Lebanon needs a radical option to avoid a presidential vacuum and deal with the crisis – Middle East Monitor


A presidential vacuum in Lebanon seems inevitable. The proof can be found in the political, economic and social collapse of the country. Those who doubted that had their doubts dispelled by the first, and possibly the last, session of the House of Representatives in its bid to elect a new president last Thursday. Can a presidential vacuum be avoided before the constitutional deadline of October 31?

The facts are relatively simple to assemble. There is no clear majority in the House of Representatives for any party, bloc or coalition to elect a new president before 10/31/2022, and there are no serious signs of the possibility of change this parliamentary reality in the foreseeable future.

Internationally, the world is concerned about the war in Ukraine between NATO and its allies, and Russia and its implicit ally, China. Additionally, the United States is also concerned about inflation affecting its economy, while pledging to provide billions of dollars to the Ukrainian government as its troops continue to fight the Russians. America’s European allies are concerned about the repercussions of the war in Ukraine on their own precarious economies. All of this reduces the effectiveness of Western interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

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Israel is concerned about three issues: the escalation of Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank; the general elections next month; and the dispute with Lebanon, including Hezbollah, over gas and oil rights in Lebanese territorial waters. All of these challenges reduce the effectiveness of Israel’s interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

In Lebanon itself, there is no indication of a change in the prevailing balance of forces. The Saudi ambassador to Beirut, meanwhile, is stepping up efforts to mobilize Sunni lawmakers to confront Hezbollah and its allies, and back a presidential candidate with whom the movement has no ties or influence.

Lebanon is a long history of disaster and crisis – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

A consensus between the various Lebanese political forces on a common approach to the escalating economic crisis is not on the horizon. Thus, there is no agreement on how to respond to requests from the International Monetary Fund for loans, or how to open up to Iran for oil and accept its offer to build new power plants.

Protests, strikes and demonstrations are multiplying to the point of threatening a generalized social explosion. The police and army seem unable to put an end to the unrest.

All of these potentially dangerous possibilities place Lebanon on the brink of utter chaos. This can cause the country to lose what remains of its political unity and throw it into the unknown.

The radical option for this situation is to turn to Iran and Qatar if the political forces of all affiliations are sincere in finding a safe way out of the crisis in which Lebanon finds itself. This will not be easy, as those most likely to respond to this are independent progressive national forces acting in cooperation with Hezbollah affiliates and allies. They must build a cohesive alliance between the different forces that gives their solidarity and cooperation a broad national character and a certain motivation to take up the challenge.

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The West does not possess enough power and influence to disrupt the unity and solidarity of the Lebanese national forces that choose to cooperate with each other. There are a number of indications that this is the case, including the fact that Hezbollah managed to import gasoline from Iran for months and distribute it for free to dozens of social institutions. Iran has offered to supply Lebanon with more fuel in batches over five months. Neither Najib Mikati’s government nor local US allies were able to stop these imports, which encouraged Iraq to take similar initiatives.

It seems that America’s need to ease its sanctions against Iran has prompted it not to oppose attempts by certain Arab and Islamic countries to open up to Tehran for financial and oil support, in particularly after Saudi Arabia opened negotiations with Iran under Iraqi mediation. Of the Gulf Cooperation Council states, only Qatar has a rewarding oil partnership with Iran and good political relations. Qatar also supports some Palestinian institutions in the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank.

On the basis of all this, a realistic and radical solution emerges to avoid the presidential vacuum and its repercussions, and to face the growing crisis, in the form of a consensus between the different national forces of all allegiances, including Hezbollah and his allies. like other allies in the West. However, it is important that they agree on a clean-handed, non-partisan presidential candidate who is not tied to a specific political party.

A new inclusive government must be approved with full powers and an economic and social development program to overcome the worsening crisis. Financial and economic support, as well as oil, should be sought from Iran and Qatar. The latter should be involved in oil and gas exploration and investment in the ten blocks along the Lebanese coast, especially in case Western drilling and exploration companies stop working under pressure from the United States. .

All this must take place while relations develop with the West and the IMF to obtain aid and loans; indeed, with all potential donors, provided that it does not undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon.

It is a realistic and radical option to get out of the crisis and the stagnation in which we are stuck here in Lebanon. It deserves careful and patient study.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on October 2, 2022

The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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