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New crisis between Lebanon and GCC

Nothing seems to make us optimistic in Lebanon; we climb out of a hole only to stumble into another.

There are signs of a new diplomatic crisis looming on the horizon.

After the return of the Lebanese delegation from the recent Riyadh Summit, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, through his Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, tried to renounce the Riyadh Declaration, which set the highest ceiling of confrontation with Iran and termed Hezbollah a terror group.

Bassil said Lebanon had nothing to do with the declaration, a statement that was agreed upon and confirmed by Aoun.

The response came quickly and plainly with the blocking of the website of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement in Saudi Arabia and through a series of criticisms in Saudi newspapers, which were the harshest since Aoun took power in Lebanon.

I would not say relations between Beirut and Riyadh returned to the point of crisis, especially since Riyadh maintains relations with other Lebanese components, notably with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, but Lebanon is prone to deep divisions and sectarian strife that threaten a worst-case scenario.

Will the Lebanese authorities be able to face the challenges dictated by the rapid developments around us?

It is true that some GCC reservations about Lebanon are sometimes expressed in harsh language, but that does not mean that Lebanon has reached a major crisis point. It could, however, reach it if the Lebanese leaders do not deal properly with the current events.

The Riyadh Declaration referred to Iran and the organizations it supports by name and, automatically, Lebanon finds itself in the direct line of Arab-American confrontation and, therefore, Iranian reactions.

No one should underestimate the dangers looming over Lebanon and the whole region. Preparing to face dangers requires not escapism but unity of rank and severing dependence on foreign elements for relief.

Diana Moukalled

The current situation will not be less dangerous if Iran exploits the Lebanese arena to respond to those who try to besiege it and force it not to interfere in Arab affairs.

Will Iran take a risk by meddling in Lebanon’s affairs in the next stage and taking advantage of Hezbollah’s position and its influence on the president of the republic?

The nature of the campaign against Hezbollah and Lebanese president will put a major onus on their shoulder vis-a-vis the Lebanese people.

Hezbollah has the potential to drag the country into war, but, at the same time, can take Lebanon’s national interests and the ramifications of a confrontation into account.

It has to be seen how the Lebanese government, represented by President Aoun, will deal with the stormy developments in the region and whether it will be able to stop Lebanon from being dragged into confrontation, particularly if Iran is no longer an external element but, rather, remains at the heart of Lebanon in its Arab and regional policies.

It will take some time before we see how the government will deal with the new situation, but pessimism prevails among the Lebanese due to the perceived inability of the current authority to deal with fateful issues.

This inability was clear in past experiences and it is still expected in the days and weeks to come.

No one should underestimate the dangers looming over Lebanon and the whole region.

Preparing to face dangers requires not escapism but unity of rank and severing dependence on foreign elements for relief.

At this stage, the Lebanese have no choice but to remove the thorn with their own hands.

• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.