Almost a month after being designated Prime Minister by Hezbollah and its allies, Hassan Diab unveiled his 20-member cabinet; to the majority of Lebanese, Diab is an utter disappointment.
Since October 17, the Lebanese, and the Lebanese diaspora, have taken to the streets across Lebanon to demand a transitional and independent government, one that can carry out a series of political reforms and thus pave the way for the country’s economic resurgence. Instead, Diab’s lineup of ostensibly capable men and women are satellites of their respective parties, each reporting to, and committed to, the instructions of their political patron.
This public perception is not only enforced by the selection and background of the respective ministers, but rather by the process which brought them to power. Hezbollah’s main Christian ally, Lebanon Foreign Minister and President Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, was given a freehand to carve out his share of the cabinet, confirming Diab as merely a pawn. Joining Bassil as kingmaker was member of parliament Jamil Sayyid, one of the most prominent security chiefs during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon (1990 to 2005), whose active and visible involvement in forming the Diab government further exposed it and framed it as merely a Trojan horse for Iran and its allies.
Disregarding the flagrant transgression on the cabinet formation and the fact that Hezbollah is fully in control of this government, Diab also failed to fulfill his promise of appointing qualified and capable ministers to address Lebanon’s dangerous economic downfall. While some of the cabinet have impressive and elaborate credentials, their skills are simply in the wrong place, as their sectarian and party affiliation dictates which ministry they occupy. Despite including six female ministers in Diab’s cabinet, a record high for any Lebanese government, most of them have no experience in their appointed position.
Minister of the Displaced Ghada Shreim, who holds a PhD in French literature and was former director of the Faculty of Letters at the Lebanese University, should be appointed as minister of education rather than to the defunct and corrupt Ministry of the Displaced. Manal Abdul Samad, another impressive female professional and the head of the value added tax legislation and tax policies department at the Ministry of Finance was appointed as Minister of Information, something in which she has no prior experience. Amusingly tragic perhaps, is the fact the minister of defense is a pharmacist who only got her post because her husband, a tycoon and shady artifact collector, could not meet the sectarian criteria.
Farcically, Diab saw it fit to hand two portfolios, culture and agriculture, which are in no way related, to Abbas Mortada, a member of Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement. Mortada’s mediocre credentials and the organic disjunction of his portfolios, coupled by the fact that the Amal Movement is not famed to be a champion of either, has unleashed a gale of mockery over social media platforms, has spread doubt further, and has discredited Diab and his supposed commitment for change.
These facts aside, in Diab’s first speech after announcing his cabinet, he pledged to lobby the international community as well as the Arab Gulf states to help Lebanon out of its economic pickle, but by doing so, he might have already doomed his cabinet. For the international community, mainly the US and its Arab allies, to inject money into Lebanon’s economy, it has to be certain that these funds are not funneled into the empty coffers of Hezbollah, something that Diab is incapable or unwilling to do.
Diab has perhaps surprised many by initially accepting to do Hezbollah’s bidding and agree to be designated as prime minister, but his insistence on bending completely to Hezbollah’s regional master plan by fielding such a disappointing cabinet, is nothing short of suicidal. Further, it does nothing to confront the demands of ordinary Lebanese.
Anyone looking at the formation of the Lebanese cabinet, both regionally and internally, comes out with a number of conclusions. Most importantly, Iran, and consequently Hezbollah, has dug itself into a deep hole. Rather than compromising and seeking to exit its predicament, it has decided to confront and drag the countries it has held hostage even further into unsalvageable depth. Second, the Diab cabinet, and any other desperate attempt by the ruling elite to prolong this corpse of a system has simply ran its course, and will eventually fall on the streets, by force if necessary.