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How a volatile Lebanon fits Iran's agenda

Source: Annahar
Bassem Ajami
Anti-government protesters chant slogans, during ongoing protests against the Lebanese government in front of the Central Bank, in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. (AP Photo)
Anti-government protesters chant slogans, during ongoing protests against the Lebanese government in front of the Central Bank, in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Before 2005, Hezbollah used to pride itself on remaining aloof from domestic Lebanese politics, concentrating instead on liberating Lebanese areas from Israeli occupation. Now its focus seems to be on dominating the political life by imposing norms and precedents that are contrary to the constitution.
 
In his latest speech, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, blamed the French for seeking to break precedents in forming governments. 
 
The precedents that Sayyed Hassan wanted to preserve are that each political group has the right to name its own ministers and that the Ministry of Finance "belongs to the Shiites."
 
The problem with such a view is that Sayed Hassan ignored two points. The precedent he is so eager to preserve was imposed on the Lebanese by the force of arms. The same arms that Hezbollah imported into the country under the pretext of fighting Israel. The second point he ignored is that the precedent is a clear violation of the constitution.
 
If Sayed Hassan doesn’t like the existing constitution he can seek to change it by constitutional means, and not by the force of arms. But Iran doesn’t want to use constitutional channels to have its way in Lebanon. It wants to keep Lebanon in a volatile state in order to use it as a bargaining chip in its confrontation with the US.
 
But it is not Iran that will benefit from keeping Lebanon a fluid situation. It is Israel. 
 
We saw how Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, tried to distract attention from the speech of Sayed Hassan by claiming Hezbollah keeps its weapons hidden in heavily populated areas. And in the wake of the Beirut port blast and the explosion in the south, the Israeli Prime Minister aims at keeping Hezbollah busy and on the defensive on the local front.
 
Of course, Hezbollah has the right to be involved in the political process like all other parties, but it must do so according to the rules as they are laid out in the constitution.
 
The framework of the French initiative is the constitution. The demand that each party should have the right to name its own candidates to the cabinet is unconstitutional. 
 
While the complaint that the designated Prime Minister did not consult with the parliamentary blocks is a fair criticism, such blocks have the final say when the new government goes to parliament seeking a vote of confidence.
 
Avoiding the constitution in politics is like playing any game without rules. It creates confusion and disarray, which is what the situation is now in Lebanon. Playing by the rules is the only way to get things in order, which is a pressing need for Lebanon today.
 
 
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