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Lebanon’s diplomatic crisis is a self-inflicted wound

Makram Rabah

Published: Updated:

One of Lebanon’s founding myths lies in its special geographic position and the vital role Lebanon played in the formation of many of the Arab Gulf states, which used the talents of the Lebanese to build their countries’ economies, something which in turn generated an unshakable economic and fraternal bond, or so the myth says.

This so-called unshakable bond was nowhere to be found over the weekend, as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with the Lebanese state by recalling its ambassador from Beirut and designated the Lebanese ambassador as persona non-grata. A decision which would soon be adopted by the Kingdom of Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, with the latter refraining from expelling the Lebanese ambassador.

Ostensibly, this unprecedented diplomatic crisis was triggered by the statements of the current Lebanese Minister of Information George Kordahi, who during a recorded show back in August before he was appointed Minister, spoke in support of the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, framing the war as part of Saudi-UAE aggression against the people of Yemen who were merely defending themselves. Kordahi would further go on to defend Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and fully conform to the rhetoric of the Iranian axis.

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The Kordahi diplomatic debacle could have been brushed aside as a thoughtless faux pas, had the former game show host contextualized it as such. Instead, Kordahi, endorsed by Lebanon’s own Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, went further, and tried to justify his statement as sovereign, arguing that no country has the right to intervene in the affairs of the government he is a member of, and branding the actions of the Gulf states as blackmail.

If one is to leave the Kordahi diplomatic crisis aside, the Gulf’s reaction was not merely a simple knee jerk brought about by the uncouth remarks of a washout game show host, but rather represents the culmination of a combination of factors beginning with the election of Michael Aoun as President, a feat made possible only through Hezbollah bullying the Lebanese establishment into a political settlement by gun point. A settlement which also allowed the country’s elite to continue to indulge in their corrupt ways.

Aoun’s election was not only a victory to the Iranian axis but it also represented the start of the weaponization of the Lebanese state against the Gulf, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – who were themselves fully engaged in the war in Yemen in a bid to push back attempts by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps to destabilize their region. Pre-Aoun Lebanon was a weak and destabilized country, but it had a few pockets of political resistance, especially President Michael Suliman who always made sure to say the right thing.

Under Aoun, the country was left to the alliance between his son-in-law Gebran Bassil and Saad Hariri, who adopted the narrative that Hezbollah was a regional problem, thus opening the door to deal with it locally as a Lebanese political party. This mindset would have been acceptable if Hezbollah had acted as a Lebanese party, but instead it acted like the strategic consultant for the IRGC, provided training and restructuring to the Houthis, and, more importantly, ran a drug smuggling ring targeted at many of the Gulf states, with the overarching intention of destabilizing internal security.

Many Lebanese who have considered the recent Gulf-Lebanese breakup as overkill seem to have forgotten that the Assad regime and Hezbollah have transformed Syria into a narco-state that manufactures billions of dollars’ worth of the synthetic narcotic Captagon, which Hezbollah in turn ships from Lebanon to various Gulf states. While Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have clearly asked the Lebanese state to counter these drug rings, warning of the economic repercussions which faces Lebanon’s agriculture exports, the Lebanese political elite refrained from even acknowledging the problem.

The Lebanese are too busy focusing on Saudi Arabia’s reaction to notice that the majority of the Gulf states are not far behind, particularly Kuwait. The state of Kuwait, which has often practiced restraint, showed no reservation at all once the crisis started, a move which demonstrates Lebanon’s isolation in a region which is no longer willing to listen to empty excuses.

The Lebanese political elite, including those who claim friendship to the Gulf, have refrained from taking any concrete action. While they have condemned Kordahi, they have yet to ask their representatives in government to tender their resignation, revealing the level of hypocrisy of those who keep asking for Gulf money yet are too afraid to defend Lebanon’s sovereignty against the actions of Hezbollah and their lackeys.

Rather than trying to contain the snowballing crisis, Mikati saw it fit to call upon the US Biden administration and French President Macron to try to bully the Gulf into having them back as friends. Other than the fact that neither Biden nor Macron have the political credit to reverse these actions, Mikati and the Lebanese have failed to realize that Lebanon has become the kid with bad hygiene in class which no one wants to invite to their parties.

The ongoing diplomatic crisis will not simply go away if Kordahi or even the Mikati government tenders resignation. Lebanon will never regain its status as the golden child of the region, not only because the region has changed, but rather because the people of Lebanon have been too docile and accepting of leaders who have sold the country to Iran and still expect Gulf support – an unrealistic and delusional belief to say the least.

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