Friday, August 26, 2011

Between Beirut And Moscow

By Hassan Haidar
Lebanon and Russia, despite the differences between them in terms of geography, size and interests, seem as if existing outside of time in the way they have been dealing with developments in the region. Indeed, they deliberately ignore what is happening and overlook facts that can no longer be denied, their consequences taken lightly and their strikingly rapid developments neglected. In spite of this, they refuse to admit that they must deal with the results, adapt to new factors and accept what is being defined by the wills of the peoples.
Thus Russian President Medvedev departs from all logic and realism, declaring, after Tripoli has fallen and Gaddafi has fled, that “there are two powers in the country” that should “sit down at the negotiating table and reach agreements on future peace” (!), as if he does not know what is happening, or as if reports are reaching him late. At the same time, his country opposes imposing sanctions on Syria at the Security Council, without a care for what is happening on the ground in Syria in terms of killing, arrests and torture.
And if Moscow, in the way it has been dealing with events in the Middle East, is acting in accordance with its immediate interests, with blatant short-sightedness that puts it in the position of being nearly the only international defender of dictatorships, and with domestic considerations interweaved in its stances that are imposed by the approaching presidential elections and the potential competition they entail, Beirut, on the other hand, is applying the principle of burying one’s head in the sand, believing that this will spare it of the responsibility to think and prepare in advance for how the situation will develop, especially in Syria where the regime is steadily headed towards isolation and fragmentation.
But Russia is a major power with a vast network of relations and interests, and at the end of the day, it will not jeopardize its long-term interests for the sake of weapons deals with Damascus worth a few billion dollars it might never collect anyway, or for the sake of a military base here or there it might later not find anyone to defend. Moreover, its leaders are not forgetting that it will later have to “acknowledge” reality after having obtained a “price” in other issues, or ensured for itself some share in exchanges with the new regimes. Indeed, the age of ideologies has passed, and there is no longer in Russian politics anything called “solidarity among nations”, but rather merely markets and resources. Thus wagering on the stability of Russia’s current stance on the crises of the region will bring disappointment to those who make such a wager, as has happened several times in the past with Iran, for example.
In Lebanon, on the other hand, where there are neither resources nor elements of strength – unless one considers, making light of the most basic military and political notions, that Hezbollah’s weapons, which it threatens with and waves around in every direction, can guarantee it permanent immunity and provide it with one “victory” after another – the government cabinet formed by the new majority is itself engulfed in bygone stances, and distracted by slogans and plans that are as if time had stopped at the Syrian clock after it returned to work according to its own outdated timing, outside of any context. Its leaders are pouncing on the different parts of the “cake” and fighting over petty electoral considerations, after some of them have grown fond of the idea of bribing voters with “light bulbs” and faucets, believing that their rule will last “forever”, and ignoring the reality that the change taking place with their “big brother” next door will after a while drag away with it all illusory lamp posts, fabricated engines and artificial alliances, especially when international justice soon moves into a new phase and reveals the lie from the truth.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 25/08/2011

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