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Lebanon: What Distinguishes Today

Lebanon: What Distinguishes Today

Monday, 27 January, 2020 - 10:15

As soon as information about the new ministers of Hassan Diab’s government started to leak, a Facebook friend commented asking: ”would it be shameful to ask for the return of the previous government?” This comment is made even bitterer by the fact that this previous government had been brought down by the revolution, and that this was one of its first big achievements.

This is not to say that we are destined for one of these two lousy possibilities, but to say that the current political configuration can no longer provide something better. They have no more tricks up their sleeve. However, the current government, which is being offered as a body that will salvage the nation, remains the worst of the worst.

The following have been ascribed to some of the new ministers: theft of public land by the sea, theft of artifacts, strongly representing the banking sector, smuggling diesel, lacking merits and having merits but those that are irrelevant to their post. The only positive aspect is that 6 of the ministers are women, but the women’s traits have turned their appointment into something negative on balance, which damages not only the government, but the noble demand itself as well.

Politically, the fact that this is “March 8’s government” is more important than anything else. It has been described as “Hezbollah’s government” and the political manner in which it chose to respond to Soleimani’s murder. It has also been reported that former Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and Deputy and former General Director of General Security Jamil al-Sayed were its actual operational engineers. Mohammed Fehmi the new Interior Minister is very close to Sayed. Thus, as many have concluded, it resembles the governments that had been formed to confront Hariri during Lahoud’s era…

Before this, it was remarkable that the March 8 coalition did not manage to form this government, its own, easily. The process was problematized by a complex multifaceted struggle over shares and power-sharing, which the rejection of which is among the pillars of the revolution.

Here, we arrive at the central difference between the 1998-2005 period and today: the weakness of the leadership’s grip, which harnesses the contradictions and interests of it junior followers. This weakness expanded their “minor differences” and shares, giving them what had not been theirs in the previous era.

This is a list of some of the changes:

First of all, the top command of the “axis of resistance” in Tehran was powerful and rich at the time. This is no longer the case. Second, the same could be said about the second center in command in Damascus, which had a direct presence in Beirut before 2005, while it now requires unlimited regional and international aid to end its ongoing war. Third, both of the mentioned centers of command had a degree of harmony with the other regional powers, and this relative harmony provided a de facto acceptance of their influence. The opposite is true today, and curbing Iranian influence in Lebanon (and Iraq) has become a broadly supported demand. Fourth, while Hezbollah remains very powerful, it is financially poorer than it was. In addition, it is harder for it and more disorienting to confront some of the members of its own sect and nation, than to fight its familiar battles. Fifth, even the presidency is not the same: when Emile Lahoud, who lacked any popular support within his sect or nation, was president, authorization, and allegiance to big brother was total and absolute, and big brother's confidence in him was also total and absolute. He was “in his pocket”. With Michel Aoun, authorization and allegiance remain in effect, of course, but Aoun is less trusted than his predecessor. Because of his popular base, as well as his political formation and past, there is continuous doubt over the persistence of his loyalty if the adequate conditions were to encourage him to "take a detour". It is true that this is hypothetical until further notice, but the "axis of resistance" does not disregard such hated hypotheticals. Finally, we reach the premiership: with Omar Karami and Salim al-Hoss there was some kind of traditional cover. There is also the fact that it was generally accepted that al-Hoss was a man of integrity. With Hassan Diab, the process resembles manufacturing something from scratch. It will be his allies' duty to give him the qualities and meanings of which they do not have much.

In any case, the March 8 coalition will rule Lebanon today as it catches its breath. The popular revolution and its demands will multiply its sense of helplessness. The so-called "international community" will, through their expected repudiation of them, do the same. The financial and economic results will likely be disastrous.

So, we are in the midst of the decay of March 8 from a position of power and March 14 coalition's corresponding decay from the position of opposition. The "program" of this decay is marching in the same place, accompanied by an increase in repression that replaces the misery of politics.

The period 1998-2005 ended with a major crime that led to a major split. Today, the emergence of those who are inspired by North Korea as a model for salvation is not far-fetched.

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