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Opinion: Caretakers in States on the Verge of Failure | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Lebanese protesters wearing a Guy Fawkes mask carry placards during a protest organized by the public sector employees on March 21, 2013. (AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID)

It’s hard to believe that the Arab world could witness examples of “failed states” such as those that we are seeing today.

The state of Iraq-represented by the government of Nuri Al-Maliki-is pursuing Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi and Finance Minister Rafie Issawi, and threatening to expel the Kurdish ministers. All this while acts as if everything is fine, and that the legitimacy of the government is not affected by the explosions that are taking place across the country killing dozens on a weekly basis, but are enhanced – when required – by bouts of executions.

Across the border in Syria, it is difficult for anybody -in the midst of the rivers of blood and the mass destruction- to feel reassured by the statements issued by Information Minister Omran Al-Zoabi, regarding the future of Arabism, national unity, and the inevitable victory over Zionism that President Bashar Al-Assad will lead!

As we move westward, we come to Lebanon, whose affairs today are being managed by a “caretaker government.” The country is awaiting a new government which one section of the people insists politically represents everybody, while another section are calling for a government with modest objectives, the first and foremost of which are conducting the parliamentary elections, which must be held in order to avoid the constitutional vacuum that is bringing Lebanon closer and closer to becoming a failed state.

The disaster is not limited to the three countries above mentioned, particularly, if we recall some of the problems that happened in some Arab Spring states, not to mention the situation in Palestine’s occupied territories.

Here, in my view, we are facing two problems:

Firstly, the lack of objective conditions that help to consecrate the concept of the “state.” The “eastern” countries -to distinguish them from the Arab Maghreb states- have never succeeded in building a “state” in the real sense of the word since the 1940s. Rather, what we have experienced was nothing more than the superficial consensus of a diverse elite whose temporary interests converged before regional challenges – such as the establishment of Israel and Cold War alliances – took their toll. Therefore, the military emerged from their barracks in Syria and Iraq and left their exclusionary legacy until now, while Lebanon was kept under control with difficulty, thanks to foreign intervention, until 1975.

As for the second problem, which is connected to the first, relates to the societies in question, where the spirit of citizenship remains weak, and in many cases, totally absent. After a period of “openness” over the past three decades of the Cold War when we experienced a surge in the popularity of nationalist aspirations and the discourse of class struggle, we witnessed a return to past loyalties.

Such a retreat was only natural either within the domains of ethnicity, tribalism and sectarianism, or the adoption of the religious alternative, in light of the distortion of nationalism by sectarian and clannish leaderships, and the collapse of the Soviet Union as a political model for the left-wing.

Today, following the Arab Spring and its challenges, and taking into account the regional presence of non-Arab forces, we find that these ‘eastern” countries are under threat of disintegrating. This is nothing more than a logical consequence of the failure of the state. As for an obvious example of this failure let us contemplate the throes of the formation of the future Lebanese government against the backdrop of the Lebanese state’s intention to raise the issue of Syrian “violations” in the far north-east of the country to the Arab League.

Hajj Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, said during a speech last week that the interests of the country require benefiting from past mistakes and the formation of a government, although he said this need not be a national unity government because some people are provoked by this, fearing the issue of the one-third veto. He added that his bloc insists upon a government of “national partnership”, namely a government that represents all parties, in addition to Lebanon’s affairs being managed by an “integrated vision” that should be in the national interest. He emphasized that this is precisely what the prime minister designate called for, and Lebanese national interests requires.

MP Raad did not specify, however, who was responsible for these “past mistakes”, and whether these included the coup led by Hezbollah against the Doha Agreement. He also failed to clarify the meaning of “national partnership”, especially, when the party calling for this excels at levelling accusations of treason and betrayal of the “Resistance” at others. In addition to this, the fair representation of all these diverse parties – as called for by Raad – deserves contemplation, because it is important to recall that some of these have an inflated presence due to their arms monopoly, and that the presence of other players were in turn increased by others who strengthened themselves by force of arms.

Finally, expressions like an “integrated vision” and “national unity” recall a number of truths. These include the fact that an “integrated vision” in Lebanon would have to be connected with the regional and international situation, while Hezbollah’s affinities and loyalties are well-known, and perhaps the “jihadist duty” that pushes the party to fight in Syria is part of this.

This also raises the issue of Syria’s border “violations”, in light of the Free Syrian Army’s bombardment of some villages in Hermel (in the far north of Lebanon).

The Lebanese authorities defending the sovereignty of Lebanese territory is an essential and necessary issue, but what is strange is that these violations did not see complaints being raised to the Arab League when Syrian regime forces targeted the Akkar region (in north Lebanon), and Arsal and its environs (in the northeast).

Failed states? Yes, unfortunately, they are truly failed states.