Thursday, November 23, 2006

To hell in a hand-basket...

that's where Lebanon's leaders seem intent on taking their countrymen. Two camps with diametrically opposed views, alliances, interests and intents. Each of them stubborn; unwilling to concede. There's bound to be an explosion sooner or later.

As for yesterday’s rally, it was merely a wave; a wave that washed up against a rock and receded back into the sea. That temporary, almost fickle, nature of the March 14 protests is the reason that people who argue "the Syrians could not have killed Gemayel and all the other politicians because it runs counter to their interests" are wrong.

The March 14 protests constitute nothing but bursts of activity that ultimately whither away into oblivion. For God's sake, if the murder of Hariri himself did not change much in Lebanon's internal political dynamics, how much would the murder of George Hawi, Gebran Tueini or even Pierre Gemayel bring? One could counter that Hariri’s murder lead to “a Parliamentary revolution.” However, all it takes is one look at that institution’s irrelevance in politics today to notice how inconsequential that electoral victory turned out.

The Syrians feel pretty secure about Hizballah's ability to hold its own against these waves of protest and fury. So they do what they need to, to gain any sort of advantage on the international playing field. Their message to the powers that seek to remove Lebanon from the Syrian orbit is obvious:

You see your precious little Lebanon... your example of democracy in the middle east... your prized example of religious co-existence (both christian-muslim and sunni-shi'a); I can light it up with the push of a button. And if you don't talk to me... if you don't deal with the Syrian state as the guarantor of peace in Lebanon, that's exactly what I'll do.

And alas, those two reasons: Syria's international dealings, which are partially motivated by its intent to return to Lebanon and Hizballah's immunity from the March 14 waves, lie behind the continued assassinations in the country.

As for the reasons behind the continued peace, it appears that the interests of the French and Americans lie in the removal of Lebanon from the Syrian orbit – yet, in so doing, keeping the country in tact. In other words, the costs of a civil war apparently outweigh the benefits of engaging Hizballah militarily or keeping the country outside of the Syrian sphere. The March 14 politicians also harbor the same calculations. The Syrians, on the other hand, have already declared their intentions: "if you kick us out, we'll bring it down over your head." They feel Lebanon is their property. They feel it was taken from them. They want it back.

Both Hizballah and March 14 project dispositions similar to those of the Syrians (in the sense of their absoluteness and intensity). Hizballah asserts that it would rather be caught dead than allow Lebanon to fall under the sway of the West. The March 14 camp says the same with regards to returning to Syrian tutelage.

In such a tense and gridlocked situation, where all the major local parties' positions are so intransigent and uncompromising, something is gonna have to give. An appropriate analogy would be two major tectonic plates pushing against each other incessantly until, at some point in time, all hell breaks loose - think of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The most pliable players in the Lebanon saga appear to be the Western nations. They believe they have the least to lose and the most to gain from a compromise with Syria regarding Lebanon. The March 14 camp, might not accept such a compromise however, and the price of a return to "stability" in Lebanon may ultimately be the heads of some of its top leaders – most notably the most intransigent among them.

Sadly enough, I think that that scenario may be one of the better outlooks for Lebanon’s future. Of course, the Lebanese state could step up to the plate and protect Lebanese from Syrian efforts destabilization efforts, or the two camps could get together and come to some sort of agreement, or the Lebanese people could rise up against their sectarian overlords and establish a New Republic.

But who am I kidding? I'm snuggling myself into that hand-basket, and getting ready for a long, simmering ride.


NonArab-Arab said...

If push comes to shove, is there really any way that Hizbullah and the Aounists don't come out of this having gained a piece of the pie at the expense of the March 14th-ers? If it goes to violence, they can hold their own and gain some. If it stays in the demonstrations and politics arena, it seems the same is true. Do you see any way things could possibly play out without such a shift in the balance of power?

R said...

The scenario of March 14 heads rolling over is the best that you can see? In other words, what you are saying is that under the circumstances, you think that a return to Syrian tutelage is one of our better options? I am dumbfounded here. I hope that you are just feeling down over the recent events and are not completely convinced of what you said...

In any case, I would beg to differ on one point with your analysis. Namely that the Syrians might be willing to let things slip into a civil war. Somehow I doubt that even they could be this crazy. Another Sunni-Shiite civil war on another of their borders, with them on the Shiite side and 70% of their population being Sunni, is nothing short of signing their own death sentence.
So, in my opinion, their eggs are all in one basket. Killing the investigation and/or toppling the government and/or killing the March 14 leadership while trying to avoid a civil war...

bodhisattva said...


the taef formula has been broken on july 12 2006. there is no way the set of rules accepted (partially) before will continue the apply.

we are going into a shakeup. either civil war, or new rules, new set of rules, new constitution.

while ironic, the left today (ha) and the right (fm and co), tag teamed on the centrists last year for opportunistic gain, eating out of their sowing?? maybe


Anonymous said...

A civil war is not a good thing for HA because they will lose the support of Sunni (except the Syrian stooges like Murad, Karami, Saed "of Saida" and Hoss) and the Christians except some Aoun's supportes and Franjieh).

Notice that Murad's people are in Bekaa', Karami in Tripoli and Hoss has none! Franjieh in the North. The battle will be in and around Beirut and Saida where there will be balanced forces!

So the issue is the Lebanese military. Are they going to defend the country? Are they going to have a coup? or just watch? May God protect them because they are he only ones who can protect the country!

FGA said...

Raja, I just pray that the ugliness happening in Iraq does not contaminate our Lebanon. Otherwise, we can easily become a focal point for a broader Sunni/Shia fight that would ensure our demise.

Suleiman, head of the Leb army, remains a wild card, whose nationalistic vein is yet to be exposed. But I am waiting.