Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, President Michel Sleiman ticked all the right boxes, pledging Lebanon’s commitment to the Baabda Declaration, disassociation and the various U.N. resolutions. Subsequently, the U.S., France and others vowed to stand by the country, and helped protect its sovereignty and borders.
But what does any of this really mean for a country without a government or a valid Parliament? If all the richest governments in the world suddenly pledged money to help Lebanon, who would be responsible for allocating these funds correctly? Could anyone trust that a combination of a caretaker government and endemic corruption wouldn’t lead to huge losses? It smacks of putting the cart before the horse.
For the last five months we have had a seemingly countless number of suggestions, from every different political side, on how to form a Cabinet, each with its set of debilitating conditions. And this paralysis impacts not upon the politicians themselves, whose workload has considerably lightened, but on the Lebanese people on every level, from security to the societal. The economy is almost on the brink, with tourism and industry suffering acutely.
So everything said and pledged in New York this week is completely meaningless, unless these declarations of support and assistance are coupled with the creation of a government. Otherwise we are back to square one. Each of the statements, whether it be from France or the U.S., are not even new – their representative envoys in Lebanon have already made similar points.
When the country is in such a limbo as it is now, attending such conferences as the U.N. General Assembly is a luxury. It does little more than give an illusion that Lebanon is a normal, functioning state, when anyone with experience closer to home realizes that couldn’t be further from the truth.
However, if there is any progress made on an international level – vis-a-vis relations between Iran and the U.S., or Iran and Saudi Arabia – this could help. It might have the necessary knock-on effect on parties on the ground in Lebanon, possibly even to such an extent that an atmosphere is created here in which a new government could be formed.
This is the only way that Lebanon has a chance of moving forward and out of this current dangerous situation, being pulled here and there by various regional and international manipulators. Yet it will also prove once and for all that Lebanon cannot make any claims to be an independent and sovereign state.
Once again it is being used as a pawn in an international game of chess. It would also underline that as much as foreign actors may claim to be interested in protecting Lebanon and its security, for them it is never about anything more than safeguarding their own priorities.