November 22, 2021
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert L. 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.
LEBANON IN CRISIS
It’s been some time since I was in Lebanon but I follow current events closely. My oldest son taught at the University of Balamand on the outskirts of Beirut. Here’s an update on the current struggle in the city following the terrible bombing.
Throughout its history, Lebanon has known endless upheavals, wars and occupations, foreign interventions and two bloody civil wars. Nonetheless, for the past two years it has been mired in the throes of an economic crisis unprecedented even in its own grim history.
Distrust of the government by local citizens and foreign investors alike has led to an investment drain and severe foreign currency shortage. The coronavirus pandemic combined with the August 2020 explosion that leveled the Beirut port have further exacerbated the situation.
Over two-thirds of the citizens in the country once dubbed the “Switzerland of the Middle East” have been plunged below the poverty line. Electricity and gasoline are now luxuries and even they are only available occasionally. And in 15% of households, the children have had to stop going to school in recent months in order to help their families eke out a living.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati is well aware of this and has rushed to form a special emergency cabinet tasked with proposing a speedy resolution of the struggle. His office even announced that he had hinted to Kordahi that he would do well to step down, saying he should “make the right decision” in order to avoid further deepening Lebanon’s crisis.
Despite harsh Saudi steps, Lebanon is too important for the Saudis to walk away. The kingdom aspires to position itself as a regional power and a leader of the Sunni world in particular, and of the Muslim world, in general, and it cannot afford to lose its hold in the Land of the Cedars. What is more, a Saudi withdrawal from Lebanon would make it even more susceptible than it is already to an Iranian takeover.
Hezbollah, too, is well aware that Lebanon is unlikely to survive, not to mention overcome the severe economic downturn, without the presence of the Gulf states. As of now, Hezbollah is still expressing support for the prime minister.
In light of the sides’ shared interests, the current crisis will presumably be resolved sooner or later. Nonetheless, a comprehensive solution to Lebanon’s deep ills does not appear in the offing. The fragile sectarian balance of power is not conducive to addressing the country’s fundamental problems. At most, it enables dealing with temporary crises, and even then with great difficulty and external help, making the next crisis only a matter of time.
I have a new book coming out.
MAN ON FIRE can be ordered at the local book store.
I hope you’ll avail yourself of this inspiring story!
Also these fine books are available now:
I Marched with Patton: A Firsthand Account of World War II
Alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals!
by Frank Sisson (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)
You can find I MARCHED WITH PATTON on Amazon.
82 Days on Okinawa: One American’s Unforgettable Firsthand Account of the Pacific War’s Greatest Battle!
You can find 82 DAYS ON OKINAWA on Amazon.
by Art Shaw (Author), Robert L. Wise (Author)