A very difficult year ahead for Lebanon

The Arab world needs to realise the urgency of shoring up Lebanon in its hour of need.

Hour of need. Security forces encircle Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (C) as he addresses demonstrators during a protest in downtown Beirut, last March. (AFP)

2018/01/07 Issue: 138 Page: 14

The Arab Weekly
Khairallah Khairallah

2018 is going to be a very difficult year for Lebanon. The country’s political system, its Arab character and its multifaith composition have been under a most vicious attack since Rafik Hariri’s assassination in February 2005.

The attack actually started in autumn 2004 when Marwan Hamadeh, a member of parliament and a minister, was targeted with a car bomb. That happened imme­diately after the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the disbanding of all militias.

Only one militia existed in Leba­non at the time — Hezbollah. The same resolution called for free-and-fair elections, which meant that President Emile Lahoud, who had been imposed on the Lebanese by the Syrian regime in 1998, had to go. Lahoud had shown blind obedience to Syria and Hezbollah and to Tehran by proxy.

The assassination attempt on Hamadeh was meant as a warning to Hariri, Walid Jumblatt and An- Nahar daily. Hamadeh is Druze and was close to Hariri and Jumblatt.

His maternal nephew, Gebran Tueni, used An-Nahar to wage a fierce opposition to Syrian pres­ence in Lebanon. So did Samir Kas­sir. They were both assassinated by the same shadowy hands that killed Hariri a few months earlier.

All victims played pivotal roles in opposing Syrian presence in Leba­non and advocating independence, sovereignty and freedom for all Lebanese. For his part and follow­ing the events of 2008, Jumblatt finally understood that Lebanon was falling into Hezbollah’s grip given the absence of any real Arab or international will to face up to Iran’s expansionism in the region.

Today, more than ever, Lebanon is in dire need for the implementa­tion of Resolution 1559. It is re­markable also that Security Council Resolution 1701, which put an end to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 2006, clearly mentions Resolution 1559. By purposely igniting that war, Hezbollah wanted to cover up for Hariri’s assassination and ended giving Israel the opportunity to destroy Lebanon’s infrastructure. Syria had struck a deal with Israel and Syrian targets were spared dur­ing that war.

Despite its military defeat, Hezbollah came out politically strengthened from the 2006 war. The party gradually worked on replacing Syrian influence on Leba­non’s political scene with Iranian influence. Between the 2005 and 2009 elections, Hezbollah resorted to all sorts of reprehensible acts to lay its grip on the parliament.

Throughout that period, the country was rocked by a series of high-profile assassinations. In 2007, a conflict was fomented between Islamists and the Lebanese armed forces at the Palestinian refugee camp in Nahr al-Bared. Major-Gen­eral Francois al-Hajj paid a heavy price for refusing to consider Nahr al-Bared Camp as a red line. He was assassinated last month.

Hezbollah lost the 2009 elec­tions. The Lebanese refused to give in and voted for Saad Hariri and his Future Movement Party. Hezbollah did not surrender, however. For two-and-a-half years, it blocked presidential elections until its chosen candidate was picked. Now it is insisting the 2018 general elec­tions take place at their appointed date. Still, Lebanon has not sur­rendered.

The Arab world needs to realise the urgency of shoring up Lebanon in its hour of need. It must stand behind the movement fighting for Lebanese sovereignty. Otherwise, the elections will be lost, especially considering Hezbollah has imposed an election law made to measure for itself. The aim of this mongrel of a law is to break up Saad Hariri’s alliance and split the Sunni bloc. Is this the end of Lebanon’s Arab identity?

Finally, that Hezbollah is a sore loser should be remembered. The assassinations of General Wissam al-Hassan and of Mohamad Chatah should not be forgotten. They both took place in the years following the 2009 elections.

Shortly after the 2006 war, Hezbollah elements disrupted economic life in central Beirut. Hezbollah is now organising “sight­seeing tours” in southern Lebanon for Shia militia leaders from Iraq and Syria. Is there any limit to Hezbollah’s arrogance?

Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer.

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