By Arab News
By Eyad Abu Shakra*
For some in “occupied” and “subjugated” Lebanon, the nightmare is over; for others, the country is approaching a regional cliff edge.
In fact, Lebanon is going through a second “March 14th” uprising, this time against direct Iranian domination, which is the real thing, unlike during the first uprising, when Syria’s “security custody” was a mere shadow of that real thing.
Many have viewed the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, from a post that was always a flimsy cover for Iranian domination, as a step in the right direction. If anything, his resignation may have been overdue, since his only task was rubber-stamping.
Those relieved when Al-Hariri resigned have always felt that he had already lost a good deal of credibility in both the nationalist and Sunni Muslim camps. Moreover, he had been too passive in the face of unrelenting efforts to discredit him through pushing him and the military and security forces to accept Iran’s political and security domination, and to turn the Lebanese national army into an understudy to a sectarian militia led from abroad and serving foreign aims.
Meanwhile certain groups are still happy to be passive and continue their futile wait, at the expense of Arab interests, Lebanon’s national identity and even its demographic composition. Until now these groups had convinced themselves that diplomacy and appeasement were enough to check Iran’s expansionism fuelled by the armed blackmail it had already used several times both inside and outside Lebanon.
However, Lebanon is now under Tehran domination extending from southern Iraq to the Mediterranean across large Syrian territories. The Iranian regime has destroyed national borders drawn in 1920 to separate the Arabs, which many “Arabists” dreamed of bringing down. Through Daesh (and those behind it) and Iran’s sectarian militias, there are no more borders between Iraq and Syria, or between Syria and Lebanon; thus, Iran now enjoys a corridor to the Syrian and Lebanese Levantine coasts. Thus are laid bare Iranian plans for the whole region, not only a Lebanon under the military occupation of Hezbollah.
Given the above, one should seriously ask: What next?
On the Lebanese front, I believe Saad Al-Hariri did what he had to do, first as a patriotic leader who believes in an independent sovereign Lebanon, and second as Sunni Muslim leader at a time when Sunni Arabs are being targeted and marginalized in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Under the presidency of Michel Aoun and Al-Hariri’s “consensus Cabinet” with Hezbollah ministers, Iran’s influence inside Lebanon gained both a cover of legitimacy and involuntary acquiescence from representatives of its religious sects. Furthermore, displaced Syrian refugees became victims of animosity highlighting the high cost of their stay and their individual transgressions, rather than holding Hezbollah responsible for causing their displacement by fighting on Bashar Assad’s side in Syria.
Moreover, pressure was applied to make the army and security “defense doctrine” an almost carbon copy of that of Hezbollah, which is part and parcel of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
Finally, the post of prime minister — reserved for the Sunnis — was marginalized, and its authority compromised; for example when Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister and the president’s son-in-law, ignored collective Cabinet responsibility and the prime minister’s position against the Syrian regime by meeting Walid Al-Mu’allem, Assad’s foreign minister, in New York.
The “consensus Cabinet” ensured that Hezbollah achieved most of its aims, including securing its favorite “electoral law” and its strategy toward the sensitive Sunni town of Arsal on the border with Syria. The fake consensus spared Hezbollah the need to use military force to impose its will, and tighten its control of the country.
Al-Hariri’s resignation has pulled the cover off a sinister situation that was damaging to him as well as to Lebanon. He has done the right thing in throwing the ball into the world community’s court.
Lebanon, in any case, is but one link in the Middle East chain. The resignation of a prime minister who finally decided not to be a cover for a plan for regional domination is certainly an important step in blocking it, but it is not enough on its own; it will require serious willingness to derail this plan from a much higher level.
Al-Hariri was subjected to much criticism in the past year, but he has now acted courageously. Will he now be supported by those vocal critics of Tehran’s policies, ambitions, and plans for domination underpinned by its arsenals inside Iran and its militias in several Arab countries?
Will the world community react with serious urgency in dealing with a Middle East near boiling point?
And is there a genuine understanding of how dangerous it is to allow religion-clad extremist ideologies to hold sway in a highly sensitive area, where ethnic, religious and sectarian identities intersect, nor far from the heart of Europe?
In 2005, when the Lebanese people rose against a “security custody” imposed from across its borders, the world community reacted quickly, only to forget them soon after.
Many fear this might happen again to their “Second Uprising.”
• Eyad Abu Shakra is managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published. Twitter: @eyad1949