Watching thousands of Lebanese families leave the country in pursuit of a better, stress-free life to raise their children while politicians are bickering over powersharing in order to secure their narrow personal interests, makes one conclude that Lebanese leaders care less about the well-being of the people they claim to serve and represent.
After three prime ministers-designate in a year, the ruling political class has failed to form a Cabinet at a time Lebanon is facing the most severe economic crisis to threaten its foundation since independence. The public reasons revealed to justify the political stagnation are trivial enough, leading people to believe that foreign and hidden agendas exist.
Emigrating and chasing opportunities around the world is nothing new to Lebanon. However, this time people are not leaving the country because of a civil war or security concerns. Traditionally, when the minimum stability and basics needs are secured Lebanese return to their homeland but this time is different. The ruling clique has managed to break the spirit of resilience Lebanese once bragged about. The daily humiliating affairs of securing basic needs for their families following the disappearance of their life savings, sent people into despair and cast a grim look over the future of the country.
Even if a new Cabinet is formed, it would take real efforts to convince people to believe in the future of Lebanon as a viable state but also as a place you can build a future and raise a family. Lebanese are busy with the daily rate of the Lebanese lira against the US dollar and the availability of gas and fuel, the daily rollercoaster of news about the possibility of forming a Cabinet, and but they are not discussing the future of the country as an independent viable state.
If the reasons behind the current debacle are foreign then Lebanese leaders have mastered how to entangle the country’s affairs with regional problems and conflicting agenda. The two main power brokers in Lebanon are the two countries who spent the most on Lebanon over the last two decades: Iran and the US. The two countries have been locked in a war of proxies since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. And logically, a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran would certainly help stabilize Lebanon.
But the key question in stabilizing Lebanon is at what expense. Lebanese rival factions should fear that an Iranian settlement with the US and its regional allies may include the recognition of the Iranian influence in Lebanon. Such a recognition would certainly have major consequences in the political power map of the country. This would certainly require a foreign intervention or risk deepening the current economic crisis by adding a sectarian and political dimension. The reality is that Lebanon is not the same today and all signs indicate there is no return to the pre-Oct. 17 status. After a century of the announcement of Great Lebanon, Lebanese may have to go back to the drawing board and answer the basic question: What kind of Lebanon they want?
Failing to meet every conditional deadline, there are no assurances that upcoming legislative and presidential elections would be held on time. If a Cabinet is not formed this week, the debate will shift to the upcoming electoral deadlines. Then all bets are off and all constitutional deadlines, including the presidential election, will be consolidated in one package. This will certainly require a new founding conference to agree on all related sensitive issues and identify the new potential regional sponsors.
Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalist based in Beirut. He contributes a weekly column in The Daily Star.