The deterioration of the small Mediterranean country's status benefits Hezbollah and its patron saint, Iran.
With four different prime ministers so far this year, it is difficult to escape the vicious circle in which Lebanon finds itself, so that the continuity of the current political system and the severe financial crisis seem inevitable. From this perpetuation emerge some possibilities, almost all of them bleak, for Lebanon's future. Here are some of these scenarios.
State of the port of Beirut after the explosion on 4 August 2020 [Mehr News Agency/Wikipedia].
article / Salvador Sánchez Tapia
To say that the Lebanese political system is dysfunctional is nothing new. development Based on a sectarian balance of power established in 1989 after a long civil war, it perpetuates the existence of clientelistic networks, encourages corruption, hampers the country's economic development and hinders the creation of a transversal Lebanese national identity that transcends religious confessions.
For some time now, Lebanon has been immersed in an economic and social crisis of such magnitude that many analysts are wondering whether we are facing a new case of state failure. In October 2019, the country was rocked by a wave of demonstrations that the government itself considered unprecedented, triggered by the executive's advertisement attempt to tackle the serious economic crisis with several unpopular measures, including a tax on the use of the popular Whatsapp application. The protests, initially focused on this issue, soon incorporated complaints against rampant corruption, the uncontrolled increase in the cost of living, and the lack of employment and opportunities in the country.
Popular pressure forced the resignation of the unity government led by Saad Hariri later that month. The government was replaced in January 2020 by a more technical profile government led by former Education minister Hassan Diab. The new government had little room for reform before the coronavirus pandemic was declared, and soon found itself beset by the same street pressure that had toppled the previous government, with demonstrations continuing despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
The devastating explosion in early August 2020 in the port of Beirut only further plunged the country into the downward spiral in which it was already mired. Despite voices that tried to see the hand of Israel or Hezbollah behind the catastrophe that took the lives of 163 people, the Lebanese population soon realised that this was merely the logical consequence of years of corruption, bureaucratic sloppiness and withdrawal of the national infrastructure. Again there was a crescendo of popular outrage; again the government was forced to resign at plenary session of the Executive Council.
With echoes of the explosion still lingering, at the end of August Mustafa Adib, Lebanon's former ambassador to Germany, was tasked by President Aoun to form a government. Unable to complete the arduous task, not least because of Hezbollah's insistence on controlling the Finance Ministry, Adib resigned on 26 September, leaving the country on the brink of the precipice it still finds itself on.
It is difficult to predict Lebanon's future, beyond predicting that it looks bleak, as a complex dynamic of internal and external forces grips the country. Despite the pressure, at least from urbanised and cosmopolitan Beirut, to end it, it is enormously complex to untangle the tangled web of clientelistic networks that have controlled the country since independence, not only because of the benefits it has generated for a small privileged group , but also because many fear the alternatives to a model that, for all its faults, has avoided a repeat of the savage civil war that took place between 1975 and 1990.
Its geographic status makes it difficult for Lebanon to escape the general climate of instability in the Middle East and the influence exerted on the country by regional and international actors such as Israel, Iran, Syria and France, especially considering that the problems of the Levant are so deep and its national leadership so weak that it does not seem to be able to overcome them on its own.
Lebanon's plight is that its own sectarian division makes it difficult for nations to emerge that are willing to donate on a cross-cutting basis to help bridge the divide that divides the country internally, and that the financial aid it may receive from actors such as Iran or Saudi Arabia only reinforces it. The efforts of French President Emmanuel Macron, self-appointed as the driving force behind Lebanese reconstruction, do not seem, for the moment, to be gaining momentum. At the donors' lecture he convened on 9 July with fifteen heads of state, he secured contributions worth $250 million to revitalise Lebanon's moribund Economics . Meanwhile, Beirut's mayor estimates the reconstruction costs of the August explosion in the capital's port at between $3 billion and $5 billion.
As a mirror image of this difficulty, Lebanese communities, comfortably ensconced in the status quo, reject an undoubtedly necessary financial aid if they feel it might be detrimental to their respective power instructions . Hezbollah, for example, does not accept IMF programmes, complicating the achievement of the necessary national consensus that would facilitate IMF support. It is difficult to escape this vicious circle, so that the continuation of the current political system, and with it the continuation of Lebanon's severe financial crisis, seems inevitable. From this perpetuation come some possibilities, almost all of them bleak, for the Lebanese future. The first is that Lebanon will continue to slide down the inclined plane that is turning it into a failed state, and that this condition will eventually lead to a civil war precipitated by events similar to those that occurred during the Arab Spring in other states in the region. Such an eventuality would resurrect the ghosts of the past, produce regional instability that is difficult to measure but which would undoubtedly provoke intervention by regional and international actors, and could ultimately dismember the country, result which would only sow the seeds of further instability throughout the region.
Without going to that extreme, the internal turmoil could break the precarious balance of power on which Lebanese political life is based, to the benefit of one of its sectarian groups. Hezbollah, the undisputed leader of the country's Shia faction, appears here as the most organised and strongest group within the country and, therefore, as the one that stands to gain the most from this breakdown. It should be borne in mind that, in addition to the support of internship all 27 percent of Lebanese Shiites, the militia organisation is viewed favourably by many members of the divided Christian community - some 45 percent of the country's population - who put their desire for an internal Security Service in the country before other considerations. Aware of this, Hezbollah's leader Hasan Nasrallah is sample moderate in his proposals, seeing the Sunni community, supported by Saudi Arabia, as his real rival, and seeking to broaden his power base.
Iran would undoubtedly be the real winner in this scenario, as it seems unrealistic to think of a Hezbollah that, once it has come of age, would have a life of its own outside the ayatollahs' regime. With this new piece, Tehran would complete the Shia arc that connects Iran with Iraq and, through Syria, with the Eastern Mediterranean. The destabilising effects of such a move status, however, cannot be underestimated if one considers that the mere possibility of the Islamic Republic of Iran taking full control of Lebanon constitutes a casus belli for Israel.
In a positive grade , the serious crisis the country is going through and the strong popular pressure, at least in urban areas, may, paradoxically, be a spur to overcome the sectarian system that has contributed so much to generate this status. However, such a transition only stands a chance of progress - however tenuous - with strong external wholesale support.
In this scenario, the role of the international community should not be limited to providing economic resources to prevent the country's collapse. Its involvement must favour the development and sustain civic-political movements with an intersecting base that are capable of replacing those who perpetuate the current system. To this end, in turn, it is imperative that contributing nations lend their financial aid vision, renouncing any attempt to shape a Lebanon to suit their respective national interests, and forcing the elites who control the factions to abdicate the status quo in favour of a true Lebanese identity. The obvious question is: is there any real chance of this happening? The reality, unfortunately, does not allow for much hope.