The price of democracy and foreign connivance in Lebanon [Archives:2006/1004/Opinion]

December 4 2006

It is hard not difficult to understand why Lebanon must undergo continuous crisis. This ongoing series of crisis, range from the political tic-for-tat we can expect from competing domestic political forces, to unlimited warfare, with outside forces involved. To get a gist of what is going on in Lebanon, one needs to understand that Lebanon was once a part of the Greater Syria area or the Levant. In other words, not since the days of the great Phoenician Empire, which even posed a challenge to the then growing might of Rome, Lebanon has hardly been an independent state.

Usually, it was run under the administrative structure that governed Syria, Lebanon Jordan and Palestine, whether under regional Arab rule in the days when the Arabs could see themselves as being a uniform region in the early days of Islam to the days of Ottoman predominance. The Crusades had a strong influence in giving Lebanon traits making it somewhat different from the other Levantine partners. Then the French mandate of Greater Syria, Syria and Lebanon only, after the Sykes-Picot agreement between the United Kingdom and France, secretly arranged during World War I to chop up the Middle East to suit the interests of the then dominant imperialist powers, helped to reinforce the Christian influence in Lebanon.

Through a special formula of dividing authority among the various factions of Lebanon as an independent state, Lebanon managed to survive a couple of decades of peaceful coexistence up to the early 1960s, when the demographics began to change in favor of the less fortunate Shiites and their Sunni brothers. But then the more deprived factions began to seek more political power and more access to economic prosperity, which was mostly confined to the Christian factions.

When the Palestine Liberation Organization moved from Jordan to Lebanon this managed to tip the delicate factional balance of power which has maintained a relative peace between the Lebanese ethnic groups, the Civil War dragged Lebanon into an abyss of ongoing problems and even the withdrawal of the PLO did not help alleviate problems. With the PLO gone, the Shiites were quickly able to organize into a decisively effective political and military force. While the Syrian presence might have helped expedite this development somewhat, surely the generally democratic environment was the major reason for allowing Hezbollah to reach prominence, not only domestically but regionally as well, proving even to be a deadly deterrent against Israeli nuisance and mischief.

What transpires from now on will definitely have an important regional impact, but one is inclined to believe that if left alone, the Lebanese can work out their troubles. While many have pointed to the Syrians for the latest assassination, even before any serious investigations have confirmed such, one should not rule out that Israel has the ability and the conniving spirit to wreak havoc in Lebanon, even by murdering its officials. Surely, foreign investigators have come to realize the strong possibility of Israeli involvement in several assassinations in Lebanon, including the death of Eli Hobeika, who was once a chummy ally of no other than Ariel Sharon. Furthermore the free atmosphere of Lebanon, coupled by the weak domestic government intelligence apparatus, allows Israel considerable leeway for Mossad operations. Nowadays, keeping Lebanon in perpetual crisis, means keeping Hezbollah occupied from continuing to compromise the now proven superficial might that Israel used to paint as being perpetual and invincible.

The timing of the recent assassination of Pierre Gemayal would lead the observer to believe that none of the other influential forces in and outside of Lebanon have to gained from such an act more than the fruits that Israel would hope to harvest, principally draw Hezbollah into an intertwined domestic battle, while it concentrates on trying to find a way out of its unrelenting battle with the embattled and impoverished Palestinians, whom it has to negotiate with now, while the Palestinians are at their lowest position of weakness, politically and economically, thanks to the last five years of broad scale misery as only the Zionist machine can churn out.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.