It seems that French President Emmanuel Macron, who weeks ago thought he could easily haul Lebanon back from an imminent total collapse, has finally understood that Lebanese are more complex. Decades-old corruption, sleazy, sectarian-based parties and most importantly, the hegemony of a foreign-sponsored armed group, Hezbollah, hold the country hostage.
A day after the Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib quit after failing for three weeks to form a new government that would implement a French plan of economic and political reforms, agreed earlier this month by all Lebanese leaders, Macron held a lengthy a press conference in which he said Lebanon’s political parties “betrayed” their commitments to him personally. “I am ashamed of Lebanon’s political leaders,” Macron declared.
Macron has given the Lebanese leaders another 4 to 6 weeks to form a new government. The new deadline will certainly pass, just like the previous one, unless all political powers in Lebanon agree to put an end to the hegemony of Hezbollah
The French president sounded shocked. He should not have. The Lebanese people have been complaining about those leaders for decades. Unfortunately, the powerful arsenal of Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, has made sure Lebanon’s failed system remains alive to its benefit against the will of the people.
Under the French roadmap, a new government, to be formed by September 15, would enact “substantial” reforms to tackle financial and political corruption. These reforms are being demanded by donor countries which plan to inject billions of dollars of international aid to fix an economy crushed by huge debt.
The proposed reforms however seem difficult to attain while the current political setup remains in place. The people who drove Lebanon to the abyss for the past 30 years cannot be expected to lead the country out of it. That is what Macron needed to understand when he asked the same political elites responsible for Lebanon’s chronic problems to implement the desired reforms. He also curiously counted on Hezbollah, the powerful Iran-backed militia to support his plans.
Critical juncture for Lebanon
As the events of the last three weeks surrounding Adib’s attempts to form a non-partisan government showed, Hezbollah, along its other Shiite group ally Amal, did their best to derail those efforts, by insisting on the right to name the Shiite minsters, especially the finance minister, a critical position at this juncture as Lebanon awaits another round of intentional aid package.
Macron has finally seen the light. He admitted that he was disappointed by Hezbollah and Amal. His patience clearly wearing thin, the French president hinted at sanctions on the armed militia. “Hezbollah can’t be at the same time an army at war with Israel, an unrestrained militia against civilians in Syria and a respectable party in Lebanon,” Macron said, adding: “Is it really a political party or does it proceed just in a logic dictated by Iran, and its terrorist forces?”
Lebanon can no longer survive without answering those questions. Macron has given the Lebanese leaders another 4 to 6 weeks to form a new government. The new deadline will certainly pass, just like the previous one, unless all political powers in Lebanon agree to put an end to the hegemony of Hezbollah.