Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Nabih Berri was the Fig Leaf | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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What distinguishes what is happening in Lebanon today after Saad Hariri was reappointed to form the Lebanese government is that the game in Lebanon has been exposed for all to see. Some might ask how? After Hariri apologized for not forming a government as a result of the difficulties he faced with regards to the opposition in the game of allocating clear-cut roles, the entire Lebanese opposition abstained from renaming Hariri [for the premiership] and this is what gave the game away.

The opposition’s abstention, and that of Nabih Berri in particular, from renaming Hariri [for the premiership], exposed a clear sectarian divide in Lebanon, as there is now a Shia side and a Sunni side. Berri was like the fig leaf that covered the sectarian dimension, and throughout the seventy days of consultations, Berri would announce that the formation of a government was imminent. This was equivalent to covering up a quick endeavor to weaken the value of the Sunni core which is represented in the post of Prime Minister.

After Hariri’s reappointment, Berri abandoned the middle ground and it became clear that he had lined up with Hezbollah and its Shia agenda. Some might ask what about General Aoun? It is obvious that the General is nothing but a pawn on the chessboard as the opposition moves him, and those who support him, in whichever way it wants.

The Lebanese scene shows that “armed” power is in the hands of the Shia, as they can occupy Beirut, and Lebanon as a whole, in less than a day and this is exactly what happened during the May 7 coup in which Hezbollah occupied Beirut with weapons. They subdue everybody, even the state, whilst the Sunnis, whether traders or intellectuals preoccupied with ideology, have no weapons and militias. As for the Christians, the opposition believes – and this is what is said behind closed doors – that they are either the West’s stooges or have ties with Israel and all the opposition wants in this regard is to exploit Aoun.

The Lebanese opposition believes that its real power is derived from Iran, not Syria; in fact it just goes along with Damascus because it can see that Iran is the real power on the ground, as the Lebanese opposition, Hezbollah in particular, does not trust Damascus. Suffice it to mention the assassination of Hezbollah’s military mastermind, Imad Mughniyeh, in the Syrian capital. Moreover, senior figures of the Hezbollah leadership previously told Arab personalities that the party had suffered in the past at the hands of the Syrians and that it just goes along with them in order to avoid any problems or conflict. This was four years ago. However, since the Beirut coup, Nasrallah and his followers in Lebanon have reached the height of arrogance, and when the Future Movement used the slogan ‘We shall not forget so long as the sky is blue,’ Nasrallah responded sarcastically saying, ‘My brother, we do not want you to forget!’

All of this demonstrates that the danger of sectarianism is virulent in Lebanon. Nevertheless, this might be a positive thing as the division might help the Lebanese understand the truth of what is happening and the magnitude of danger that surrounds their country. Moreover, this division, even if it does indicate arrogance, is also a sign of weakness, especially considering the regional situations and the Iranian file in particular, whether internally or externally.