From jungewelt.de, Aug. 18. The author has been covering Syrian, Lebanon and Palestine for progressive German-language publications for decades. Translation by John Catalinotto.
It was only last January — in response to the street protests — that the technocratic government of the engineer and former university professor Hassan Diab was sworn in in Lebanon. One week after the explosions in the capital Beirut, this government resigned on Aug. 10. Diab, who has no party connections and none of Lebanon’s long-established power structures behind him, announced new elections.
According to the Lebanese Constitution, the cabinet will remain in office as a caretaker until the formation of a transitional government or new elections. It is unclear, however, when the latter will take place.
The “Street” [popular demonstrations] has already made it clear that the government’s resignation will not be enough. The entire “regime” must be overthrown, people say, and call for nothing less than a “revolution.”
“We don’t have one street, we have 100 streets,” Sofia Sadeh, professor emeritus of modern history of the Middle East, noted in an interview with Junge Welt on Aug. 13. “They may agree on what they do not want. But when it comes to what they want, they all have different ideas.”
According to Sadeh, foreign countries are using street protests to promote their own interests in Lebanon. After the [Aug. 4] explosion in the port of Beirut, the country was in danger of an international invasion. The French, German and U.S. governments demanded “reforms” before agreeing to allocate aid from international financial agencies. The demands, however, have not been concretized, and there is disagreement about with whom these “reforms” can be implemented — if at all.
On Aug. 5, French President Emmanuel Macron was the first leader to fly into Beirut where he called for a “government of national unity.” Within 24 hours, Lebanese had collected more than 50,000 signatures on a petition asking to put Lebanon back under a “French mandate.” [French imperialism held the League of Nations mandate for Syrian and Lebanon from 1923 to 1943. — Translator]
Macron promised help, distributing kisses and hugs. But first he declared that all political forces must be involved, including Hezbollah. In the meantime, Macron changed his mind and, like the USA, called for a government “that everyone can agree on.” In Lebanon, however, this is seen as a recipe for stagnation.
Support from Iran
On Aug. 14, following up on Macron, French Defence Minister Florence Parly also arrived in Beirut. Coincidentally — according to the daily Al-Akhbar — she attended a reception also attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Jawad Sarif. Parly spoke about reforms and the rapid formation of a government, while Sarif declared that Iran would support medical care in Lebanon and supply petrol and oil to improve the electricity supply. In addition, the country will be supplied with glass to repair the destroyed buildings.
While it has not been made public, it is possible that the two politicians also discussed the oil tankers the U.S. hijacked off the coast of Venezuela the day before, the situation in Syria or the future of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the role of Hezbollah in Lebanon. The U.N. Security Council will decide on an extension of the mandate at the end of August. Israel, which recently brought 12 U.N. Security Council ambassadors to the border with Lebanon to show how much Hezbollah threatens Israel, wants to see a tightening of the mandate for UNIFIL or its end.
Germany, too, which had sent Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (Social Democratic Party) to Beirut shortly after Macron, is calling for “reforms” in Lebanon without naming them specifically. A lot of money from Berlin is flowing into so-called civil society, which, according to all experience from war and crisis zones, tends to promote rather than stop corruption. See revised article on MSanger in 2. Germany is also backing street protests politically, medially and financially, protests that storm ministries and hang politicians in effigy.
Following Maas, David Hale, the former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, finally left his mark in Beirut in the dust of the ruins. “I am with you. I stand by your side, as do my government and the American people,” declared the U.S. politician during a tour of the Gemmayze district, which was badly damaged.
Imperialists against Hezbollah
Hale, who is now Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the U.S. State Department, proposed that Nawas Salam, Lebanon’s long-standing ambassador to the United Nations, be made the new Prime Minister. The U.S. administration argues that Hezbollah should under no circumstances play any role in Lebanon’s politics. The organization is accused by the USA, Israel, Germany and Saudi Arabia of having turned Lebanon into an Iranian outpost. They try to ignore Hezbollah’s political role and influence in the country.
Hale announced that “at Lebanon’s invitation,” the FBI will land in Beirut to “assist” Lebanese and foreign investigators. The FBI is the central investigative agency of the U.S. government, combining law enforcement and domestic intelligence. Sending the FBI is also a kind of occupation.
Wait and see
While Western governments are increasing the pressure on Lebanon, Beirut’s Eastern partners are keeping remarkably quiet. Russia, China and Iran have offered and delivered aid and are waiting to see how the Western cockfighting continues.
Tehran’s interests lie in strengthening the country against Western influence and Israeli interests. Iran is strengthened by close cooperation with China. Both countries are preparing a trade and security agreement worth around $460 billion U.S. dollars with a term of 25 years. At the beginning of the year, Iran, China and Russia carried out their first joint maneuver in the Indian Ocean.
Iran and the Levant — the eastern Mediterranean region — play a central role in Beijing’s economic plans for the “New Silk Road” project. The ports of that region, including Beirut, are earmarked for this. At the beginning of July, a Chinese business delegation offered Lebanese Prime Minister Diab support in modernizing the power supply and expanding public infrastructure. The entire package, worth around $12 billion U.S., is to be financed by Beijing and will be repaid over a long period of time once it comes into operation.
Russia is less wealthy than China and is initially locating its interests in Syria — in clear alliance with Iran and China. Moscow sees the U.S. and the EU’s presence in the region as increasing the danger of war and thus as a threat to Russia. For this reason, Moscow presented a security plan for the Gulf region in summer 2019.
According to the Israeli government, the agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates now presented by the White House follows a new “doctrine” for the Middle East region: “divide and rule” — the opposite of what Moscow has proposed.