Lebanon remains in limbo as its political class continue to fail to agree on a new cabinet and Iran-backed Hezbollah slows the process down in a blatant grab for power.
Since his naming back in October as Prime Minister designee Saad Hariri has visited the Lebanese President Michael Aoun sixteen times, to ask his guidance and his council and to confer with him over the government formation as dictated by Lebanon’s constitution. While both parties claim that the government formation was their top priority, five months later they have failed to agree on a lineup of technocrats to help lead the way for much needed political and economic reforms ones which would help Lebanon escape its current predicament.
Article 64 of the Lebanese constitution clearly mandates that the Prime Minister leads the cabinet formation, which leaves the President of the Republic very few prerogatives other than suggest names to act as his bloc. In reality however, President Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, the Maronite allies of Hezbollah, have time and again derailed this simple constitutional process under the pretext that their Christian parliamentary representation dictates that they receive a third of the cabinet seats. A concession which if Hariri grants will grant Bassil a de facto veto right over all cabinet decision thus completely rendering Hariri’s role inconsequential.
For Bassil, who sees himself as the next in line to inherit the presidency of his father-in-law, this veto power will allow him to neutralize all opposition, and buy him time to get his name removed from the US treasury sanctions list, where he had been previously placed under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for his immeasurable corruption.
Aoun and Bassil’s tenacious attitude vis-a-vis the government formation is supported, not to say instigated, by Hezbollah, which, contrary to what it publicly declares, does not wish to facilitate the cabinet formation until Iran gets the United States to ease off on its maximum pressure campaign. Equally, Lebanon’s political elite are each trying to get their share of the cabinet portfolios, yet at the same time try to appear as altruistic and noble, something which they have failed abysmally in.
French president Emmanuel Macron’s initiative launched during his visit to the destroyed city of Beirut following the August 4 port blast have failed to convince the ruling elite to cooperate and to concede to the urgency of reform, which is the only path available for Lebanon if it wishes to receive any sort of financial bailout or loan from the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. The Macron initiative’s main blunders are its assumption that Lebanon’s politicians are statemen that are invested in the wellbeing of their country, and that Hezbollah has two separate military and political wings that can later be rationalized with. An act of delusion not to say political lunacy.
In his recent televised speech Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, was clear that despite all the consequences of not having a functioning government, it was not fair to hold Aoun or Hariri responsible for its delay. While claiming that Hezbollah and the rest of the Lebanese factions are very keen to form the government, none of Nasrallah’s actions reflect this wish, but rather corroborate that Iran is using Lebanon as another bargaining chip to improve its chance to reengage the Biden administration in the forthcoming nuclear talks.
While the resumption of the nuclear deal is possible, it will not change Lebanon’s predicament nor will it pave the way for a steady political and economic recovery, but on the contrary will allow the country to sink deeper into the abyss of corruption and statehood. As it stands, not only is Lebanon in need of a miracle to escape its terrible demise, but this miracle has to have the support of the Gulf Arab states, who at the moment are more focused on containing Iran’s malicious regional expansion and recovering from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the sixteenth anniversary of his father assassination, Hariri lashed out against Aoun and Hezbollah and accused them of being responsible for Lebanon’s terrible state of affairs and assured that there “is no way out of this crisis without the Arabs and the international community, without deep reconciliation with the Arab brothers, and without stopping using Lebanon as a platform to attack the Arab Gulf and damage the interests of the Lebanese.”
Hariri’s diagnosis might be true, but the Arab states would likely not lend their support to a Lebanese cabinet which fosters the same element responsible for wreaking havoc and destruction across the country and directs Lebanese economic resources into the pockets of corrupt politicians and Hezbollah.
While Hariri can maneuver as much as he wants, and can bet on Macron’s initiative to come back to power and succeed in forming his cabinet, including Hezbollah, what is certain is that this will not change the fact that whoever is sitting across him on the government table is representing Iran’s Lebanese proxy that are responsible for killing his father and consequently, with Hariri’s help, killing Lebanon.