Friday, November 12, 2010

Lebanon: The Logic Of Oppression

By Walid Choucair
This comment was published in al-Hayat on 12/11/2010

Lebanon is in danger once again, unless it is saved by the Arab security umbrella that many Lebanese leaders rely on. This umbrella is represented by the Saudi-Syrian understandings that were launched at the tripartite summit between King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz of Saudi Arabia, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on July 30.

The danger awaiting Lebanon and sensed by common Lebanese and ordinary Arab visitors, even before political officials, results from a spontaneous and popular belief, which is sufficient to say that the political crisis brought about by the confrontation between the various sides in the country can be considered as a warning bell against this danger.

The political game - which aims at taking matters to the edge the abyss, through the pressure by the strongest side on the ground, thanks to its weapons, i.e. Hezbollah and its allies in the opposition - sometimes prompts members of March 14 to downplay these pressures, to signal that they will not change their stances, calling this pressure a case of intimidation. However, this does not mean that the dangers of a "strife" implied in the parties warnings can be ruled out.

The situation indicates that Lebanon is in the midst of political movement and a growing struggle that resembles what preceded May 7, 2008, when Hezbollah used its weapons in the street to get a response to its political demands, backed by Iran and Syria. Although the party leadership is reassuring some people that there will be no return to May 7, some of its leaders never cease to repeat, in word and deed, that “whoever has the power to make facts on the ground will decide things in politics.” No one, except Hezbollah, can “change facts on the ground,” which implies, in other words, changing political realities. In this sense, there is no reason for the party leadership to be modest; what Hezbollah leaders mean to say is that some people's hopes, namely the need to separate its deterrent force against Israel from the struggle underway for the internal balance of power, are seen as a type of naivety. It is another take on the belief by the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, General Michel Aoun, that “our team has won and the others should recognize this victory.”

This is the formula that had existed since prior to May 7: the opposition believes itself victorious, and the March 14 coalition members do not consider themselves defeated, even if Hezbollah and its allies were able to defeat the Americans and the Israelis, and emerge in a superior position. This obliged the party to use force and the Doha Accord intervened to put a limit to it, by changing the political situation. Therefore, is it not the repetition of this situation today, which prompted the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who sponsored the Doha Accord, to remind us of the need to respect this agreement?

This leads us to talk about pressures, about those who are subject to them, those who is exercising them, and their reasons. While the facts on the ground impose themselves in the course of events related to pressures, the logic of oppression dictates a different successive order for these imposed pressures, and thus the facts. Prime Minister Saad Hariri began to be pressurized ever since Hezbollah's famous stance against the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, asking Hariri to take a stance against it on July 18, or five months ago. The demands addressed to Hariri continued since then, asking him to repudiate the STL, until he evinced a readiness to conclude a settlement on this issue. On September 6, Hariri announced that he retracted his political accusation against Syria, with regards to assassinating his father, and condemned the “false witnesses.” This step has been met by repeated “slaps” every day since. Most notably, there was the challenge to the state’s authority at Beirut international airport and the Syrian arrest warrants against a wide number of people from Hariri’s camp, as well as the stalling of the passage of the budget, and the precondition set by the opposition to respond to their demands about the false witnesses, in order to set the Cabinet free. This all happened despite the fact that Hariri announced a new position last week in London, when he said that he did not think that Syrian President Bashar Assad had anything to do with his father’s assassination.

Dealing with Lebanese political matters by using force, and trying to change things by virtue of on-the-ground might is establishing a new reality, based on the persistence of oppression, which only generates forms of opposition, revolt, and finally explosion…

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