloc all but has a monopoly on Shi’ite seats, and that he has always enjoyed a wide non-sectarian political support, the election of the Deputy Speaker was pretty significant.

Elected to the post was Elie Firzli, a former Deputy Speaker (before 2005) and a well-known supporter of Damascus and the Lebanese President Michel Aoun; and thus, Hezbollah. It was interesting that Firzli declared his stance by saying “What has happened is the correction of a historical mistake that happened in 2005!”

This means that Lebanon, after the elections whose system was imposed by Hezbollah and Aoun, is returning to where it was before 2005! It is returning to Syrian-Iranian ‘trusteeship part2’.

This would not have been possible had the international community adopted a different position toward Tehran’s regional project; noting that as yet, there are no open differences between the official policies of Damascus and Tehran.

President Barack Obama when concluding his historic nuclear agreement (JCPOA) with Iran was quite aware that he was sacrificing the Syrian people, but still never hesitated. The international community, particularly the major Western European governments, too, racing race to appease Tehran and solicit for contracts does not care much about the fate of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. As for Russia, it does not seem to mind reclaiming regional foothold if the price was rivers of blood. And, finally, Israel knows what it wants, and is quite satisfied to see across its borders a state of disintegration, sectarian animosities, and ‘border guards’ who shout, threaten and outbid, but do nothing.

Thus, Lebanon is now facing a future that looks like its recent past, as long as major international capitals believe that the Tehran regime must survive provided it “changes its behavior”, and the Damascus regime may also stay as long as it can co-exist with everybody but not with its own people.

However, what would happen to Lebanon if the Tehran regime unexpectedly falls?