All bets off for Lebanon after Hariri’s withdrawal


All bets off for Lebanon after Hariri’s withdrawal

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib, on his way to the meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Kuwait, said: “I am not going there to hand over the weapons of Hezbollah. If he was going to deliver only flowery language and empty words, it was better that he had never been there.

Lebanon cannot respond positively to Arab demands to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559 – which calls, among other things, for the disarmament of Hezbollah – because it has long since renounced its sovereignty, becoming a mere pawn in Iran’s regional aggressiveness. Lebanon does not have a government capable of making independent decisions. Indeed, last week’s Cabinet meeting after months of Hezbollah-imposed paralysis was described as a miracle worthy of a frenzied national celebration.

Bou Habib cites “civil peace” to justify non-implementation of Resolution 1559 – that is, if someone tries to disarm Hezbollah, there will be a civil war. He is right: Hassan Nasrallah openly threatens to wage war on those who challenge Hezbollah. Yet war looms both ways, for if Hezbollah consolidates its creeping coup, it risks sparking an even more devastating regional confrontation with Israel. Just visit Beirut and you will find that the war has long since begun – a brutal war of attrition and starvation, waged by the state against its citizens, which could ultimately result in a higher death toll than the worst that Israel can do.

Let Bou Habib dig deep into the reservoirs of his modest command of the Arabic language to try to dazzle his regional counterparts with absurd poetry – the stage is set for the deepest of deep freezes in Arab-Lebanese relations, because the Lebanese leaders, through their deliberate actions, have imprisoned themselves and their citizens in a dying entity that no longer even resembles an Arab state.

Announcing the political earthquake of his retirement from politics last week, Saad Hariri said there were no positive outcomes possible in a reality characterized by “Iranian influence, international confusion, national divisions , sectarianism and a weak state”. He acknowledged that the public now saw him only as part of a failing and discredited political class.

Hariri’s desperation did not manifest suddenly: in 2019, when I last met him, it was easy to detect the burning frustrations of a man who had tried all the tricks of the political book to marry his deep belief in Arab nationalism, inherited from his father, with the realities of Lebanese political life dominated by a faction tearing apart the country’s social fabric and sovereignty at the behest of a hostile foreign power.

This year’s elections in Lebanon are the best opportunity for voters to punish politicians who have betrayed their nation.

Baria Alamuddin

According to the World Bank, Lebanon’s gross domestic product fell from around $52 billion in 2019 to around $22 billion in 2021, the biggest financial crisis in the world. The one area that has flourished has been Hezbollah’s involvement in the regional narcotics trade. Meanwhile, the relative cost of living has paradoxically soared, making bankrupt Beirut one of the most expensive places to live on the planet – with commodity prices often up to 40% higher. than even New York.

Many of us have long argued that this year’s elections are the best opportunity for voters to punish politicians who have betrayed their nation, but many Lebanese fear what could replace Hariri’s Future Movement. I would like to believe that these seats will be taken by young progressives who represent the values ​​of the 2019 uprising, but these political currents remain embryonic and there is a danger that opportunists could capture the vote. Hezbollah is already vetting Sunni candidates it could buy. Bahaa Hariri speaks of continuing his father’s journey, but who is Bahaa other than a prestigious surname in a political system overflowing with non-entities, whose only trump card is their status as corrupt offspring of former warlords and eminences?

President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil have spent the past few months seeking to delay or cancel elections, knowing that their fatally discredited Free Patriotic Movement will hemorrhage seats. The absence of a credible representative of the Sunni communities can offer them a golden pretext to abort the democratic process in a selfish way.

Hariri’s withdrawal sends the ball into the Lebanese citizens’ court. The Lebanese political class is the problem. It’s not that they don’t have solutions to Lebanon’s perfect storm of crises, but rather that they are actively blocking solutions to protect their interests. Thus, the World Bank in its latest report, “The Great Denial”, refers to a “deliberate depression” inflicted by this kleptocratic political class and a moribund sectarian system.

Citizens must not only demand that elections be held on time, they must also collaborate across sectarian and factional divides to support candidates who represent a clean break from the corrupt status quo. If they fail to do so, it will be Nasrallah and Bassil who will seize the initiative by sabotaging the democratic system and filling the vacuum created by Hariri’s disappearance with the worst of the worst.

When starving citizens endure a freezing winter with no power, no jobs, no hospitals, no opportunity, no nothing, it’s easy to be apathetic. But it is precisely because of this hellish situation that citizens must punish those responsible and act decisively for radical change. There is no earthly need for Lebanon to be a bankrupt, bankrupt narco state, except that some of its leaders want it to be. I write these words with a heavy heart – but a determination to remain optimistic, for the good of Lebanon and the infinitely resourceful Lebanese people.

Hariri’s refusal to continue participating in this political farce has shown the way forward, not only for Sunnis but also for Christians, Shiites, Druze and others: as long as you vote for the same faces, you will always get exactly the same results.

The political earthquake of Hariri’s withdrawal must be followed by a social tsunami, as citizens expel all those who betrayed them, restore their nation’s sovereignty and reopen its doors to the Arab region and the world. Let’s not just pray for a miracle — let’s make that miracle happen!

  • Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is the editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed many heads of state.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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