Noisy neighbours

Lebanon only has two neighbours. Neither of them has an embassy in Beirut. Neither of them has normal diplomatic relations with Lebanon. Both of them have occupied, or are continuing to occupy (parts of) Lebanon. Neither of them is interested in a truly sovereign, effectively independent, united Lebanon. Both of them have an inherent vested interest in destabilizing Lebanon and preventing it to grow or flourish in any domain. Both of them are accused of being behind the current assassination campaign: M14 accuses Syria, M8 accuses Israel. Yesterday, the family of the assassinated ex-leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, Georges Hawi (June 21, 2005) announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Israel’s Mossad whom they accuse of having plotted Hawi’s assassination. They accuse the Lebanese authorities of ‘overlooking the issue of political assassinations and focusing on the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri solely’. They could have added that even in that one case, the Lebanese authorities (as well as the UN investigating commission) have only and consistently followed one track – the Syrian one. I don’t know who is behind the assassinations any more than anyone else, and I suspect we will never really find out anyway, but the way the investigations have been and are being conducted, means their final pronouncement is not going to convince anyone apart from those who already are convinced of its predictable verdict anyway. This is just going to be another farcical Lockerbie story, basically.

In ‘incredibly exciting news’ which makes every front page’s headline today, it is announced that Michel Aoun and Saad Hariri will meet and have a discussion. The fact that something as supposedly obvious and routine in a democracy like two opposing parties having a discussion even makes the front page at all, speaks several volumes about the ‘democratic commitment’ of the main players in the political field. Still, it now seems that everybody in M14 is now prepared to accept a compromise president, so as to avoid a looming escalation of the situation into full-on civil war. Everybody, that is, apart from the increasingly irrelevant Jumblatt who insists that ‘any compromise is treason’, and who is desperately trying to sabotage any potential agreement between the two sides. He is very aware that any real solution would reduce him from the ‘great leader of the independence movement’ he likes to cast himself as to his real stature, which is that of a feudal landlord ‘representing’ some 6% of the population of a very small country. The reason why the ‘windvane of Lebanese politics’ has to be so noisy and radical in his ‘anti-Syrianism’ is of course the fact that he has slavishly accepted Syrian domination over his country for almost 30 years, having made a deal with the Syrians that was instrumental in consolidating their occupation only days after they murdered his father, Kamal Jumblatt. Jumblatt senior was an inspiring and visionary figure, still revered by the secular left in Lebanon, who united various factions in a national front in the early years of the civil war, which would have gained the upper hand and democratized and secularized the Lebanese political system if the Syrians hadn’t intervened – on the side of the maronites and the rightwing pro-Israel factions, no less! Meanwhile, his son was a playboy biker who wasn’t in the least interested in his father’s vision or in politics in general, until he inherited the dynastic ‘throne’ of the druzes after his father’s assassination. Lebanon: it’s complicated.

By the way, Jumblatt, while in the US a few days ago, spoke at a right-wing meeting of think tank and lobby figures on Middle East policy and reportedly even there managed to make everybody feel slightly uncomfortable by suggesting that the US ‘send car bombs to Damascus’! He afterwards said it was ‘just a joke’. I should mention that the only source of this news item is Haaretz, who got it from a blogger, and even Haaretz mentioned the quote ‘was not included in the video images of the meeting’, so it might just be some Israeli disinformation thing meant to sabotage a possible solution to the political deadlock. Although you wonder why they would bother in the first place, as Jumblatt is perfectly capable of doing that himself… Also in the Israeli press, and only there, it was reported that Jumblatt ‘has sought the help of Ehud Barak to take on Hezbollah’… Well, if he did, he’s even more desperate -and foolish- than we all thought.

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