The appointment of a non-presiding president in Lebanon
In the past 48 hours, the Lebanese people have eagerly awaited the disclosure of the “appointment” file of a president who does not preside … of a republic that is no longer existent … on the land of a defunct “Lebanese state.”
In the last two weeks, the chances of financial expert and previous minister Dr. Jihad Azour have substantially risen within the pool of presidential candidates. Azour was one of the names circulated by supposedly influential political parties in the wake of the absolute refusal of Hezbollah and its affiliates of the candidacy of Michel Moawad, whom they considered a “challenge candidate.”
It is worth mentioning that Hezbollah deliberately — and for quite some time — delayed announcing its expected candidate, former minister and MP Suleiman Frangieh, allegedly for two reasons.
The first is that the “party” continues to blackmail the Aounist Free Patriotic Movement to remain silent on its projects.
The second reason is that the “party” avoided the early provocation of the leader of the movement, former minister Gebran Bassil, so as not to move away from it before the full development of the required conditions, noting that relations were never good between Bassil and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, leader of the Amal Movement.
However, in contrast to Hezbollah’s measured silence, its rivals and opposition groups, including parties and individuals, were floundering between confrontation and attempts at appeasement, and optimism about international changes in between that might resolve the impasse in the midst of the worsening economic and living conditions. Here, the Lebanese people, of different backgrounds, continued to deceive themselves and deny the facts.
They continued to convince themselves that Hezbollah and its public relations front — namely the Amal Movement — are mere “partisan cases” that have the right to maneuver, compete, ally with one and stand against another, in an open field with a leveled land governed by the democratic competition standards.
They have forgotten or feigned to have forgotten what the essence of a party is.
They have forgotten or feigned to have forgotten that Hezbollah has its own project that no one participates in, and through which it has — exclusively — its own political and security calculations, as well as its network of financial and military relations, without any acknowledgment of the role of the “state” or the existence of such a thing as national “sovereignty.”
This naively dangerous forgetfulness or pretense to forget has given way to a number of mistakes that have been repeated over the past two decades in dealing with Hezbollah. The point repeatedly ignored is that those opponents were not dealing with Hezbollah as a “base” and a “tool” in a regional “project” with a demographic sectarian depth. The “project” is integrated with eliminating the concept of national borders and furthering demographic change throughout Iraq and the Levant … between the Zagros mountain range (to the east) and the Mediterranean Sea (to the west).
The consequences of misreading the regional “scenario” will be — I believe — disastrous, especially since the messages launched by the “mouthpieces” of the regional project within all Arab states under its yoke have become very clear.
Hezbollah has its own project that no one participates in, and through which it has its own political and security calculations.
Eyad Abu Shakra
The messages we hear today reek of domination, arrogance, and a tendency toward tyranny based on threatening others and showing them contempt. This is exactly what the Iraqis became accustomed to a few years ago, followed by the Lebanese presently living with this situation and surrendering to it.
Going back to the subject of the appointment of the future Lebanese “president,” the use of the word “appointment” accurately describes the reality of the situation. This is because Hezbollah, with Iran’s regional backing, does not negotiate or bargain; rather, it imposes and commands. There is no other candidate than Hassan Nasrallah’s, and there is no “patriotism” except by accepting his choice, and there is no understanding unless everyone understands that the word of the “Sayyed” is the end game. And why not?
To answer the above question, we have to keep in mind the two outstanding and intersecting developments that occurred within the past few days.
The first was the disclosure of renewed US-Iranian contact through William Burns, director of the CIA and one of the “engineers” of the Iranian nuclear agreement.
The second is the words of Gadi Eisenkot, the former Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff and current member of the Knesset, who is considered one of the most prominent symbols of the politically influential “military establishment.”
The reports about renewed communication between Washington and Tehran raise serious questions about how true the “declared” American positions are on a number of regional issues. While many media outlets reported President Joe Biden’s administration’s “reservations” about some diplomatic openings in the region, specifically with both Tehran and the Assad regime in Syria, Eisenkot said during the past week that Tehran and Washington “never stopped discussing a renewed agreement.” He added: “All the recent leaks about Iran being close to manufacturing seven nuclear bombs were only to spread fear in Europe and Israel, and speed up the procedure of reaching an agreement.”
For those who are still under the illusion that the Israeli “military establishment” really stands against “coexistence” with the Iranian regime, Eisenkot said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pressure on Donald Trump’s administration to exit the nuclear agreement “was a grave mistake … which has brought Iran very close to the manufacturing of a nuclear bomb,” before adding: “Iran has never crossed the red line and has no intention of doing so.”
These words are heavy in implications, especially when applied to the Lebanese reality.
They confirm that Nasrallah’s speeches and Hezbollah’s pledges about liberating Jerusalem and other areas are just a “virtual” background.
The truth, however, is evident in the maritime border demarcation deal that Lebanon recently concluded with Israel. This deal would not have been concluded without “Hezbollah’s” approval — and behind it Iran’s blessing — on the “Israeli” status of the Karish gas field off the shores of southern Lebanon.
• Eyad Abu Shakra is managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. This column first appeared in Asharq Al-Awsat.