Thursday, November 17, 2005

Iran and Lebanon - Regional Politics vs. Sovereignty

I remember reading a comment once, in a Lebanese blog during the height of the protests and demonstrations that led to Lebanon's Second Independence. The commenter basically said:

Considering how much Lebanon's fate depends on foreign powers, it is amazing how little they discuss of regional developments and political intrigues in other countries.

That comment haunts me to this day, and will probably do so for a long time. For although no country is isolated from the rest of the world, Lebanon is unique in ways that are obvious to all Lebanese. And because of this unfortunate reality, an entry by the Unfrozen Caveman Linguist and an article Tony referred to in the comment section of that entry struck me to a degree that I did not expect.

The topic was Iran - specifically, recent developments at the level of Iran's political elite. In short, some Western analysts believe that an extreme hard-line clique with allegiance to either ultra-conservative clerics, or the Revolutionary Guard itself is gradually but surely replacing the relatively pragmatic cluster of clerics who have ruled the country since the revolution. The analyses refer to:

  • The Iranian president's recent recall of over 50 ambassadors
  • Ahmedinejad's firing of a similar number of high ranking civil servants for "corruption"
  • and, unusual public complaints by former president Rafsanjani about Ahmedinejad's behavior

The hypothesis that scares me most is the one that claims that Revolutionary Guards have essentially conducted a silent coup d'etat against the clerics (refer to Tony's article), who they percieve to be too corrupt and soft. It scares me because I wonder what the consequences of such a development would be for the region and for Lebanon (Hizballah). I wonder for how long Hizballah will remain confrontational if such a political environment in Iran persists. I wonder if Hizballah will ever be allowed to disarm and evolve into an exclusively civilian and Lebanese player rather than a regional, military organization that is under Tehran's control.

In my previous entry, where I described the interview between MP Ali Ammar and Minister Ahmad Fatfat, I expressed my strong opinion that although a necessary component of sovereign states, Generals should never be given a free reign to do as they please because they are one dimensional and trained to utilize force to achieve political objectives. At the time, I was referring to Hizballah. Now it appears that the Generals may have taken over Iran itself! If indeed that is the case, then I am afraid of what awaits us in the near future.

A far-fetched solution that I have recommended for Lebanon is to incorporate Hizballah's military component into the Lebanese State. The explicit reason I have provided thus far, was to place Hizballah's military wing in its proper place - i.e. to subordinate it to Lebanon's political elite. Now though, given this new information and recent developments, I will provide another explicit reason: Hizballah's officers and soldiers must fight and die for Lebanon alone, not Iran or any other sovereign entity.

Yesterday, for example, Berri claimed that Hizballah would remain armed until Israel started respecting United Nations Resolutions. Since when did Lebanese accept to become enforcers of UN Resolutions? Who was Berri speaking for when he made that ridiculous claim? I thought Hizballah was fighting for the Sheb'aa Farms and for the freedom of Lebanese detainees in Israel!

In the final analysis, I will return to where I started: that ominous comment. For it appears that Lebanon's best protection against the designs of other states is its much-derided political process. If the Saudis want something for example, Hariri may say that he'd also like to see that happen, but "there's that darned political process" that he has to go through, and results cannot be guaranteed. The same goes for Hizballah and Iran (although, I'm not too sure how frequently Nasrallah has used that argument).

Consequently, I believe that this obsession with internal politics that Lebanese harbor is somewhat of a blessing in disguise. At the very least, doing so is much healthier than simply turning our heads away from each other and observing political developments in other countries that we feel may affect or influence us in one way or another. The different parties are thus forced to deliberate, and consequently arrive at middle grounds that one may even refer to as 'Lebanese ground.'

Had it not been for this process, I doubt the guns would still be silent today. Politics, although "dirty" and "unprincipled" at least keeps the peace!

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