By – Elijah J. Magnier:
After 13 months of internal conflict among politicians and the resignation of designated prime ministers, the Lebanese government saw the light with the same conditions that President Michel Aoun had demanded, without bringing about any significant amendment, but only because of Iran.
When former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in 2019 following the US and Saudi Arabia’s will and unrest that hit the country, he worked hard to disrupt the possibility of any prime minister-designate replacing him for over a year. Hariri wanted to retain power for himself. For this task, he was enormously assisted by Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, who made every effort to protect the Central Bank Governor Riyad Salamé and disrupted Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s ruling even if the latter was appointed by the block that included Berri and his strong ally Hezbollah.
The speaker Berri formed an unwitting alliance with Hariri to open hostility to the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, and his son-in-law, the former Foreign Minister and MP Gebran Bassil, head of the largest Christian bloc in Parliament. Resentment increased between the Prime Ministership, the Speaker on the one hand and the President whenever General Aoun requested forensic audit and scrutiny of all expenses in the past decades. The auditing request would damage all the politicians who have ruled Lebanon since 1990 and spread corruption and illegal wealth without accountability. Moreover, Berri never forgot that the former Foreign Minister called him a “ thug”, a well-deserved label.
These corrupted Lebanese politicians were friends with the US, European state leaders and Middle Eastern Kings and Emirs. The state is considered an abundant source of income, and accountability is never addressed because politicians turn a blind eye and protect each other. Moreover, the same politicians represent many MPs, enjoy popular support, and carry an influence that can’t be ignored. Indeed, they worked for past decades to implant their authority within the security apparatus, judicial institutions, and ministries to the extent that they became the Lebanese system, ruling by mutual consensus and supporting each other when necessary.
The Christians of Lebanon represented half of the population. However, throughout the decades, their number diminished compared to the Shia and Sunni demographic boom. Also, the significant immigration for tens of thousands of Lebanese Christians looking for better opportunities abroad contributed to the Muslims’ superior number of inhabitants in the country. The late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and Speaker Berri took advantage of the change of power under the Syrian mandate and the harmony between Sunni and Shia in the region. They nominated their ministers (Sunni and Shia) for most of the Christian ministries.
The arrival of President Aoun to power with his son-in-law and the alliance stipulated with Hezbollah in 2008 protected the Christians in the cabinet and gave them back the power they had missed. Notwithstanding the reduced number of Christian inhabitants and even the absence of statistics, the Christians represent less than 30 per cent of the population today. However, the Lebanese Christians benefited from the bloody and robust animosity between the Shia and the Sunni that exploded in 2003 when the US-occupied Iraq removed the Sunni “solid” leader Saddam Hussein and passed on the power to the Shia. The war between these two Muslim sects found fertile ground in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
During the last Lebanese presidential elections, Hezbollah – which represents about a third of Lebanese society and is present in the Parliament, the cabinet and dozens of municipalities – decided to support the candidateship of general Michel Aoun to the presidency. The United States, under President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, decided to entirely fall into the arms of Israel and do everything in their power to preserve its supremacy and strike its enemies. At the head of these enemies is Iran and its allies, especially the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The American campaign made a real attempt to show President Aoun and MP Bassil as the main reason for the economic collapse in Lebanon. Both influential Christian leaders were demonised so that other future leaders learn not to ally themselves with Hezbollah. The alliance between Hezbollah and both Christian leaders – representing the Tayyar Al Watany Al Hurr (Free Patriotic Movement) – protected the Christians from al-Qaeda and ISIS and gave back to the Christians what belonged to them according to the constitution-it also offered an adequate cover for the Shia Hezbollah. It was a win-win situation where Hezbollah presented itself – even if that made no difference to its enemies, the US and its allies – as a non-sectarian resistance group. The healthy domestic political differences between Hezbollah and the two influential Christian leaders are not to be ignored. However, the strategic alliance remains robust. America supported its Lebanese allies and all those who hated President Aoun and Mr Bassil. Christian leaders’ opponents to Aoun-Bassil ignored the goal behind the US objective even if they knew the reason behind it. Christian Leaders with minor popularity like Soleiman Franjiyeh aspire to become President and are
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