Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Lebanon’s short, sharp conflict, by Alain Gresh

Lebanon’s short, sharp conflict, by Alain Gresh

"For five days the country remained in suspense while the Doha negotiations went on. All the political leaders took part with the exception of Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah, who has rarely been seen since the assassination of his organisation’s military leader, Imad Mughniyah, in Damascus on 11 February (see “Damascus young dream on”). On the road to the airport demonstrators brandished placards saying “Reach an agreement or don’t come back” or simply “Don’t come back”. Their message to their political leaders as they departed for Doha was a sign of their discontent with the political class. All of them espouse the principles of democracy and champion the authority of the state, but these are more honoured in the breach than the observance.

"Ask which parties’ leaders have not embezzled public funds and the answer is unanimous: “Hizbullah and the FPM.” Stealing from state coffers has become standard since the signing of the Taif accords in 1989, when the civil war ended and Hariri became head of state. “There aren’t two camps in Lebanon, a democratic one and an autocratic one,” a writer told me with regret. “The building of a state based on the rule of law isn’t the aim of any political party. We’re the prisoners of the strategies of different regional and international powers. We can dream of staying out of it, of going it alone, but reality regularly brings us back down to earth. And often with a nasty bump.”

"Hizbullah’s risky gamble has turned into a defeat for Saad Hariri’s US-backed government. But the momentous week in May is not the last reverberation that will be felt in this country, for so long the trial arena for all the conflicts in the region."

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