The Lebanon-Gulf crisis took a new turn last week when Hezbollah held a press conference in Beirut, hosting Bahrain’s Shia al-Wefaq opposition party. The event pushed the Bahraini foreign ministry to submit a formal protest to the Lebanese government, denouncing Lebanon for hosting an event for individuals it described as “hostile personnel” on terror lists.
The foreign ministry was clear in its assertion that the purpose of the media conference was intended to promote abusive and malicious allegations against the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The Gulf Cooperation Council reiterated Bahrain’s statement and voiced support for Bahrain’s security.
The press conference happened a few days after French president Emmanuel Macron visited Saudi Arabia, and announced a Saudi-French initiative to solve the diplomatic row between several Gulf states and Lebanon.
Hopes for a resolution vanished when the Hezbollah al-Wefaq incident was seen as a message against attempts to find a solution to the Gulf-Lebanon issue.
The Mikati government had hoped that the resignation of Information Minister George Kordahi would offer a good start, but he was faced with protecting Lebanon’s interests in the Gulf without upsetting Hezbollah. It’s an ongoing dilemma that has never been resolved.
In this phase of the crisis, Mikati’s interior minister, Bassam al-Mawlawi, ordered the country’s General Security to deport all members of the al-Wefaq opposition party.
This might have stopped Bahrain from taking further punitive measures against Lebanon, but it did not address the main issue: the GCC isn’t resuming diplomatic relations.
Deporting the Bahraini group was the worst decision Mikati made, sending a negative message to Lebanon’s civil activists and international human rights groups, who saw it as an anti-freedom of speech move.
It opened the door for other political leaders to ask for the deportation of any international visitor they don’t like.
It is not wrong for a prime minister to take sides in the best interests of the public. No one expects this weak government to stand up to Hezbollah, but there are measures to follow that can make sure the terrorist group doesn’t capitalize on the next opportunity to insult other countries.
Diplomatic efforts between the French and Hezbollah’s allies might create an agreement, but if that fails, Mikati’s government could drop its policy of compromise and take a bolder stance against the Iranian proxy.
If his government continues to compromise it will only exacerbate the situation.
Instead, the prime minister should have foreseen Hezbollah’s actions, and stopped them before they happened. The deportation was probably seen as necessary but based on the precedent set, Hezbollah is probably planning its next anti-Gulf action.
Hezbollah has made it clear that it will not compromise and will continue targeting Gulf states, but the escalating situation is not limited only to Mikati’s approach but is also an indication that the Lebanese people will sooner or later need to choose a side.
Will they choose Lebanon’s rich Arab heritage and become a true part of the region or will they surrender to Iranian hegemony and allow Hezbollah to dictate how they live their lives?
If Lebanon decides to become part of the Iranian axis the international community will offer no help to allow the country to overcome its crises.
Unfortunately, this is not a decision that can wait, or be muddled with guarded narratives that focus on economy and corruption.
It is now time to talk politics and to find out who is responsible, and who is benefiting. It’s essential to hold accountable those implicated in the demise of a quickly disintegrating state.
A unified narrative against Hezbollah is desperately needed otherwise, ultimately, no elections or protests will lead to a solution.
This is a decision that can no longer be made using the traditional political tools of compromise to build reforms and bring stability. It requires a clear policy that tackles Iran and Hezbollah, but ones made by the Lebanese people themselves.
Any new vision for the country that does not integrate a clear mandate to deal with Hezbollah will see the terrorist group win, and Lebanon lose.