What have you done with Lebanon, and what else will you do with its people? The “Together for the Rescue” government should have had “You’re alone for the collapse” as a slogan instead. The country has, indeed, completely collapsed.
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In free countries, when a minister makes a mistake, they immediately resign or are instantly sacked. In free countries, ministers have no reference: their only reference is their competence. What’s really surprising is just how many references stand behind Lebanon’s Minister of Information George Kordahi.
With a challenging tone, Kordahi claimed that Lebanon is an independent, sovereign state -- we will discuss this statement at length later. He also claimed that when he was not part of the cabinet, he expressed his support for the brotherly Yemeni people, which is being aggressed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, we have never heard him express his support for the Lebanese people, which was aggressed by Syria and is being aggressed by Iran through its proxy militia Hezbollah. Kordahi said that, from his current position inside the cabinet, he commits to the government plan (which he co-drafted) and adopts its stances. This sentence is enough for us to realize the man has no principles. Suffice it, here, to recall a poem verse that says: “There is no good in the affection of a fickle man, who vacillates with every quiver of the wind.”
Kordahi did not belie this verse, basking in the glory of Houthis putting up his pictures in the streets of Yemen. Had they been slightly more patient, they would have eventually torn them apart.
The absurdity of Lebanon’s government is truly astounding. I am not for conspiracy theories, but since 1982, Hezbollah has been concocting conspiracies for Lebanon. It is said -- and known -- that Kordahi’s sponsor is Sleiman Frangieh, who’s under the wing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah. As such, Syria and Hezbollah played a role in the choice of Kordahi, a Keserwan native, as a minister who does whatever they dictate.
With a prominent pro-Syria figure at his side, Kordahi holds a press conference to reiterate that he is a free man who lives in a free country -- one that’s even free to rob people’s life savings. With a Syrian ally at his side, he reiterates that other states must not disrespect Lebanon. All as a prelude to telling us that by order of Hezbollah, he is not to resign.
Where is the freedom in that? Where is the sovereignty? Where are the legal and illegal border crossings that Hezbollah enshrined as smuggling routes? What sovereignty is there in the destruction of Beirut’s port and a third of the capital because of the ammonium nitrate stored by Hezbollah for years in hangar 12, which was off-limits to any and all persons except Hezbollah members? Supposedly, Hezbollah and Syria feared that the ammonium nitrate would explode if stored in Syria where Russian, American, and Israeli shelling is frequent. After all, a possible targeting of the storing unit by the shelling would be catastrophic. So instead, what’s needed is for this catastrophe to happen in Beirut?
Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib said that Saudi Arabia refuses dialogue. Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Kordahi made these statements before becoming minister. Yet, he failed to tell us why he chose him or what his competencies are. He failed to tell us why, throughout the Yemen war, Kordahi never put on his journalist suit and took a plane to Yemen to see with his own two eyes how the Houthis are killing Yemenis, or how Hezbollah members are training them. Perhaps there he would have interviewed Iranian General Abdulreza Shahlai, one of the most dangerous Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps members, also known as the ghost man. Had Kordahi made this investigation, he would have perhaps been the last person to interview him before his murder by US forces.
Then we get to the statement of Michel Aoun, the President of the Republic, who is of the view that individual stances and opinions must not affect relations with Saudi Arabia. How simple is this issue for Aoun! The Saudi Foreign Minister summed things up accurately: “Hezbollah’s dominance makes dealing with Lebanon futile.”
Were Lebanese officials listening when Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened the Lebanese people with 100,000 fighters who would “move mountains if asked to”? Even the militia he heads was revulsed by this threat. On a recent Prophet’s Birthday celebration, Hezbollah Central Council member, Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, said: “We tell Lebanon’s enemies that Hezbollah, which has prepared 100,000 fighters to confront the Israeli enemy, will not lose its direction. It has prepared, equipped, and armed this number of fighters […] to protect Lebanon and head to Galilee”!
Then, how can we forget Gebran Bassil, the President’s son-in-law, who hopes to reach the Presidency of the Republic after Aoun -- that is, if a Republic remains -- on a path paved by Hezbollah. “Today, I would like to ask for the assistance of a friend, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, to be the judge [on the government formation issue], because [he knows] we are targeted” (by “we,” he meant Christians). Did Gebran Bassil not listen to Nasrallah when he gave his take on the Islamic State: “Even if some people established cantons, we would not forgive those who establish a Christian canton in Eastern Beirut, Jbeil, and Keserwan. Those are the Muslims’ regions, and Christians came to them as aggressors”?
The ruling class in Lebanon claims it cannot do anything about Hezbollah, for it is a Lebanese component. Never mind that it outright controlled Lebanon before the authorities’ eyes and brought 100,000 missiles into the country under the guise of fighting Israel as the state stood watching. The Lebanon-ness of Hezbollah is a lie, and the head of the party’s parliamentary bloc Mohammad Raad spoke the truth when he said that some Lebanese consider them an “Iranian diaspora” in Lebanon. It’s because they are.
Lebanese officials who use the excuse that Hezbollah is Lebanese and claim that Saudi Arabia and GCC states must understand their weak position ought to revise some of Nasrallah’s statements:
- “We do not believe in a nation called Lebanon; we believe in the Great Islamic Nation.” (Annahar, September 1986)
- “All of us in Lebanon are willing to sacrifice our lives, interests, security, safety, and everything we have to ensure that the revolution in Iran stays strong and cohesive.” (Annahar, 9 March 1987)
- “Hezbollah does not fight for the prisoners, nor for the Chebaa farms, nor even for Arab causes whatever and whenever they may be; but rather for Iran.” (Assafir, 16 June 1986)
- “Our project is to establish the community of resistance and war in Lebanon.” (Assafir, November 1987)
- “We are the sons of the Hezbollah nation. We abide by the orders of a single, wise leadership, represented by the Wali al-Faqih. In Lebanon, we do not consider ourselves to be separate from the revolution in Iran.” (Assafir, 16 September 1986)
Therefore, the crisis with Saudi Arabia goes deeper than a superficial statement by an entertainment TV show presenter who became a minister in Lebanon’s government because of his affiliation. So, what truly happened to warrant such a reaction from Saudi Arabia, which has long adopted a soft diplomatic approach toward Lebanon?
Surely, officials in Riyadh were upset by Kordahi’s statements, and his refusal to apologize only added fuel to the fire. But more importantly, the stance of the Lebanese state and its three authorities (presidential, parliamentary, and executive) mired in confusion and uncertainty instead of sacking the minister. Saudi Arabia saw that the Lebanese state is in the grip of Iran, which has completely controlled the country by the means of a terrorist party. This means the Kingdom is relieved of its obligations toward Lebanon.
The Kingdom has had it with the Lebanese state’s irresponsible behavior and complete bias to Iran. Starting from when Gebran Bassil disassociated himself from the Saudi-Iranian conflict in the wake of the attack on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, to the constant attacks by Hezbollah’s Secretary General on the Kingdom, to the export of massive quantities of narcotics to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon’s failure to take serious steps that prevent the continuation of these exports, or to purchase scanners that could expose smuggling operations at the very least. Not to mention Saudi Arabia’s knowledge that Hezbollah trained Houthis on the very rocket launchers that target Saudi petroleum and civilian facilities. As such, for all its insignificance, George Kordahi’s statement was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Lebanese people who work in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait were evidently displeased. These expats number over 400,000. Their remittances exceed $5 billion, from which over 2 million Lebanese people residing in the country benefit and need now more than ever following the collapse of the banking system. Despite the assurances given by the Kingdom and the UAE not to cause any harm to Lebanese residents, the latter are not only concerned, but also resentful toward the current ruling system and its backers, especially Hezbollah, whom they blame for their predicament. As a result of the crisis, remittances to Lebanon will become harder and more costly due to bank restrictions in the GCC, and imports from Lebanon, which currently stand at $375 million with Saudi Arabia only, will cease, leading to the closure of several institutions and the sacking of hundreds of employees.
The crisis with Saudi Arabia will also cast its shadows on the hopes placed on the IMF, with whom the Mikati government intends to negotiate a comprehensive rescue plan. Donors for any such plan are usually spearheaded by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait; a fact that throws the plan out the window under the current circumstances.
History will surely curse the presidential term of Michel Aoun, who convinced his Christian community that the guarantee to security lies with the faraway Iran, and struck a deal with Iran’s tool, Hezbollah, that got him to the Presidential Palace. What Aoun failed to realize with his ill mind is that Iran was already right there in the middle of his home and singlehandedly held the decisionmaking power on each and every issue in the country. It brings to mind his failure to realize, upon striking an alliance with Saddam Hussein, that the whole world, led by the US, joined forces to bring him down.
Lastly, a word of gratitude to Saudi Arabia is a must out of loyalty. Throughout Lebanon’s modern history, the Kingdom embraced, supported, and strived for Lebanon’s safety unconditionally. By sponsoring the 1976 Riyadh Conference, it ended the bloodshed of the two-year-war. After Israel’s invasion in 1982, it harnessed all its relations to achieve Israel’s withdrawal and give place to a UN force instead. It provided humanitarian assistance and donated funds to ease the suffering of the Lebanese and help them reconstruct their destroyed cities and towns. It played a central role at all reconciliation conferences, from Lausanne and Saint-Cloud to Taif, which lay the foundations of a new constitution for the country.
Now that they will lose this constructive, ever-giving support, the Lebanese will be left with Iran and its culture of death, chaos, destitution, deception, poverty, and repression. There is no doubt that history will damn those who cooperated with Hezbollah and Iran.
There are only two possibilities for cancer-stricken Lebanon: either the cancerous cell dies, or the patient does. The Lebanese must fight for their life and defeat the cancer.
This article was originally published in, and translated from, pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.
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