State of minorities in the bigger Levant picture

Lebanon, its presidency, parliament, and government are insignificant details that mean nothing in the ‘big regional picture’

Eyad Abu Shakra
Eyad Abu Shakra
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The Lebanese Parliament has elected Michel Aoun, MP, as Lebanon’s new president and has thus ended the “Presidential Vacuum” brought about, since May 25th 2014, by the boycott carried out by Hezbollah and its subservient parliamentary blocs which would accept no candidate for the post other than their man… Aoun. On another front, in north western Iraq and northern Syria new maps of influences are being drawn by Iran’s expansionism, the Kurds’ ambitions, and Turkey’s calculations.

Aoun’s securing the Lebanese presidency, whatever excuses are given to justify it, is yet another victory to Iran’s grand plan in the Arab “Mashreq” whose fulfilment began with another Republican US administration, and solidified, sponsored and nurtured by another US administration, but Democrat this time around. However, Iran’s new victory in Lebanon – with due respect to both the country’s absent sovereignty and the post of president – is but a small drop in the sea of Tehran-led Arab-named militias inside Iraq and Syria.

Lebanon, its presidency, parliament, and government are insignificant details that mean nothing in the “big regional picture” that includes religious and sectarian uprooting and displacement here, and ethnic cleansing there. Only some Maronite Christians still take the Lebanese presidency with undeserved seriousness refusing to accept why Iran – through its arm Hezbollah – nominated Aoun in the first place; with Washington’s indirect blessings.

Frankly, Lebanon’s president is not going to a real “president” simply because Lebanon has ceased to be a real ‘country’. At present it is nothing more than a coastal part of Iran on the east coast of the Mediterranean, and a large training camp run by a religious militia accorded regional duties which have brought down the political borders internationally drawn & recognized in 1920.

Those who do not want to see the facts on the ground, must look no further than the duties that Hezbollah is ordered to execute in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, the GCC countries, and even Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Then, follow the development of Iraq’s Shi’ite militia starting with small groupings such as Assa’eb Ahl al-Haqq, Badr Brigade (later Badr Organization), Abu’l Fadhl Al-Abbass Brigade, Al-Nujabaa etc. and reaching the umbrella organization the Popular Mobilization Forces’ (PMF) that was legalized and legitimized by Haidar Al-Abadi’s government.

Incidentally, that is the same Al-Abadi who defended the appearance of General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s IRGC’s Al-Quds Brigade on Iraqi battlefields by declaring that he was acting as an advisor of his US-backed government!

Iran’s new victory in Lebanon – with due respect to both the country’s absent sovereignty and the post of president – is but a small drop in the sea of Tehran-led Arab-named militias inside Iraq and Syria

Eyad Abu Shakra

The ‘tri-partite’ liaison

Evidently, in the meantime the “tri-partite” liaison between the rump of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Syria, Iran and Russia gathers pace. The Moscow meeting that took place last week was yet another landmark on the road to confirm the Russo-Iranian “Dual Trusteeship” in the “Useful Syria”.

The Russians and Iranians are now actively helping the Al-Assad regime in its campaign of religious uprooting and displacement throughout ‘Useful Syria’ in the western part of the country, including the northern provinces of Aleppo and Idlib. Elsewhere, while the regime’s army and Iran’s Shi’ite militias bolster the defenses of the capital Damascus through displacing the Ghouta towns and suburbs surrounding it, Al-Assad and Tehran strive to keep the southern ‘front’ in the Golan calm in order to assure Israel of the ‘positive rewards’ of it accepting its share of Iran’s grand plan in both Syria and Lebanon.

Details are different in eastern and north eastern Syria where the Kurds and Turks are playing a pivotal role that reverberates inside Iraq. The other day, in an extremely poignant development ‘The Popular Mobilization Forces’ (PMF)– sponsored and backed by the Iraqi government – announced that after achieving the “liberation” of the city of Mosul, they will move into Syria to support the Assad regime!

The PMF’s notorious record in acts of vengeful sectarian violence is well known and documented everywhere it has operated, from Al-Fallujah and Al-Ramadi to Al-Muqdadyyiah and Saleheddin Province. Furthermore, in addition to this militia’s sectarian crimes under the command of General Suleimani, the “Iraqi Government advisor”, several aggressive and abominable pronouncements were made by the leading figures of the PMF such as Qais Al-Khaz’ali, Hadi Al-Ameri et al, which uncover deeply held sectarian hatred that is surely destructive to Iraq’s national unity and any chance of coexistence between its major communities.

Consequently, the PMF’s crimes and its leaders’ rhetoric and threats have pushed even Washington to “advise” the Baghdad government not to allow this hateful militia to take part in the attack planned against the largest Sunni Arab Iraqi city, i.e. Mosul.

American endeavors

American endeavors, however, seem to have failed with a government that is nothing but a façade of the hegemony of Iran – Washington’s new Middle East ally – over Iraq. Indeed, the PMF went further by insisting on attacking Nineveh Plain then the predominantly Sunni Turkmen town of Tal Afar.

In both northern Iraq and northern and north eastern Syria, Turkey feels concerned and has vital interests in two areas:
1- Protection of the Turkmen minorities.
2- Prevention of the creation of “Greater Kurdistan”.

Given the above, Turkey has launched the “Euphrates Shield” between the city of Aleppo and the Turkey – Syria border west of the Euphrates River in order to protect the Turkmen and prevent the linking of the Kurdish Afrin – in the north west corner of Syria – enclave with the bulk of the Kurdish-majority territories in the north and northeast; and is now deeply concerned about the fate of the Turkmen of northern Iraq, as well as secessionist Kurds’ aspirations for independence.

In fact, Turkey is absolutely right to be concerned about the situation in both its southern neighbors. The Iraqi oil city of Kirkuk – inhabited by Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs – has long been a tinderbox of friction and antagonism, and the candidly expressed desire of Iraqi Kurds for full independence may have grave repercussions in the Kurdish regions of eastern Turkey; noting that Iran has already made inroads within “Iraqi Kurdistan” through the Jalal Talebani wing in the Sulaymaniyah District of the so-far ‘autonomous region’.

Hence, the last thing that the Turks want along their borders is a Shiite Arab – Kurdish alliance under Iran’s influence against Arab Sunnis and Turkmen left to face an unknown future in the aftermath of the broad understanding and cooperation between Washington and Tehran.

In such a situation, the Christian presence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon is dwindling as a result of unwise strategies adopted by several Christian leaders in their respective fragile and fractious countries; either by aligning themselves with illegitimate ruling elites, or relying too much on Western protection without realizing that interests and not moral commitments drive Western policies.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on November 08, 2016.
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. Eyad tweets @eyad1949

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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