Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lebanon: In The Intensive Care Room

By Elias Harfoush
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 18/01/2011

News agencies broadcast yesterday a picture from Damascus of the tripartite summit among the leaders of Qatar, Syria and Turkey, as they sat with their foreign ministers at a round table to discuss the disgraceful situation in Lebanon and search for a solution. It was a most expressive photo, one that should make every Lebanese feel ashamed as a citizen, and ashamed about the inability of the country’s politicians and leaders to treat crises by themselves.

Even sadder in this picture is the absence or forced absence of the Lebanese president himself. Was President Michel Suleiman invited to this summit, or did he prefer to remain distant from a meeting that resembled a medical conference which gathered elite specialists searching for ways to save a patient in intensive care?

Prior to this, French President Nicholas Sarkozy had suggested the formation of a regional and international “Contact Group” to supervise the Lebanese situation. A number of leaders, including Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Sarkozy actually called them to discuss this idea and prepare for it. Erdogan said he would be positive in his response, while other leaders, such as Syrian President Bashar Assad, expressed their reservations about seeing a party from outside the region discussing the Lebanese situation, meaning in particular the participation of France and the United States in Sarkozy’s Contact Group.

Blaming Lebanon’s absence from the Damascus summit does not minimize the importance of regional interest in the Lebanese situation, which is welcome, after all. However, this concern does not take place in a vacuum, and is not based on the political importance of the “country of the cedars” on the regional and international map, as some ultra-Lebanese are fond of dreaming. It is based on the fact that all of the region’s leaders are aware of the repercussions of the Lebanese crisis. This crisis has seen sectarian polarization, against a backdrop of speculation about the accusations that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will make, which will affect domestic conditions in these countries and the region in general. This was expressed by the Turkish president, while on his way to Damascus, when he acknowledged that “our region cannot tolerate seeing Lebanon enter a new phase of uncertainty.”

How can a summit convened in a neighboring country possess the magic threads to find a settlement to the Lebanon crisis, unless the decisions of the leaders of this defeated country have become completely linked to foreign dictates and decisions? In the past, at the beginning of each presidential election in Lebanon and after the test he would conduct of the candidates, the late Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt used to boast: “We’d tell this one ‘be,’ and he would be, and we’d tell that one ‘drop out,’ and he would.” That was long ago. At the least, the results of the test back then were issued inside the country. Today, the instructions come from outside the country, like the announcement of the results!

In any event, the regional interest, although it affirms the complete paralysis in Lebanon, is better than seeing Lebanon being left to the unknown. If the fate of their country were left to them, the Lebanese would be able to destroy the country, stone by stone. It is embarrassing to say that we are a fragmented people, disjointed, unable to manage its affairs by itself, and that our leaders are a perfect reflection of this wretched situation. Therefore, we call on the fine people around us to sponsor us, whether they sit at a round or rectangular table, and whether we sit at or under the table. Our leaders are ready to heed their orders. For God’s sake, help us, because we are unable to save our country.

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