by Makram Rabah
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of khazen.org
Over the years the Lebanese have got used to the idea that many, if not
all, of their leaders' political statements and actions can be easily
reversed or simply swept away without any form of accountability or
consequences. However, the hail of criticism generated by the recent remarks of Lebanese President Michel Aoun in support of Hezbollah might be the exception to the aforementioned rule.
The objections to Aoun’s unstatesmanlike remarks stem from the
ambassadors of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISGL) - the
US, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and China, in addition to the EU
ambassador and representative of the UN secretary-general in Lebanon and
Arab League representative. This might perhaps serve as a warning of
what awaits Lebanon if Aoun stays his precarious course. The US ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, clearly warned the Lebanese state that its refusal to abide by international law and UN resolutions might lead to the withdrawal of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). As it stands, however, President Aoun's skewed position in support of Hezbollah has virtually imploded UNSCR 1701,
which requires the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, and has
placed Lebanon under the scrutiny of the international community,
something that might have dire repercussions for Lebanon and its fragile
So to follow the logic of
the ISGL, why would the international community continue to assist the
Lebanese government when clearly it refuses to practice common sense and
use the UN resolution to extend its sovereignty and control over its
More dangerously, however, the withdrawal of the
peacekeeping force could be construed as an implicit endorsement of the
Israeli warmongering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to achieve what
his predecessors failed to do, and that is to root out Hezbollah and its
now underground missile arsenal.
The withdrawal of
the peacekeeping force could be construed as an endorsement of the
Israeli PM to achieve what his predecessors failed to do – root out
Hezbollah and its now underground missile arsenal
a practical perspective, Hezbollah would be heavily disadvantaged by a
UNFIL withdrawal, as it will no longer be able to use the interim force
as virtual hostages to hide behind nor to claim that their actions
against Israel were of a defensive nature.
The UNIFIL departure
scenario, while possible, remains somewhat far-fetched at this juncture,
as all sides concerned (UN, Israel and Hezbollah) have grown accustomed
to this contentious peace.
More importantly and, as some analysts
have noted, Hezbollah is too deep in its fight in Syria to pose any
serious threat to Israel and therefore both factions would prefer this
status quo to linger.
real threat to the Lebanese state and its new president is to be found
elsewhere in the Arab world, specifically in the Sunni Gulf states who
are convinced more than ever that Lebanon has been seized by Iran and
consequently must be treated as a rogue state.
2006, Hezbollah's so-called divine victory was made possible by
internal Lebanese cohesiveness and a massive initiative led by the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to rebuild the country’s civilian
infrastructure, as well as the towns and villages in the south of
Lebanon and the southern Beirut suburbs that Hezbollah used to fend off
the Israeli war machine.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud greets Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Riyadh on 10 January 2017 (AFP)
financial and moral commitment on the part of these Gulf States went
unrecognised, as Hezbollah - using the Lebanese state and its allies in
the government as cover - declared an open war against the House of Saud.
Lebanese viewed Aoun’s visit to Saudi Arabia last January as an attempt
to mend relations and possibly revitalise the kingdom’s largesse
towards Lebanon and its struggling economy. All these hopes, however,
have been swept away following Aoun’s provocative comments in support of
Saudi Arabia's arch-nemesis, Iran.
more importantly, a serious test awaits Aoun, as well as the entire
Lebanese state, at the upcoming Arab League Summit slated in Jordan at
the end of March. As projected, Aoun will lead a senior delegation which
will include PM Saad al-Hariri to participate in the summit, where all
eyes will be on the Lebanese president and his keynote address.
Aoun chooses to continue touting Iran’s line and further drifting from
the Arab consensus by defending the arms of Hezbollah, he risks placing
the entire country under more political and economic austerity.
such a scenario does play out, Hariri, Saudi Arabia's main ally, will
be required to step out of his hibernation mode and publically denounce
Aoun’s ill-advised conduct as a measure to shield Lebanon from any Arab
However, as it stands, Hariri has refrained from criticising Aoun even after the Saudi monarch cancelled
an upcoming visit to Lebanon, an event that would have reinstated
relations between Lebanon and Saudi, which has yet to send an ambassador
to replace the one recalled almost a year ago.
President Aoun has always insisted that Lebanon needs a strong president, one who can bring back the glories
of a prosperous long gone past when the Christians reigned supreme.
However, the remarks and actions of Aoun go against this declared goal,
as isolating Lebanon from its Arab surroundings and placing it at odds
with the international community could only make Lebanon more
marginalised than it is at the moment, perhaps a new low for a country
which boasted about being a bridge between east and west.
reality would perhaps be a useful reminder for Aoun and his party when
they land on the tarmac in Amman to attend the Arab summit, that every
word they utter will have its toll on Lebanon and its future.
- Makram Rabah is
a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History.
He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American
University of Beirut, 1967-1975.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
peacekeeper of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
speaks on his talkie-walkie in front of a billboard bearing a portrait
of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah during a patrol in the southern
Lebanese town of Adaysseh, near the border with Israel, on 19 January
2015, one day after an Israeli air strike killed six Hezbollah members
in the nearby Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights (AFP)