The Arab region is troubled and exposed. Its various sides experience in common fear and a deterioration of the situation. Anyone traveling among its capitals gets a whiff of the prevailing concern. The apparent calm is not enough to enshrine peace of mind. There is something boiling beneath the surface here, there, and everywhere. I do not want to fall prey to exaggerations. I do not mean at all that we are at the eve of consecutive collapses. I do not believe astrologers, and I do not trust the hasty conclusions of fervent analysts. But what is certain is that the fortress of quietude has been punctured with holes that cannot be healed the old way. We have reached a phase that is harder than the one Europe went through the day it woke up and discovered that the Berlin wall had resigned from the function of its existence. Europe used to have in its Western side mechanisms of stability, regimes with unshakeable legitimacy, and institutions able to absorb seisms and set up plans for protecting stability and prosperity opportunities. The Arab scene is different.
The Lebanese politician for instance has no right to talk about a “bone-breaking” battle in Lebanon without taking into account the regional situation. Lebanon is not an isolated island. It is part of the region, with its balances, diseases, conflicts, and bouleversements. Traditionally, it is a fragile stage. The absence of national immunity in it makes it prone to import fire and get burnt by it. It also makes it prone to pay high prices in wars that are greater than its local players, who have nothing but the right to fire the first shot. Following this, contacts take place in their absence, and they are considered to be adventurers who entered into a game which they lost the right to manage or specify its direction.
Lebanese politicians play with their country’s stability pillars amidst a burning region. The consecutive terrorist attacks in Iraq aim at igniting a sectarian conflict and threatening the opportunities of holding a quasi-normal Arab summit in Mesopotamia. There is no ambiguity about the decision of the Southerners in Sudan to resign from the Sudan with which we were acquainted. It is the failure of a coexistence experience that could’ve been saved with the culture of respecting the rights of the other, as well as their right to be different. There is also the Tunisian surprise, with its meanings and indications. We cannot use the pretext of the Tunisian situation in order to conclude that it is an event limited by its direct arena. There is also Iran with its files and ambitions; the Yemeni turmoil which is open to multiple dangers; the blocked horizon of peace and the shameful Palestinian scene; Egypt’s accusation of the “Palestinian Army of Islam” in Gaza of being involved in the explosion that targeted the Copt worshippers in Alexandria; and al-Qaeda’s program in the region, which has adopted the operation of targeting Christians after it had wagered in the past on sectarian confrontations.
In the middle of this dark picture, Lebanon seems to be heading towards an extremely dangerous venture. It is obvious that the Lebanese will is shattered and suffers from a blatant deficiency in immunity; that most of the Lebanese players get weaker in front of the outside or by following it; that the laboratory of Lebanese coexistence was struck by lethal damages; that the Lebanese practically live in scared “regions” that are in suspense, and suffer from a lack of geographic connection or a difficulty in drawing their boundaries and officially announcing their establishment, or imposing their right to resign from the fate of their neighbors.
It is not true that Lebanon has no choice but the abyss if the indictment regarding Rafic al-Hariri’s assassination is issued; that the indictment’s issuing will inevitably lead to a Sunni-Shiite conflict; that the confrontation in Lebanon will take back the relations of Syria with the Arab moderation camp to the pre-Kuwait summit status. All this is not unavoidable.
No one will end up being a winner from igniting the fire in the streets of Lebanon. Neither the truth will win, nor the resistance, the West, or Syria. The dirty laundry of the conflict will be daily hung on TV. The fire of the local-regional confrontation will be mingled with the attempts to use the indictment separately from the wishes of those striving to reach the truth. There is no exaggeration in saying that the truth will come out weighed down from such a confrontation, even if it keeps its weapons. Clashing with half the citizens does not offer victory, regardless of the clasher’s identity.
It is not late yet. Those who are capable must take a rapid decision to stop the slipping toward the breaking of balances in Beirut. The Arab region hasn’t digested yet the breaking of balances in Baghdad. It is not true that reaching a solution is impossible. A formula can be found for distributing the damages; a creative formula for distributing the poison.