Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lebanon's Cycle

The obsession between the government and opposition to appear victors in this race has led this country into a stagnant stalemate without any chance of progress. There wasn’t any local, regional, or international initiative to allow both bourgeoisie camp leaders to reach a mutual face save deal, and hence the country is trapped in a time frame while the Proletariat suffer.

Last year, when Pierre Gemayel was assassinated, the emotions of the duality reactionary camps were exploding to the extent riots broke up with Christians belonging to the Pro-Opposition and Pro-Government almost beating each other. One week later, on December 1st, the opposition launched the largest protest in the history of Lebanon, and the government remained standing. By late January of 2007, tension was high, the country almost entered a civil war. Two separate events broke out in January that almost dragged the country to immense bloodshed. The first was when the opposition decided to perform civil disobedience and swore to remain active till the government resigns, and the second would be the Arab University incident whereby one unknown sniper shot students whereby riots broke out (which caused Hassan Nasrallah to issue a direct fatwa telling the Shiites to remain home while Saad Harriri begged his audience the same).

We can consider January 2007 the verge of a civil war which the sect leaders clearly didn’t want to enter, nor their sponsors. The media played a massive role in igniting the masses into sect mobilization against each other (Shiite – Christian versus Durzi – Christian – Sunni coalitions). Yet, the leaders didn’t want a civil war, which I would definitely consider a good thing. However, this deadlock between the government and the opposition didn’t change anything, instead it made things worse for the people.

While the media remained charging the different groups against each other, the leaders remained failing to achieve what they promised their sect herds. A large faction of the people, just as anticipated, has lost hope with the future of their country. This means more and more people see their future outside Lebanon. The government and the opposition has disgusted people more and more just as collisions remain standing. Actually everything that happens, the government and the opposition try to take credit for. When the war with terror broke out at Nahr el Bared, the opposition and government remained accusing each other to the extent each called the other bluntly: “of funding Fatah Islam”.

The cycle became so monotonous that even the political assassinations seized to do any impacts because again people are simply fed up. The crowd for Pierre Gemayel, George Hawwi, and Samir Qassir for example were much larger than Antoine Ghanem, Walid Eido, and General Francois Hajj. The mobilizations in the earlier assassinations were more powerful than this year. This year though, towards the middle of it, witnessed media blackout in different location. Whenever riots broke out between the two camps, media didn’t emphasize on them as they used to in December/January. Now of course, we always have the exceptional comical figures like We’am Wahhab threatening the government with annihilation whenever he wants.

Hence, we reach the political void we all anticipated, the deadlock without a way out. The opposition insisted on having head of the army Imad Suleiman as head of the nation state, only to be rejected by the government since they insisted that anyone is welcomed to be a president as long as he/she are part of the 14th of March coalition. When the Syrian installed president Lahoud declined, and Michel Suleiman refused to comply with the president’s orders of imposing Martial Law in a case of emergency, the next day suddenly the government wanted him as a president. Actually, the opposition switched logic that “since you want a military figure, why don’t you choose Aoun (!)”. Hence, the cycle never stops. When the opposition and the government agreed in general on Michel Suleiman, suddenly Aoun adds more rules, such as he has to decide on key positions on the government. In fact, Aoun still holds the optimism of attaining the presidential chair. Last week, everyone thought that Aoun was abandoned by his allies, when they started to put a mechanism of “flexing” the constitution to elect General Suleiman with the Aounieh not attending (despite the fact that Aoun’s close ally Michel el Murr was there), suddenly people started praying that let it any president be a president, just end this fiasco. Suddenly, Aoun bombs the political arena that the Opposition appointed Aoun to spearhead the negotiations with the government. This makes the talks between Saad Harriri and Nabih Berri as a waste of time, and the people have to wait more for positive results without having a choice in the matter.

The Nahr el Bared Fiasco for example witnessed the Future Movement rushing to the streets with their flags in order to cheer for the army because they dominated Nahr el Bared (despite Hassan Nasrallah saying: Nahr el Bared Khat Ahhmar). When Francois Hajj was assassinated, 14th of March and the Opposition competed whose martyr it is. When the Matn elections occurred, both camps attempted to emerge victorious while in fact both lost drastically: 14th of March’s most powerful candidate lost, but he lost in the face of a coalition that swept Matn two years earlier. And now the presidential void…

The only people who would probably envy Lebanon’s position are our fellow Egyptian comrades who wrote to me: “You mean to tell me, comrade, that in Lebanon, there is no President? Wow, I wish we can switch situations if that is the case!” The face save deals are not appearing because none of the camps want to appear declining to the other what they promised to their followers as “all the way victory.” Hence, 14th of March cant step down because they convinced their people that they will block permanently Iran and Syria from touching Lebanon’s sovereignty, while the opposition convinced its followers that they will stand victorious against Condi’s puppet government. Hence if someone approaches to be a victor in their negotiations, the other will blow out everything. Even though Michel Suleiman did appear as the reconciliation president, he once even visited Hassan Nasrallah, then Samir Jaajaa in the same day: two leaders of two opposing sect parties.

As for General Michel Suleiman, several people I know started speculating that he will be the president following President Shehab’s logic of “the third force” (or non-alignment policy). His name started to appear in the July War when the army sent down 15,000 reservists to the South in the middle of the war with Israel and for the first time since Israel’s Litani operation in the 1970s, took perfect “control” symbolically of the South. Eventually, he remained neutral from all political fiascos. When the Down Town demonstration series broke out, he kept the army neutral. When the Civil Disobediance fiasco broke out, again he emerged as the neutral one. With Nahr el Bared exploding to new dimensions, he became the primary candidate. From one side, he simply obeyed what Elias el Murr (a 14th of Marcher) commanded him through the Ministry of Defense (mainly sending the army to Nahr el Bared to save Prime Minister Seniora’s face, plus disregarding ex-President Lahoud’s final orders). While on the other, he always advocated a resistance policy to Israel and made sure it was part of the Lebanese Army policy, which puts him on a positive side with Hezbullah.

In anyways, the economical situation has gotten worse. The prices of Gas, cheese, and basically a lot of day to day consumption commodities are higher. Taxes on the phone and electricity aren’t helping the middle and lower class either. With every assassination or political instability hitting Lebanon, the economic situation would shrink in size more and more. The only foreign investors interested in Lebanon these days are those foreign politicians and international institutions who want to see this camp or that one gaining an upper hand (or sustain their local allies in the face of the others). The gulf, the US, Iran, the World Bank, France, and others have different financial interests to see Lebanon exploding into raging fire. In any case, this leaves the Proletariat dangling in the open air. The rise of gas for example would decrease the purchasing power of the middle and lower class, which again would cause the overall market system to shrink in size. With the assassination of Francois Hajj prior to the seasons’ greetings, another blow came to the sector of tourism. In any case, the ones who remain visiting Lebanon are the already immigrants who don’t care about the situation and want to catch up with relatives/friends, foreign students, and business men (whenever that requires a visit). The bogus parliamentary meetings to decide when we will have a president also shuts down businesses and hurts those who are still struggling to continue with businesses. The on-going demonstrations in Down Town do not help also as clearly their job to oust a president, but of course they proceed to do a statement to wound the people instead the government.

One thing for sure, once a president is agreed on, several people expect re-alignment between the major political parties. Politicians get greedy, and the poor get poorer.

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