Sunday, November 28

Major challenges.. 78 years in the throes of Lebanon, between attaining independence and failing to achieve it

Beirut – In a country burdened with crises and challenges, the Lebanese commemorated the 78th anniversary of their independence from the French mandate, and the ceremony was limited to a symbolic military parade at the Ministry of Defense attended by the three presidents, Michel Aoun, Nabih Berri and Najib Mikati.

The Lebanese tell the story of independence as a story of the heroes who left, when the soldiers of the French Mandate released the President of the Republic, Bechara El Khoury, Prime Minister Riad El Solh, and others from Rashaya Castle, nicknamed the “Castle of Independence”, on November 22, 1943, and then the country was liberated from its mandate, which lasted about 23 years, meaning that it began with the founding of Lebanon in 1920, after the Sykes-Picot divisions.

In the post-independence decades, and the fighting and civil war that Lebanon experienced in the Taif Agreement, which was sponsored by Saudi Arabia in 1989 and laid the foundations of the current regime, the country remained mired in conflicts caused by sectarian and political divisions, and the link of forces with conflicting regional axes, so many questioned the truth of independence and its meaning.

After the anniversary

And if the complexities of the Lebanese scene indicate that its actual independence has not been achieved, many are asking about its fate amid the political, economic and governmental difficulties it faces, in its relations with Western countries, and its turmoil with Gulf countries.

Journalist and political analyst Hussein Ayoub believes that pressing issues push the Lebanese people to disregard the national meanings of independence, because Lebanon has not lived a real independence and will not live it later, because of a geographical dictatorship that made it governed by the repercussions of its location between Syria, Israel and the Mediterranean.

In parallel, political writer Khaldoun Al-Sharif believes that the concept of independence has changed, as it is measured by the independence of state decisions and their consideration of the interests of citizens, considering that the Lebanese have not reached that.

Al-Sharif gives Al Jazeera Net current evidence of Lebanon’s lack of independence, such as the date on which the constitutional entitlements were suspended.

It is noteworthy that Lebanon lived two and a half years without a president before the election of Michel Aoun in 2016, and the parliament’s term of office was extended several times, in addition to suspending the government’s work in the event of political, judicial or regional disagreements, as is currently afflicting Najib Mikati’s government.

Al-Sharif adds to it the lack of independence of the judiciary and the security institutions due to their constant needs for external support with food and equipment, and Lebanon’s economic decision is not independent, even if the state takes an independent decision, so some forces can veto and block it.

Al-Sharif believes that consensual democracy has proven its failure, and later these crises resulted.

Big Challenges

Al-Sharif believes that Lebanon is facing major challenges that require reactivating the constitutional institutions, recalling that Lebanon’s presence in the region and its independence require excellent relations with the neighborhood, with the exception of its hostility to Israel.

However, Hussein Ayoub believes that Lebanon’s challenges are embodied in the economic, social and structural crisis, and links them to his job for the coming years until the birth of a new era that may put the country on the path of treatment.

Ayoub tells Al Jazeera Net that Lebanon is facing its challenges with the West on 3 fronts: the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, the electricity file, and the demarcation of the border with Israel, and the border file embodies a cornerstone in Washington’s view of Lebanon, as well as the gas exploration file.

Sharif expresses fear for the fate of the parliamentary elections in 2022, but Ayoub is likely not to postpone or cancel them, because no one has an interest in this before public opinion, in addition to the fact that the international climate, in his opinion, considers the completion of the elections a red line.

But regional challenges, in Ayoub’s view, are not inferior to the pitfalls of the interior, as he sees that the region is governed by the pace of the US-Iranian negotiations in Vienna, and may lead to several possibilities, such as maintaining the current status quo, or going to an interim agreement to cut time between the two parties.

Ayoub does not separate the Saudi boycott of Lebanon from what awaits the region in terms of confrontations or settlements.

And if there is an interim agreement between America and Iran at the negotiating table, according to Ayoub, a change will occur in the region, and it will push for a Saudi-Iranian dialogue, in parallel with the organization of the American withdrawal, and then we will witness a serious opportunity to dismantle the region’s clashes in more than one arena, especially Yemen, Syria and Lebanon to benefit from this the climate.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun (left) inspects the armed forces during a military parade marking the 78th anniversary of independence (communication sites)

The roots of the crisis

This mosaic, internally and externally, leads us to the question: What does it mean for Lebanon’s independence to be unfulfilled?
Lebanese writer and journalist Youssef Bazzi returns to the meaning of independence from his perspective, as independence is in the world and not from the world.

According to Bazzi, it is not possible to create a homeland and an identity for a political group that freely chose to live together, without that balance between the “immunity” of borders (inside) and the vastness of demand for the world (external).

He narrows down the history of the Lebanese entity, telling us tragically about the difficulty of achieving that balance, because it is the inside that calls for violating or neglecting and violating independence.

The intentional lack of balance is attributed to the origin of the formation of Lebanon, which preceded the emergence of the independent entity.

According to Bazzi’s talk to Al-Jazeera Net, the Ottoman subjects had to search for a new, selected link between a vast Islamic world in which imperial dreams were no longer possible, and an Arab world that could not be one body. On the other hand, “multiple minorities used to present their contradictory perceptions between spacious or narrow geography, isolated or open, and possessed an ancient consciousness filled with existential anxiety.”

Youssef Bazzi believes that the Maronite Christian community that stored the experience of Mount Lebanon, the emirate and then the Mutasarrifiyya, was more willing and accepting of the new concept coming from the post-Ottoman world, that is, the concept of “nation-state”. But it was also, in his opinion, always confused between two ideas: a national homeland for the Christians of the East, or a national homeland of diverse groups and minorities, with new, expanding borders that became known, starting in 1920, as “Greater Lebanon”.

Bazzi sheds light on the external factor affecting Lebanon at the level of its sects and parties. In that era, the outside – in his opinion – helped realize the Maronite Christian vision, and “other groups whose projects were disappointed were of varying demand and integration into the new entity.”

In view of this disparity or lack of enthusiasm, he said that every “outside” who has gone astray finds “in the hesitant or skeptical a people ready for subordination, separation, or rebellion against the state, whenever the interest of that outsider requires an intrusion into the Lebanese interior.”

The writer attributes the turbulence of the Lebanese groups’ relations to their maintaining their identities as sects and sects, abstaining from the “national league” that constitutes people and citizens.

Today, 100 years and a year after the birth of the “Greater Lebanon” entity, and 78 years of independence, Bazzi says, “While the ideologies of the (Islamic nation), Arab or Syrian have faded, as did the Lebanese adventures (the long-term popular war) to liberate Palestine or change the world. Or defeat imperialism, Lebanon continued to be difficult to get out of civil and sectarian fanaticism, just as independence from the dictates of outsiders continued.

He describes Lebanon’s experience in 2005 after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the evacuation of the Syrian army as an “independence uprising” that failed.

The reason, in his opinion, is the reluctance of Hezbollah and its sect to retreat within the borders, which automatically prompted the other sects to search for external support in order to achieve a “balance of terror.” Along these lines, “independence dissipates and civil wars, cold, tepid, and fiery all the time, resume.”

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