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Opinion: Countdown to the destruction of Lebanon begins | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Lebanese army soldiers stand guard near the Bilal bin Rabbah mosque where Sunni cleric Sheik Ahmad al-Assir preaches, in the southern port city of Sidon, Lebanon, Tuesday, June 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

It was remarkable how Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Lebanese parliament, announced that “reports about creating a vacuum in the first presidency (the presidency of the republic) at the hands of the second presidency (the speakership of the parliament) are not true,” during a press conference held on Saturday.

He then explained: “It is unfortunate to read and hear statements and analyses linking the issue of the current parliamentary session with the current situation between Sunnis and Shi’ites. This is something aimed at creating a vacuum in the first presidency by nibbling at it from the second presidency, and thus Lebanon will end up with only one president.”

What is remarkable is that such a statement would come from Berri, a politician who some prefer to describe as “the moderate pan-Arab representative” of the “political Shi’ite” project in the region.

Last Saturday Berri insisted on holding a legislative parliamentary session. In fact, Berri has continuously presided over—or rather seized—parliament since October 20, 1992. He made this decision despite the fact that he certainly knows that tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites in Lebanon have reached boiling point, particularly after the forceful elimination of the Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir phenomenon in Sidon, home to the third largest Sunni community in Lebanon. Furthermore, Sidon borders the Zahrani district which Berri represents in parliament.

Berri’s position came after the majority of Sunni and Christian MPs rejected the holding of a legislative session in the absence of an active executive. These MPs justified their position on the basis that prime minister-designate Tammam Salam has so far failed to form his cabinet; out-going prime minister Najib Mikati now heads a mere caretaker cabinet which does not have the right to appear before the parliament.

Following Mikati’s announcement that he is in favor of the rejectors’ position, also for legal-constitutional reasons, a certain MP—who is also a former minister and is described by many as “Hezbollah’s ambassador to the Amal Movement”—staunchly defended Berri’s stance. It is something that suggests that Berri’s insistence is a part of the stance of Hezbollah which confirms, day by day, that it has become a “genuine occupation force” in Lebanon.

A few hours after Berri’s statement, at a funeral in a town in southern Lebanon, Hajj Mohammed Raad, the head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, delivered a most interesting speech which must have reverberated throughout Lebanon. In his speech Raad called on “the other side to review their policies in order to avoid escalating tensions among the public and end the state of deadlock.”

Demonstrating the “diplomatic tact” that he is well-known for, Raad continued: “I am telling you to stop shouting about the issue of the arms of the resistance because it is now beyond any debate. However, if you bet once again on the weapons of the resistance, you will witness, like the rest of the world, more victories against the enemies of the homeland and Ummah.”

Of course, Raad did not shed more light on these victories: against whom, and on whose behalf, and in whose interests. Nor did he identify “the enemies of the homeland and Ummah” it is necessary to resist. He did not explain whether these enemies are in Haifa, beyond Haifa or in Qusayer or beyond Qusayer.

Given its commitment to UN Security Council resolution 1701 officially ending the “resistance” on the southern front, Hezbollah is today using its weapons inside and outside Lebanon. Hezbollah is waging a political war to undermine state institutions by chipping away at them bit by bit, amid deep concerns by the extremist Sunnis and confused and misled Christians; not to mention an Arab status quo getting bleaker by the day by the betrayal of the international community.

For around 30 years the hegemony of the “Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus” managed to weaken the ability of the Lebanese to understand the events taking place in their country. Throughout this period, the Lebanese have dealt with the Syrian security presence merely as a “violation” which is to be expected from a corrupt “police state” accustomed to maltreating its people in Syria.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise if they were treated in the same way.

The Lebanese used to believe in this realistic, immature, and incomplete analysis.

They were not fully aware of the background, commitments, and role of the Syrian regime, which it efficiently concealed using slogans such as “struggle”, “steadfastness”, and “resistance”. In fact, the Syrian regime never believed in any of these empty slogans.

They did not comprehend the real reasons—and let me emphasize the term ‘real’ here—for the Syrian regime’s support of Iran against Iraq during the first Gulf War.

They never questioned the Israeli and US approval of the decision of the Syrian regime—which claims to be “resistant”—to deploy its troops in Lebanon.

Even after accomplishing its mission of eliminating the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its allies in the Lebanese National Movement (LNM), the then incubator of resistance against Israel, none questioned or suspected the real regional role of the Syrian regime.

Nobody noticed the Syrian regime’s manipulation of the issue of the disarmament of “militias” and granting Hezbollah the exclusive right to bear and keep arms in Lebanon.

They did not fully realize the purpose behind the Syrian regime’s preventing the full implementation of the Taif Agreement—which used to form a part of the Lebanese constitution—until 2005, the year the Syrian forces officially pulled out of Lebanon.

Last but not least, nobody pondered how or why Iran’s regional role has virtually been accepted and blessed by the US and Israel, following the invasion of Iraq, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Today everything in Lebanon and the entire region has become much clearer, and is taking place in broad daylight. Therefore, for Hezbollah there is no longer any need to be overly careful.

Hajj Mohammed Raad is truthful when saying that the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons is “now beyond any debate.” In fact, the use of the party’s weapons has become necessary to provoke sectarian strife in the name of “crushing Takfirist groups” whether they are natural residents or imported to the region.

Undermining state institutions in Lebanon is a principal and necessary part in preparing the ground for such strife to take place in the country.