A Russian gift to the Lebanese on their Independence Day

Eyad Abu Shakra

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The Russian ‘gift’ to Lebanon on its independence day couldn’t possibly have been more poignant. According to official reports, the Russian authorities concerned didn’t bother to communicate the news of its recent sea and air maneuvers close to Lebanon’s coast to the Lebanese government's official channels, such as the ministry of Foreign Affairs or even ambassadors.

Strangely, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil was reportedly in Moscow a couple of days before the incident, and it is quite unlikely that the said maneuvers were decided suddenly. Furthermore, Bassil belongs to a political bloc supportive of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Iran’s Lebanese appendage Hezbollah which means he should be a fully ‘trusted’ fellow.

By saying this, I do not intend to incite the Lebanese government to stand up to the strong will of Vladimir Putin in the region. Washington has made the region his back garden, judging by poor Western reactions to Russia's recurring provocations during the past two years. And of course it is not my wish to cause internal strife in a fragile and dysfunctional Lebanon which remains unable to elect a president for two independence days running!

Lebanon celebrates its 72nd independence day, which is now meaningless for a country occupied by an illegitimate, foreign-inspired and led sectarian militia

Eyad Abu Shakra

What I actually intend to say is that the Lebanese have chosen to forget a few simple facts that pertain to their future as they are surrounded by all types of ‘deals’ and conspiracies.

Had it not been for this intentional forgetfulness, Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, wouldn’t have stood up the other day to call for a “comprehensive national settlement” that comprises far-reaching ‘agreement’ on the issues of the presidency, the cabinet, the electoral law and future parliament.

The Lebanese Army too, wouldn’t have had to coordinate its field activities – especially in the border area with Syria – with an armed sectarian party composed exclusively from one religious sect, and is the only Lebanese political party to possess a security network and a communications network independent of the country’s state network.

The Secretary General, in his call for a “comprehensive national settlement”, mentioned nothing about ‘coexisting’ normally and equally with other Lebanese constituent political communities, under the aegis and legitimacy of the Lebanese governments. He has neither offered to give up his party’s weapons nor did he ever express remorse about transgressing the government, its legitimacy and sovereignty by fighting wars outside Lebanon (in Syria) under the command and directives of a foreign power (Iran) although it is representing in Lebanon’s government institutions.

‘What is ours is exclusively ours’

In fact, Hezbollah is dealing with the Lebanese people according to the formula “What is ours is exclusively ours, and what is yours is both yours and ours!” This formula was used in the past by every Lebanese faction that thought of itself ‘above’ the Lebanese state, government and people. What Hezbollah’s Secretary General really wants is simply to gain enough time to digest what it had recently nibbled, before the next meal.

At this moment in time Hezbollah feels its interests – and Iran’s – lie in ‘drugging’ its Lebanese adversaries and consolidating the gains it has made through military might, in tandem with Iran’s gains from the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with the U.S. before Barack Obama leaves office.

Add to the above that Hezbollah, which is part and parcel of Iran’s Middle East ‘master-plan’ would like to reap the maximum advantage from the current ‘honey moon’ between the Russians and Iranians based on the notion that many believe their ‘alliance’ is of a tactical nature, and that there is no guarantee that it will continue to be as strong as it is today if radical changes happen on the world stage, notably after November 2016 in Washington.

Wise Lebanese today realize that Hezbollah has imposed it hegemony over the better part of Lebanon’s Shiite community under the banners of “Resistance” (against Israel).

Then, since 2006, it enforced its de facto dominance of Lebanon, including its creation of loyal ‘puppet leaderships’ within non-Shiite communities, under the excuse of “defending the weapons of the Resistance”. Indeed, it has gone quite far along this route by signing a ‘paper of understanding’ with Michel Aoun and his party, acquiring a much-needed Christian cover for its ‘master-plan’ under what was for a while a concealed step in establishing an ‘alliance of minorities’, obviously against the Sunni Muslims.

As such, the full dimensions of Hezbollah’s raison d’être, both locally and regionally, have now been uncovered before most Lebanese and many Arabs since the eruption of the Syrian Uprising. At this juncture all illusions collapsed and realities become clear, with Hezbollah fighting alongside al-Assad’s regime inside Syria against the unarmed Syrian people, even before ISIS existed; with the proof – if a proof was indeed needed – being the ever changing justifications for shifting the alleged aim of its guns and rockets from Jerusalem to Homs and Aleppo.

This year, as Lebanon celebrates its 72nd independence day, which is now meaningless for a country occupied by an illegitimate, foreign-inspired and led sectarian militia, and living extremely dangerous and complex circumstances; Hezbollah comes up with its “comprehensive national settlement” maneuver only to consolidate its gains. The Party simply desires to bestow both ‘consensual’ and ‘constitutional’ legitimacies to its act of plunder and sequestration. Thus, it would be naïve to say the least if one or more Lebanese political groups accept a pointless deal that will give it nothing in return, even under the threat of cross-border terrorism.

Major world capitals know quite well about the suspicious relationships that link the Damascus-Tehran Axis with extremist terrorist gangs that were ‘freed’ from al-Assad’s prisons in Syria and ‘left’ Abu Ghuraib prison in Iraq, only to escape barrel bombs for years.

Indeed, if ISIS atrocities have managed to gift the Damascus-Tehran axis a temporary victory, there may be no guarantees for similar successes in the long run, as even Washington still remembers that Iran was once ‘a sponsor of terrorism’ and Hezbollah is still viewed by its State Department as ‘a terrorist organization!’

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 27, 2015.

Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.

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