May 23, 2022
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.
ERUPTION IN ISRAEL
Lebanon hasn’t been on the media screen for some time. Having gone through civil war created by Hezbollah’s takeover of the country, Lebanon has faded from the front page. However, they remain an important part of the Mid-East scene. While I have not been inside Lebanon for some time, one of my sons taught at the University of Balamand in Beirut so we keep up.
Here’s the latest.
Christian leader Samir Geagea said this week that Lebanon’s hijacked sovereignty must be restored after an election denied the powerful Shiite terror group Hezbollah a parliamentary majority. “All strategic decision-making should return to the Lebanese state and security and military matters should be handled exclusively by the Lebanese army,” the head of the Lebanese Forces party stated.
“No one should be able to transport missiles from one place to another without the permission and knowledge of the military,” the 69-year-old leader added referring to Hezbollah.
Geagea’s campaign for the May 15 election centered mainly on disarming Hezbollah, cementing his role as the movement’s staunchest domestic rival. The Iran-backed Shiite group, which held a majority in the outgoing parliament together with its allies, is the only militia to have not disarmed after the end of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. Hezbollah, whose arsenal outguns the army’s, is described by its supporters as a bulwark against enemy Israel, but it is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the US and other Western countries.
To challenge Hezbollah, Geagea is counting on alliances with other traditional powers opposed to it, including the Christian Kataeb party, and the Progressive Socialist Party led by Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
At least 13 independent lawmakers who emerged from an anti-government protest movement in 2019 could also bolster their ranks, Geagea claimed. “We agree at a minimum on the need to build an actual Lebanese state away from corruption, clientelism, quotas, and private interests.”
Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented financial crisis widely blamed on corruption and mismanagement by a bickering ruling elite that has dominated the country since the civil war. The country has been battered by triple-digit inflation, soaring poverty rates and the collapse of its currency since a 2020 debt default.
“Our ties with Gulf Arab states will certainly be restored and Gulf aid will gradually flow to Lebanon if a government is formed that can inspire trust and confidence,” Geagea said.
The swift formation of such a cabinet will also streamline IMF negotiations, according to the Christian politician. The IMF and Lebanon in April struck a conditional deal for $3 billion in aid.
Let’s hope better days are ahead for Lebanon!
Readers of my Wise on the Middle East blog will be fascinated by my latest book
MIRACLES NEVER CEASE!