Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hope is the worst of evils

An hour and half after the national dialogue was suddenly cut short, Nabih Berri held a press conference. Saad Hariri and Samir Geagea were by his side and Ghazi El Aridi, Jumblat's representative, was seen leaving.
Absent were Michel Aoun, Hassan Nasrallah and any of their representatives.

Berri gave the whole matter a positive spin and said that the participants have to think things through and should come back on Monday to settle matters.

More pro-US than ever, Jumblat is confrontational and is not ready to compromise with Iran and Syria and its allies in Lebanon.
Last Sunday Walid Jumblat said to Fares Khashan in Al Mustaqbal newspaper that the talks were a Syrian and Iranian trap. He followed up yesterday with a speech from the Brookings Institution in Washington DC where he called for the US to help Lebanon against Syrian influence. He also said that Hezbollah should give up its weapons.

Al Manar, Hezbollah's television, described Jumblat's US intervention as a "bombardment from Washington", adding that his words were one of the main reasons behind the break up.

"We have no magic wand," said ex-President Amine Gemayel, "we are dealing with problems that are 30 years old."
He added that "God willing we will return to the table next Monday."

It is obvious that something went wrong today, and that Aoun and Nasrallah had something to do with it.

The sticking point is the military wing of Hezbollah that will never give up its weapons, structure or its decision to wage war against Israel. The fanaticism of Hezbollah is dangerous and will surely lead Lebanon into dangerous grounds.
Hezbollah cannot afford to wage an armed conflict with any local party, but it will rather give the green light to its pro-Syrian allies to wage a bombing campaign.

Michel Aoun, who is totally blinded by his presidential ambitions, knows the true nature of his new found partner but is ready to compromise with Hezbollah until a change occurs in the regional balance of power. Aoun is playing his own version of ostrich politics.

Tensions in Lebanon will remain until the military and political defeat of either Iran or the US in the region.

Although, we all wish that Berri is right and that a compromise will be reached next Monday, the truth is that the best we can hope for is for these tensions to remain political and not turn violent.

It seems that Nietzche was referring to Lebanon when he said: "Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man".

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Marketplace for Regional Conflicts

How can the national dialogue succeed when the participants are intrinsically linked to regional and international powers?

It is obvious that Hezbollah will not relinquish its weapons or its monopoly on war and peace with Israel. Hezbollah's weapons serve not only its community but also Iranian and Syrian interests.
After all, besides the religious link, Iran supplies its weapons and over US$500 million dollars in cash and Syria gets the weapons to their destination.
If Hezbollah was truly Lebanese it would say that it will give up its weapons when the Lebanese army decides that it can take over the South's security, but that is not the case.
Instead Hezbollah leaders are saying that their weapons are sacred and that they are the only party with the truth.
President Emile Lahoud and the ever-interfering Bashar Assad are their main allies.

On the other hand, Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblat and Samir Geagea represent the backers of UNSC resolution 1559. Hariri, like his father before him, does not take clear stands and leaves Jumblat and Geagea to do the confronting. And like Hezbollah, the March 14 coalition thinks that the truth is on its side. Jumblat made it clear that he will not barter the president he so much despises with the recognition of Hezbollah's right to bear arms. After more than 28 years on the wrong side, Jumblat is finally right but confronting Hezbollah will probably lead to a new civil war.

The third party, Michel Aoun, is interested in one thing only and that is to become president. And this unquenchable thirst of his is leading him to join whatever side promises him Lahoud's place. In 1989 he allied himself with the Iraqis when both the Syrians and the US blocked his path and today he is joining the Iranian bandwagon.

Whether in public speeches or in secretive conferences these facts are not going to change. Lebanon will remain a marketplace for regional conflicts.

This is why the dialogue that has been going on since last Thursday is not going to be the success that the Lebanese have wished for.

The best possible outcome of the talks will be something very uninspiring. All sides will probably say that they want the truth, they want a dialogue with the Palestinian militias concerning their weapons and that further dialogue is needed concerning the Shebaa Farms, Hezbollah’s weapons, the President and the relations with Syria.

And a few days later the fiery speeches will resume until the next talks, until the next bomb or until there is a clear winner or loser in the regional conflict opposing the US and its allies to Iran and its allies. Meanwhile, more and more Lebanese will emigrate and the remaining will get poorer and poorer.

It is unfortunate but it seems that Lebanon is a prisoner of its history. I sincerely wish that I am wrong.

Honoray Garbage Collector

Jumblat once said that he would rather be "a garbage collector in New York than a leader in Lebanon", maybe he would get that honour after his meetings with Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz in Washington DC today. Maybe he can employ me as his deputy and take me away from this mess.