Syria

Greater Lebanon In Jeopardy

Greater Lebanon Event

If you’re a bit familiar with this blog, you must have noticed that I rarely talk about Syria, and when I do, it’s usually in the context of Lebanese politics.

But Lebanese politics disappeared. For the past two weeks, it has been all about Syria. About the likely American strike on Syria. About the Chemical Weapons in Syria. About the revolution in Syria. About the civil war in Syria. About the Syrian army. About the Free Syrian army. About arming the opposition. About helping out the regime.

Priorities

In a country that has no budget since 2005, no government since March, no elections since 2009, no agreed-upon electoral law, extended mandates for everything ranging from a parliament to a commander of the army, and an outgoing president as a cherry on the top, you would think that the normal priority, or norm, would be taking care of any of the previously mentioned problems. But the very fact that no one is doing anything but wait for things in Syria to get clearer really sums it up. (You might want to check this post)

Pro-Syrias

When the Syrian army left the country in 2005, it was thought that the controversial hegemony over Lebanese politics was forever gone. Who knew that 8 years later, a civil war in Syria will bring it back, yet this time with no controversy? There was always a Pro-Syrian coalition in Lebanon, at least to the extent that it was more pro-Syrian than the others. But as Syria turns into Syrias, pro-Syria in Lebanon becomes pro-Syrias, and Lebanon – at whole, probably for the first time since the 19th century  – becomes no more than pro-Syria, or in other words, an affiliated country. With no side winning the civil war, the allegiances will get more and more dangerous until a civil war might find its way to Lebanon. By then it would be too late to separate Syrian and Lebanese affairs.

The Helleu Equivalency

Charles de Gaulle once said that by arresting all Lebanese Zuamas in Lebanon, Jean Helleu indirectly achieved in 48 hours what the French were meaning to do for 25 years: unify the Muslims and Christians (via their hate towards colonialism). The Syrian civil war is achieving what the Syrian leaders could not do for 70 years: Absorb Lebanese politics into Syrian politics. The longer the Syrian civil war lasts, the more Lebanese parties will get involved in it, and the more the decaying Lebanese system will self-destruct itself and find it harder to host the political turmoil.

A New National Holiday

When a Lebanese President makes a speech for the first time in the occasion of Lebanon’s forgotten 93rd anniversary of the creation of the state of Greater Lebanon, you know things are going very (very) bad. Lebanon already has another national holiday, the independence day from France. But the symbolism of the 22nd of November is different from the First of September. The 22nd of November is the day Christians and Muslims of the country united for the first time against a foreign power and set the basis of what would be the political rules for the next 30 and arguably 70 years.  The Greater Lebanon context however is different. Until the 1940s, the Muslim population did not agree to the concept of an independent Lebanon from Syria (and a greater Arab state). The boundaries of such a state were considered to be controversial and artificial in 1920, and created problems among the Lebanese Christians and Muslims till 1937, when the Muslim boycott started to fade away with the nomination of Khaireddin Al-Ahdab as the first Sunni Prime Minister. To remember such a day would be to remember what would be the beginning of 20 years of occupation, colonialism, boycott and political confusion among the Lebanese. So why exactly did the president make a speech two weeks earlier on the occasion of that event?

Greater Lebanon

Lebanon’s boundaries are Greater Lebanon’s boundaries. Whether the day symbolizes Lebanese unity or not, it is the day Lebanon became the separate, bigger entity that exists today. An entity distinct from Syria, where its politics would be distinct from the Syrian politics. The National Holiday that is independence day is not important in these times as Lebanon is not facing a Muslim-Christian strife. Lebanon is facing something far more dangerous than that, and it is the slow but steady absorption into Syrian affairs due to the M14 alliance with the Syrian opposition and the M8 alliance with the Syrian regime. Remembering this day would be a reminder from the president to all the politicians that Lebanon is not in Syria.

When the formation of a new government depends on an American-Russian deal about Chemical Weapons in Syria, you know something is just not right.

Marj Dabeq And The Tomahawk Effect

Fakhreddine I

It is said, that in 1516, while the Ottomans and the Mamluks were fighting for the Levant in the battle of Marj Dabeq, a Lebanese prince of the house of Maan, known by the name of Fakhreddine I, wasn’t comfortable to fight on the side of the Mamluks as it was too risky to ally himself with one side when the outcome of the battle was still unknown. As the Syrian princes started defecting from the Mamluk ranks, Fakhreddine went on the top of a hill overlooking the meadow (marj) where the battle was ongoing, and did not intervene with his forces until it was clear that one side was in advantage over the other. Needless to say that it was the winning Ottoman army that Fakhreddine I sided with instead of his initial allies, the Mamluks. The Bohtor princes of Beirut, that fought with the Mamluks till the end, were eventually removed from power in Mount Lebanon by the victorious Ottomans and were replaced by the Maans of the Chouf, who were to rule Lebanon for the next 181 years.

How Is That Related To 2013?

As the Americans prepare their Tomahawks to hit the Syrian regime, surrounded by a growing international debate whether an intervention is needed and legitimate in Syria or not, the Lebanese leaders’ silence on the upcoming war is deafening. In a country whose politics were almost inseparable from the Syrian affairs for the past century, the quiet political scene raises many questions, and shows us a cautious – yet wise – behavior from the Lebanese politicians,  à la Fakhreddine, wishing to preserve their status in Lebanon in the wake of a possible massive regional modification. Ironically, Marj Dabeq is not only in today’s Syria, but also in a rebel-area near Aa’zaz (North of the disputed Aleppo)on the Turkish border.

Too Early To Predict

For every Destroyer the Americans send to the East Mediterranean, comes a Russian ship; and even at the height of a possible American intervention, the Iranians are still supporting the regime. No one can deny that Obama is relatively a weak president, and the fact that the British won’t be here for him this time, and that the U.N. isn’t much in favor of a strike only makes things worse. The Americans are already leaking out in details some of the objectives of the “limited” strike (here’s a nice sarcastic piece on that), possibly so that the Russians – who clearly aren’t intending to abandon one of their last allies in the levant – realize that it is a small-scaled intervention and don’t respond. To sum things up, the Americans aren’t very comfortable on the offensive side, while on the defensive side the Syrian counter-attack is still ambiguous (Attacking the Israeli north?), making it too early for Lebanese politicians to take sides. It is not even sure if the Americans will go through with their threat, and if so, no one knows what the result may be. Even a military victory for the Americans can turn into a diplomatic failure – Egypt 1956 is a perfect example. In the middle of a vague outcome  after the possible war, it seems wiser for the politicians to abandon their traditional regional allegiances and wait for a winner to side with, instead of risking a political setback due to the ally’s defeat.

The Berri/Hezbollah Political Stances

When a Lebanese Zai’m who was for decades Syria’s man in Lebanon is expected to abandon his affiliation with the pro-syrian M8 alliance and side in the middle, you know that everyone is trying to be a centrist in times of turmoil. Hezbollah’s silence is the most remarkable one on the matter. The party fighting along the regime on Syrian soil didn’t yet mention what its response will be on an American intervention and is probably considering all his options.

Everyone Is Considering His Options

Same goes for all the other parties in Lebanon. They can’t preemptively side with the losing party in Syria, so they are all adopting the “wait and see Fakhreddine I strategy”. Most of the parties are warning of a Fitna in wake of the recent explosions (In order to avoid giving opinions on the U.S. Attack), and even the anti-Syrian M14 coalition is rather silent on the issue of an American strike. Anyone would expect Saad Hariri to tweet in support of such a strike, yet we are left with no tweet since the 23d Of August (ever since the debate on the intervention seriously started). Even as the Syrian regime got officially accused of the Tripoli bombings by the Lebanese judicial authorities, the M14 alliance rather stayed silent on the issue, while Al-Akhbar, one of the most pro M8 newspapers – while criticizing the security branch – was quietly condemning the Syrian regime for the Mamlouk-Samaha plot of last year,  in a sign that everyone is converging towards a centrist stance.

You compromise, or lose it all.

Hezbollah’s Drone: A Bit More Than An Airplane

Still Image by the IDF Showing the Drone getting shot down

The first thing that came to my mind was the kaff. The kaff – The Arabic word for slap – is very common in our society. All that has to be done is to watch some Lebanese drama series. It’s usually the point where an argument between a wife and her husband goes to the next level . One can respond to a slap with a another one, with a fight, with an insult or can simply walk away. The slap isn’t as threatening as a kick or a hit, but it’s a provocative action that can give you all the attention you want from the person you slapped. And what’s interesting with the slap is that the one who got hit doesn’t usually slap back. That’s usually in the drama series, of course. (more…)

On The Syrian Ambassador’s Expulsion

The PSP and M14 were demonstrating in the past few days in an attempt to pressure the Lebanese government to send the Syrian ambassador back to Damascus. Ironically enough, the presence of the Syrian ambassador in Lebanon was one of M14’s winning articles, if not the only one, that remains 4 years later after its mise en place intact in the Doha agreement of 2008. (more…)