نشرة فصلية إعلامية تصدر عن رابطة أصدقاء كمال جنبلاط
"بعضهم يستجدي الألم و يمتّع نفسه بالشقاء لكي يصل...
و لكن طريق الفرح هي أكمل و أجدى... كل شيء هو فرح... هو فرح

العدد 55

الثلاثاء 02 تشرين الثاني 2021

Violence accelerates Lebanon’s descent into state failure

من الصحافة اخترنا لكم

David Gardner – Financial Times

Last week’s street fighting in Beirut was not just the deadliest violence in the Lebanese capital for more than a decade. It is part of a battle waged by Hizbollah, the Iran-backed politico-military force, and its allies to ensure the judicial investigation into the August 2020 explosion in Beirut goes nowhere. If they get their way and extinguish this last flicker of the rule of law, Lebanon will be well on the way to becoming an Iranian protectorate on the Mediterranean.

The tensions recall the international tribunal that investigated the 2005 assassination of former premier Rafiq Hariri. Last summer, 15 years after the crime and an estimated $1bn in costs, that court convicted one Hizbollah member in absentia but left intact the culture of impunity lasting since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Many of those with knowledge of the Hariri plot met violent ends. The Shia paramilitaries and their network of enablers intend to block the latest inquiry, too.

The Shia movement, a state-above-the-state, is determined not to take the blame for last year’s disaster, one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history. For sure, every sectarian powerbroker in Lebanon has brushed off responsibility for the storage of a stockpile of combustible ammonium nitrate at the port. Yet Hizbollah militants tried immediately to seal the blast site, a warehouse to which access had been limited.

The conflict over the port investigation is accelerating the collapse of a country already hurtling towards state failure. That process took an ominous turn with the murder of Hariri, the Sunni prime minister who rebuilt postwar Lebanon. His death removed a roadblock to the Shia corridor Iran and its proxies have carved through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shia Islamists, complained last week that Tareq Bitar, the judge investigating the port blast, was biased and would have to go, just as his predecessor, Fadi Sawan, was removed after political pressure. Both tried to subpoena and in two cases arrest leading politicians and securocrats, many linked to Hizbollah. Then Hizbollah and Amal, a Shia militia turned party led by Nabih Berri, the Speaker of parliament, staged a show of strength outside the palace of justice.

This is just inside the staunchly Christian district of Ain al-Remeneh, but bordering a mainly Shia area, along an old civil war frontline. Shia leaders say snipers from the Lebanese Forces (LF) — a Maronite Christian militia from the civil war, now an opposition party — opened fire, killing seven Shia. The picture is still unclear but witnesses say Shia activists pushed into Christian side-streets, shouting “Shia! Shia!”, a chant with which they mark out new territory, and vandalising cars and shops. Shia fighters emerged with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

The last time there was fighting this bad was in 2008, when Hizbollah over-ran Sunni areas of west Beirut, after which the government withdrew a decree to take over the movement’s dedicated telecoms network. Shia attempts to encroach on Sunni territory at Khalde south of Beirut led to clashes this year and last, and attacks on a Hizbollah wedding and funeral. Meanwhile, the port blast, which devastated the Christian heart of Beirut, has snapped the patience of many Christians and encouraged their leaders to jostle for position ahead of elections next year.

Since 2016 Hizbollah has had a Christian ally in the presidency, former army chief Michel Aoun, and since 2018 a parliamentary majority alongside Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the biggest Christian party, led by the general’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil. With feelings running high after the port disaster, Samir Geagea, the LF’s chief, is trying to undermine the FPM by contesting encroachment by Aoun’s Hizbollah allies.

Given the meltdown of Lebanon’s economy and society, this manoeuvring is a bit like rooting for truffles in a swamp. But it may be working. Aoun has backed judge Bitar while Bassil, targeted by US sanctions, denounced Geagea and the LF as criminals.

In a speech on Monday, Nasrallah reminded everyone of the power of his forces. He claims they number 100,000 fighters — bigger than Lebanon’s army. Whether or not that is a boast, they have been blooded by decades of fighting. More chilling was his implicit warning that Christians might be risking their survival. “The biggest threat for the Christian presence in Lebanon is the Lebanese Forces party and its head,” Nasrallah said.

After the exodus over the past two decades of Christians from Iraq and Syria, that is not to be taken lightly.


الكاتب

David Gardner – Financial Times

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العدد 54

الخميس 30 أيلول 2021

Shifting geopolitics offer glimmer of hope for Lebanon’s new government

David Gardner – Financial Times


After squabbling for more than a year in a country with an economy in freefall, Lebanon’s political and financial clans just greenlighted a new government. Yet nothing suggests


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