(My Middle East)

77 days with a journalist, Lebanon, and a list of non sequiturs

Archive for June 12th, 2009

Contrary to popular belief, things are looking up

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Theres a lot of baseless information getting tossed around right not about the elections and its potential aftermath. The Western media really tries to simplify everything to its lowest common denominator. I’m sure there were section editors everywhere begging to write “Hezbollah loses election” headlines. These kind of things are understandable, theres only so much complexity an audience wants until it loses interest. But a lot is getting lost when things get boiled down that much. Dean Sharp and The Angry Arab do a great job of pointing out the misconceptions that are making rounds in the press right now.

Too add some of my own to the mix:

There is this conclusion that has been added on to numerous analysis pieces that says the next phase of politics of prime minister and cabinet making will plunge Lebanon into instability. Its the violence refrain, we heard it before the elections and now we hear it again Its the “hey this is Lebanon, people are bound to start shooting” line. Well frankly I don’t see it.

The players in Lebanon have made a conscious effort to keep violence out of the equation. Theres anything from the normal platitudes during press conferences, to Slieman Frangieh calling his supporters donkeys for thinking about arming themselves. It’s obviously a PR stunt, but thats the thing, its popular to be seen as non-violent right now. Adding to that, the people who are armed, Hezbollah, has expressed no interest in mixing their arms with their  local politics. Even the sorting out of the blocking third and Hezbollah’s weapons seem to be going forward without much friction.

That brings us to the next level of stability in Lebanon. The regional players. Even a basic analysis of your regional players shows you that by and large the cards aren’t there for destabilizing Lebanon. At least for the time being.

First you have Syria. By acceptance  of engaging with the U.S. via Mitchel’s visit to Damascus, and calling for Turkey to restart talks with Israel. Bashar is clearly showing that he wants to be on the Obama Middle East peace train and start  improving relations. Realizing that, and then recognizing that creating instability in Lebanon or not recognizing their sovereignty  would be a non-starter with the U.S. you can rule out Syria as a destabalizer.

Next you have Iran. Iran is in the middle of its elections, violence would be a wild card for either candidate, and at the moment it looks like the Grand Ayatollah wants eyes firmly on Tehran. Petty political squables between Michel Aoun and Michel Murr are no interest to Iran who has bigger issues on its hands.

Israel is the last one, and I think they most unpredictable for a lot of things right now in Middle East politics. Netanyahu seems very attached to his right-wing base, and that doesn’t seem like its going to change. He could be a stumbling block for the peace process and he could be a stumbling block for general stability. But seeing as Iran’s line right now is playing it cool, so is Hezbollah’s and so the trigger to set off the Israel right-wing doesn’t look like its there at the moment.

But I did leave one person out.  “The General” Of all the people on the local level ,  Aoun seems like the biggest wild card.  He seems the most upset with the way things are progressing. He didn’t get close to the 70% of the Christian vote in 2005, and with his registering of complaints and demands of proportional representation he seems the least satisfied with the election in general. Not to mention his 20 years of desire to become president. But honestly the likelyhood of the FPM taking to the streets still seems low to me.

Written by stephenddockery

June 12, 2009 at 9:02 pm