Lebanon: A Gloomy Look Ahead

Sometimes, I think it would be easier to just re-post my thoughts and frustrations on Lebanon, again and again, in view of the current situation. I am not inclined to write a “Beirut Yet Again and Again” after the latest explosion in Beirut’s southern suburbs on January 2, after having written “Beirut, Yet Again” (بيروت ايضا و ايضا)  following the explosion in Downtown Beirut on December 27. The nature of the explosives may have differed and the location slightly shifted, yet nothing else has changed on the ground.

If the general mood in Lebanon following the first explosion was that of depression, it immediately developed into utter resignation and despair after the second one, coupled with a cocktail of civil strife and war scenarios for the months ahead. Qifa Nabki’s signature insightful and tragicomic predictions may be “of relevance to Lebanon’s future or just a reflection of my dark mood,” as he notes, but the fact that they don’t feel very imaginary is frightening enough. At this point, I wonder whether optimism is a sign of naivety more than anything else…

And why should we be surprised. Our usual confessional, sectarian and shallow political differences keep tearing us apart. On the short-term political front, the paralysis of the last months doesn’t look to be solved anytime soon. A cabinet in place wouldn’t be ground breaking to the point where stability is guaranteed, but the semblance of normalcy would bring some economic and security stability nonetheless. Still, nothing indicates a cabinet will be formed soon, let alone by a president of the republic who, whenever he is not travelling around the world, has managed to antagonize almost the entire population (March 8, March 14 and increasingly those that are already against him) in his efforts to form a cabinet with the Prime Minister-designate. Meanwhile, another void may be awaiting us at the presidential level, with the possibility that the political class doesn’t find a replacement for Sleiman come election time, and refrains from extending or renewing his term. Each party is waiting for something to agree on a political compromise – whether the Geneva II negotiations, the Iranian nuclear negotiations, the developments in Syria or who knows, the results of the upcoming World Cup – while Lebanon faces one of the, if not the, most dangerous crisis in its post-civil war history.

On the security front, let us not hide behind our politically correct and diplomatic fingers. What we have unfolding is an all-out Shia-Sunni confrontation in Lebanon, with Christians as mere spectators on the sidelines. This confrontation has been pushed by the war in Syria, but brewing ever since Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, followed by the Hariri assassination in 2005, the 2006 Hezballah-Israeli war and the 2008 clashes in Beirut. It is also a reflection of a wider inter-Islamic regional struggle that some have already compared to Europe’s 17th century’s Thirty Year’s War between Catholics and Protestants, the only solution to which will be for both sides to battle it out and not the least in Lebanon. This is exacerbated by the fact that it is also a political battle by those – Saudi Arabia and Iran – that claim to safeguard each creed from the evils of the other. And when haven’t we, in Lebanon, been on the vanguard of fighting our narrow discords and adopting the fights of others at the expense of our lives and our own country? When religion and politics mix, not a lot of good things can happen…

And so we wait and see what happens, because if we don’t do anything about this, it would be the most Lebanese thing for us to do, and if we actually try to do something for a change, it would be too good to be true…

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