Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Providing shelter from the storm – 1

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/02/2007

gathering-storm.jpgAmr Moussa sees a (political and probably military) storm gathering in the Middle East and that something should be done to protect Lebanon from it. The Arab League’s secretary general might not be efficient, the regional organisation he heads might be utterly useless, but he sure knows how to sum up the obvious quite perfectly. In Lebanon, journalists and analysts speak of axes (ma7awir), the Iranian-Syrian axis and the Saudi-American axis (to which some add Israel or France). This analysis is usually used to ignore, to blur or to understate the political dynamics in Lebanon. A journalist friend of mine even stated once that there was no politics anymore in Lebanon, only geopolitics.

I believe this approach to be indefensible for one simple reason, there are no foreign troops in Lebanon, so the dynamics within the country are strictly domestic. They weren’t two years ago when Syrian had its troops in Lebanon and a governor general who used to interfere in most domestic decisions. But since Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon, only the domestic players are direct actors on the Lebanese political scene. Exterior actors can certainly play a role by sending money, zigzaggin the Lebanese airspace with their war planes, setting a bomb here and there. But their influence is indirect; they can certainly effect the country, but only through its domestic actors (political parties, leaders or zu’ama) and the ways they react to those incentives, provocations or threats… The country’s problem lies in the fact that its political leaders see no problem in looking for exterior allies. Moreover, they tend to seek foreign interference whenever they want to change the rules of the political game.

There is of course another factor that is shifting the political game to a geopolitical game, but also through the will of the Lebanese actors: The governing coalition today is seeking a regime change in Syria, and it’s only tool is the International Tribunal on the murder of Rafic Hariri. I will discuss that further next week in a new entry.

Let’s see how the political actors are using their international alliance for internal political brokering.
Disarming Hezbollah is a major change in the political game. The anti-Bachar alliance had stated in 2005 (when it joined the opposition) that the disarmament of Hezbollah is an interior affair. During the elections, when the quadripartie alliance was re-established (between the Sunni Future Movement, the Druze PSP and the Shiite Amal and Hezbollah parties), not only was there no mention of the disarmament of Hezbollah, but Walid Jumblatt (leader of the PSP) for instance joined Hassan Nasrallah (leader of Hezbollah) in a political rally where the latter said that he would cut off the hand that approached Hezbollah’s weapons! And to no surprise, once this alliance came to power, there was no mention of any kind of disarmament in the ministerial declaration of the government that it established.
So one can safely say that nothing was done domestically to encourage Hezbollah to decommission. Only legalistic arguments have sparked up and have gained in intensity after the establishment of the present government, and more specifically in the aftermath of Gebran Tueini’s assassination. Two different arguments are used: that of the State’s sovereignty (and the of its monopoly on the use of legitimate force) and that of the supremacy of international law (in reference to Security Council resolution 1559). But the problem and the brokering should be political. Instead of negociating on that bases, the contending actors have prefered to rush to their international allies to add pressure on the opposing party.

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