Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Embassies in the Limelight

Posted by worriedlebanese on 09/11/2006

Today’s paper reports no less than three meetings between an Ambassador and a prominent Lebanese politician. There’s nothing highly unusual in that. Ambassador’s all over the world meet prominent politicians, usually at cocktail parties, private meetings, receptions… What is disturbing in Lebanon is to see these meetings on television and read reports about them in the press on daily bases.

Media coverage
Some Ambassadors receive more coverage than others, certainly because they are deemed more important, and probably because they’re more active on the political scene: The American and the Saudi Ambassadors are the undisputed stars. Then come the French and the Egyptian Ambassadors, and after them those of the European Union, the United Kingdom and Iran.
Another foreign character has been very active lately, the representative for Southern Lebanon of the United Nation’s Secretary General. Geir Pedersen never seems to eat a meal or drink coffee at home, and wherever he is lunching or dining, journalists never seem very far away.
Some would lament over this media coverage, saying that it comforts the embassies’ role in Lebanese affairs and encourages them to intervene in our national affairs.
I personally am quite happy to be able to monitor their moves and meetings so as to see what they’re up to, and to see what the role they portray themselves to be playing. I would obviously prefer not to have them playing any role, but knowing that they are, I’m happy to be able to follow it through the local media.
During the Syrian military occupation and political hegemony over Lebanon, we knew the extent of Syrian power and interference in Lebanese affairs by hearsay. If one judged from the media coverage, they exerted no power at all and had no contacts with Lebanese politicians, except for the few occasions when Lebanese politicians had to drive to Damascus in times of crisis or to break a deadlock. The media blackout on Syrian-Lebanese relations (and of the fact that the head of the Syrian Intelligence although based in the Bekaa also had a flat in Beirut) certainly had no effect on the extent of the meddling. On the other hand, it contributed to making it more acceptable because it almost seemed as if they were not present at all in the public discussions and debate.

Denunciation of Meddling
These meetings between Foreign Ambassadors and local politicians are regularly denounced by some politicians as meddling in Lebanese affairs. The Hezbollah is their most vocal critic. And many Lebanese politicians close to the Syrian regime claim that a new mandate over Lebanon has been established, and the American and French Ambassadors are Lebanon’s new “High Representatives”. Other Lebanese brush this denunciation off claiming that foreign powers have always intervened in Lebanese affairs and that this time they’re doing it in support of Lebanese Sovereignty. What kind of excuse is that?! And doesn’t anyone see a logical contradiction in the statement?!

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