A government in exile could give hope to the Lebanese
On June 18, 1940, Gen. Charles de Gaulle made his famous radio appeal from London after the French Army was defeated at the start of the Second World War. It was the beginning of the French Resistance against Nazi occupation. He stood against the French Vichy government, which collaborated with the Nazis and became a client state. Today, any government in Lebanon is a “Vichy government” and the politicians have all become collaborators with the Iranian regime and its “high commissioner” in Lebanon: Hezbollah.
As the country is being ravaged by the current occupation by Hezbollah and Iran following decades of Syrian occupation, I cannot help but wonder that shouldn’t it be time for a Lebanese leader to call for true resistance as De Gaulle did? Isn’t it time, as on the ground nothing can change, for a government in exile to be formed and an appeal made for all Lebanese to resist this occupation and its destruction of their country?
It is now clear, with the disappointing failure of the latest French initiative, that Hezbollah will not allow the formation of any government that has the capacity to question its actions — or, more precisely, that it does not completely control. Lebanon will continue to disintegrate into chaos while Iran gambles on a Joe Biden administration to formalize and legitimize its occupation. On the ground, no influential political voice will be left standing if it acts against Hezbollah’s plan.
Yet, as we always wonder in election years, how will the next US president impact the Middle East? It is also time to understand that the US looks for strong allies. It cannot save Lebanon unless there are voices ready to fight and to resist. It is also important for the Lebanese not to be a tool or an accessory to any foreign influence. As a small country, it cannot be taken hostage as global powers and Middle Eastern powers fight. Our interests are in our citizens and the prosperity of the country — nothing more and nothing less. In this sense, former French President Jacques Chirac, who loved Lebanon and had pure intentions for the country, misguided Saad Hariri on France’s capacity to impose regional changes and this miscalculation accelerated Hezbollah’s control of the country in 2008. The Lebanese should not make the same mistake twice.
Nevertheless, the Lebanese need to be attached to the strong values of freedom and fraternity that can make the country prosper. People from all minorities need to feel free, protected and with the capacity to achieve whatever they set their mind to — not through emigration, but in their own country.
Today, it is quite amusing and like a tragedy seeing leading politicians discuss the distribution of government ministries while the entire country is on fire and disintegrating before our eyes. It seems like a passenger on the Titanic complaining about the frosting on his cake as the boat sinks, but in fact it is only an act.
In a televised speech on Tuesday, Hassan Nasrallah first got sidetracked by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration at the UN that Hezbollah hides its weapons next to a gas company and close to residential areas. This shows that he knows that most Lebanese are at odds with his actions. His justification on this point will not change their minds, even if they cannot all say it out loud: They all know he is responsible for where Lebanon is today. This is not a real resistance to Israel but a calculated hegemony and invasion of the Middle East.
When the Hezbollah secretary-general went on to discuss the French initiative, it was also amusing and like a tragedy to see him purposely complicate the formation of the government and pretend he has limited influence on it, while at the same time “modestly” insisting on unmovable conditions. It is the same game all the politicians play to work out formulas and complicate the process as a sign of their general unwillingness to allow change and reform.
These endless and pointless discussions are designed to make everyone believe that these are complicated and difficult negotiations, misleading the Lebanese into debating useless details and making them forget the main and important truth: Lebanon is under occupation. Lebanon is no longer a free country. The Lebanese state is a client state to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the mullahs’ regime. Instead of questioning this, people in the streets are asking: Will they be able to form a government? Who will get more ministries? Well the answer is: All the ministries, the government and the president are Iran’s.
The Iranian support is not the only reason for Hezbollah’s pre-eminence and the chaos we see today. The Lebanese Sunni community’s weakness and lack of consistency is also to blame. Even when they try to make their voices heard, it comes in the form of an elitist vision emanating from former prime ministers and not from the people. This Sunni weakness in a country where the balance of power between all minorities is what keeps it going has allowed for more greed among the other minorities. This is the fate of any sectarian structure. This means that any change in the balance of power directly impacts the country’s stability.
In the 1970s, the Christian minority was weakening in the face of rising demands from the Muslim, mainly Sunni, voices under the flag of the Palestinian and Arab resistance against Israel. Today, we are witnessing a similar situation, with a weakening Sunni political force and rising demands from the Shiite community under the flag of Iran and Hezbollah’s so-called resistance against Israel. In the 1970s, this was the start of a decade-long civil war, whose lessons seems to have been forgotten; while for the millennials that have never known this, we see the gamification of violence. The current regime is like a tightrope walker: As soon as the balance of power changes, it falls into violence and chaos. It cannot accept proper reform.
It is now clear that Hezbollah will not allow the formation of any government that it does not completely control.
Khaled Abou Zahr
I therefore believe that decentralization can be a unique solution to stop the country building on shifting sands and the rule of clans. Each minority needs to have the same rights and protections. This is the duty of a federal government, without stepping into the details. As for now, one may ask what is next for Lebanon? Will we see a new Lebanon born out of this chaos and rise from this occupation? Will the country be changed forever?
One thing is sure: A new Lebanon cannot come to life under the oppression of Hezbollah. Therefore, we need a new voice to rise from anywhere in the world that gives hope back to the Lebanese. It is maybe even time for a government in exile to be formed and to start paving the road for a better future for all.
The Lebanese need an appeal that says: Even if the battle is lost, the war is not, and that Lebanon has friends in all the capitals of the world that will help them take back control of their country. Oppression, no matter how ruthless and mighty it may seem, cannot last forever. Today, as President Emmanuel Macron understands very well, it is not only about the fate of Lebanon, but the entire world because this is what a symbol does: It indicates ahead of time how the world will change.
- Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.