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The Sick State - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Did the Doha “Agreement” introduce anything new on the levels of imagination, thoughts and ideas in Lebanon or has put predatory monsters to sleep temporarily in some place or other?

Doha has appeased the zeal of opponents and has laid Hezbollah’s arms down but can we say once and for all? Just as Samir Geagea often says, the crisis of this major small country has not been solved in essence. He also does not tire of mentioning the sovereignty of the Lebanese state over all of its territory and decisions.

The truth is that nothing more could have been expected from the Doha Agreement because the real problem lies with the Lebanese, not the Qataris or the Arabs.

What the Doha Agreement did, in the wake of the mutual understanding between regional powers, was to push the Lebanese towards tranquility and towards abandoning the idea of power and military conflict even though it was Hezbollah and its supporters that were first to take up arms, still possess weapons and have the ability to use these weapons in practice.

Doha does not need to create a new non-sectarian, non-doctrinal or non-feudal political Lebanon since this disease has plagued the Lebanese body for a long time.

Even though we do hope for an everlasting peace, we are unsure of how long this agreement will last. We do not know when Tehran and Syria will decide to terminate the agreement and launch a battle once again whether based on a pretext related to Israel, prisoners, the government or Hezbollah’s “disconnected telephone wires”. Igniting this fire is subject to a regional decision by Tehran and Damascus, especially as we see the region prepare for some war or other. This time, it seems that the dogs of war are heading towards the mullah state of Iran.

However, let us not talk about the current state of political affairs, the maneuvers of confrontation between the Damascus-Tehran alliance and the rest of the world and how the Lebanese, Iraqi and Palestinian cards are being played in this Iranian-Syrian game…

Let us talk about a terminal illness that has spread to the cultural Lebanese body, which has been torn apart microscopically and that summarizes the numerous ailments of this vast Arab land.

I read the Doha Agreement, which, among other things, states upon “Implementing the law and upholding the sovereignty of the state throughout Lebanon so as not to have regions that serve as safe havens for outlaws, out of respect for the supremacy of the law, and referring all those who commit crimes and contraventions to the Lebanese judiciary.” This is clearly a reference to areas under Hezbollah’s control that are not governed by the state.

Is this emphasis upon the extension of the state’s hegemony something new? Absolutely not!

The Taif Accord (1989), which was considered a new Lebanese “pact” by many Lebanese because it was confined to members of parliament, stated: “Given the agreement among the Lebanese parties on the existence of a strong and able state based on national reconciliation the national accord government shall outline a detailed security plan for a one-year period whose aim shall be: the gradual extension of the sovereignty of the Lebanese government over all Lebanese lands through the State’s intrinsic resources.”

There is more; the Taif Accord stipulated clearly that “every” militia would be disarmed within six months of the agreement being signed and this is yet to be achieved.

The Taif Accord stated that political sectarianism would be abolished and that positions would not be given based on sectarian affiliation. Moreover, the mentioning of religion and sect on identity cards would also be abolished.

Today, the Doha Agreement has emerged approximately two decades later to warn, once again, against sectarianism and to call for opponents to vow not to use the discourse of treachery and sectarian conflict! Is it difficult for Lebanon to comprehend the danger of sectarianism?

It is odd that this country has produced distinctive intellects of philosophy, art, sciences and media who have influenced the entire Arab world. Yet there are vast differences between Lebanese in and outside of Lebanon.

This disease of sectarianism and the paralyzed Lebanese state is nothing new and is not the reason behind Iranian intervention through Hezbollah, the Syrian-backed Amal movement and others, or Saudi and Egyptian support of the 14 March Alliance; this disease and paralyzed state is a result of Lebanon itself.

The issue goes back further than this; there is a strong tendency to increase one’s power through a foreign party, or sect or strong leader. It was completely normal for groups to ally with one another if one party became stronger than others and imposed control.

When Ibrahim Pasha, son of the Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali, invaded the Levant, he formed an alliance with the powerful Emir of Mount Lebanon Bashir Shihab II. What is odd is that when Bashir, who is considered a symbol of power and of the early Lebanese state by the Lebanese, and especially Christians, sought the help of Ibrahim Pasha to impose a central authority, the rest of the Lebanese pounced upon him at the instruction of Western countries that were skeptical of the Egyptian pasha’s power in what was a rare moment of sectarian Lebanese unanimity!

In brief, when Ibrahim Pasha sought to introduce modern principles to Lebanon and mountainous villages regarding imposing taxes, disarming people and introducing compulsory conscription, the Lebanese population did not respond well.

When Ibrahim Pasha triumphed over the Ottomans at the Battle of Nezib and advanced towards Anatolia, he caused panic amongst the major Western countries, which, in turn, decided to disable the Egyptian progress. The Western countries entered an alliance to force Muhammad Ali and his armies to withdraw not only from Anatolia but also Syria. One measure that was taken involved providing weapons to those who resented his presence in Lebanon. An armed revolution flared up against him and Bashir Shihab II.

What is interesting about this revolution is that a sectarian alliance was formed among various Lebanese sects in order to prevent Bashir and Ibrahim from imposing central governance, from disarming [groups] and handing these weapons over to the authority.

In 1840, leaders of various sects met at the church of St Elias in Antelias near Beirut and vowed that they would work against Bashir Shihab and Ibrahim Pasha. They signed an agreement that stated: ‘We, who are present at Mar Elias in Antelias, including Druze, Christians, Shia and Sunnis who are well known in the villages of Mount Lebanon, have taken an oath at the Saint’s altar not to betray or harm each other no matter what. Our word and opinion is one.’ This was quoted by the Lebanese historian Mikhail Mishaqa (1888) in Albert Hourani’s ‘Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age.’

Lebanon’s politicians and leaders have not tired of stressing the consensus approach amongst ruling sects such as [Michel] Aoun, [Samir] Geagea, [Amine] Gemayel, [Walid] Jumblatt, [Saad] Hariri, [Nabih] Berri and even [Sayyed Hassan] Nasrallah just as [Bachir] Gemayel, [Kamal] Jumblatt, [Camille] Chamoun, [Bishara] al Khouri, [Riad] as-Sulh and [Rachid] Karami did so before them.

Does the consensus of sects mean in definition a modern state? Do we have a state in the real sense of the word? Do we stand before a complete and full-fledged state with a final identity, vision, role and institutions? Or are all of these “trivialities”?

The discussion is about Lebanon on the basis that it is a real example of state destruction. But what about the other Arab countries…don’t they have problems like Lebanon? Or is there an illness that lurks there too?

We all remember when Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Guide Mahdi Akef said “To hell with Egypt,” and discussions amongst Iraqis about partition and federations that would not be based on a solid foundation like the West and could not bear the burdens of federalism. Look at the “states” of Sudan, Somalia and Yemen: have they all been saved from the Lebanese disease or do they also suffer?

Disease afflicts everyone; however, it seems to be overt in some places and covert in others.

Let us ask once again: Does an Arab state exist in the full sense of the word, in the ideological sense and as part of the social and political contract, or are we living under the kings of sectarianism?

This is what people should examine so that superficial conflicts do not spread to become social and political malaises.

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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