Why Lebanon is heading for more fragility
Why Lebanon is heading for more fragility
The Middle East is a region where you can never say things can’t get worse, just because they can and always will.
With the region already overburdened with dangerous geopolitical issues and dire humanitarian conditions, things have indeed worsened and the attention of the international community has now shifted again and focused primarily on the dire situation in Gaza.
This means bad news for Lebanon, as the countries involved and trying to help will no longer have the capacity to engage in finding a political solution that is key to unlocking the desperately needed international financial support.
As the situation between Israelis and Palestinians evolves, efforts and support will shift to this more urgent and dire situation.
In fact, and unfortunately, the international efforts on Lebanon led by France have already failed. They have not been able to bring in the lowest level of concessions from Hezbollah. This was clearly expressed on his behalf by all of the country’s political leaders.
The initial objective of a complete transformation of the political landscape initiated by the calls of the demonstrators in October 2019, slowly but surely fell to try to convince these actors to form a government to unblock the financial support of the International Monetary Fund.
Even as the country and the people starve, it has failed and France has been drawn into meaningless and fruitless negotiations between political leaders who have no intention of finding a solution.
If the devil is in the details, then Lebanese politicians have mastered the devil’s craft by pushing forward unnecessary details and creating sectarian and minority conditions for any government formation with the sole aim of drowning out any foreign support.
Not only that, but Hezbollah is leaving everyone guessing by changing its stance on the IMF bailout which is still a long way off. In the end, they only understand hard power.
Unfortunately for the Lebanese people, Hezbollah has managed to maintain the status quo and there is little chance of breaking through.
People are running around trying to get their daily needs: medicine, milk, diesel, change and security. They are not even able to protest or try to think about building a better future; they are now busy trying to survive. They lost all of their savings to an evil banking system and are now losing their dignity and security.
The immediate and clear result of the current path will be the complete disintegration of the state and its authority. As the state’s financial resources dry up, retirees will no longer receive their benefits and soldiers and all government employees will no longer receive their wages. What happens to an army when its soldiers starve? What happens when the police can no longer feed their children?
In Haiti, for example, where the executive power is in decline, armed gangs have taken control. The main leaders of these gangs are disgruntled ex-police or military. The country lives under the reign of kidnappings, murder and sheer violence. One can now legitimately wonder if the same will happen in Lebanon.
Another expected result is that government services ranging from health care to social support will cease altogether.
More recently, another worrying development is the public company Electricite du Liban, which faces a constraint to limit blackouts. It comes as providers threaten to suspend their services due to unpaid invoices that are more than 18 months old. And to make matters worse, all of these contracts, like most public entities, are surrounded by allegations of corruption and bribery.
Yet, unfortunately, there is no justice in a country like Lebanon. Even with the best and most willing judges, they would risk death before the real criminals and culprits were convicted.
When investigating other countries that have experienced similar collapses, one can already foresee and understand by looking at what is happening in Lebanon today, where the country is heading.
Let’s forget about the political landscape for a moment and just focus on people’s food intake. In Venezuela, a university study – conducted in 2017 on the impact of the devastating economic crisis and food shortages – reported that Venezuelans lost an average of 11 kg. It also translates into higher infant mortality rates and a complete deterioration in the health of citizens.
As scenes of people fighting in supermarkets for subsidized staples become more and more common, we are already seeing this, in addition to the rise of illegal markets.
Basically, the state will become even more fragile. Hezbollah is expected to keep its grip on the country because it is an environment it understands and controls. They will certainly benefit from their Syrian experience and, through their international networks, will be able to control more of the economy with basic needs: food, medicine, fuel and security.
Hezbollah and Lebanese politicians will not give in and would rather see the country disintegrate rather than risk responsibility.
Khaled Abu Zahr
If it can handle this for its community and its allies, Hezbollah will not have the capacity to take control of the whole state and control the whole situation. This means that he will come to terms with other armed gangs.
Hezbollah and Lebanese politicians will not give in and would rather see the country disintegrate than risk responsibility. They don’t want a solution; they want to be in control of what they can.
Charbel Wehbe’s racist statements towards Saudi Arabia perfectly symbolize – if necessary – the state of mind of Hezbollah and its politicians. It is the challenge of the wicked, the arrogance of the corrupt, the pride of the thief; they don’t deserve to be saved.
But even in a positive scenario, where a government is formed and IMF support is unlocked, how long will it last? It will only be a few months or a year before these political gangs need more and we will be back in the same situation, but with more debt accumulated.
There is therefore an important question that the international community and France should ask themselves: should they stop the efforts for a political solution and move on to an acceleration of the humanitarian aid which the country and its citizens will soon need?
This is difficult, especially if this aid is to be provided by circumventing the current political gangs whose greed and cruelty could make them a tool for negotiating against the population. In any event, a solution for the people must be found urgently.
- Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and technology company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the editors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News