Events Related to the Public Disorder in Lebanon

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
Answers to Question
 
Question: I would like to clarify the following points in  light of a political discussion I have recently attended:
 
1- I had thought the prevalent opinion on what is occurring in Lebanon in terms of the protests against poor public services and against corruption under the theme of "You Stink", with the masses from various sects taking to the streets, was related to shaping the Lebanese state of affairs according to the second phase of al-Taif agreement. This relates to abolishing the sectarian apportionment of key posts in which all the sects have been engrossed to the point where the struggle over them has erupted within the one single sect; this explains why the post of President of the republic has remained vacant for the past 18 months. On the other hand, the protests in which the supporters of Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement took part in droves are designed to divert the masses' attention in Lebanon away from Hezbollah's intervention in Syria. Hezbollah has sent a considerable number of its forces to conclude the fragmentation of Syria by attempting to seize al-Zabadani and Eastern al-Ghouta and merge them with the Alawite arc that stretches from the Alawite Mountains to Damascus and up to the central Beqaa area. Was the conclusion of the debate sound?
 
Answer:
 
First: With regard to the first question, the issue requires some elaboration. On the one hand, what was mentioned in respect of the sit-ins and movements of "You Stink" being related to reshaping the Lebanese regime according to the stipulations of al-Taif agreement, which include abolishing political sectarianism and the sectarian apportionment system in key ministerial positions, is a sound opinion.  On the other hand, the opinion suggesting that the supporters of Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement  are behind the "You Stink" campaign to divert people's attention away from Hezbollah's intervention in Syria lacks some accuracy, notwithstanding the soundness of the statement accusing Hezbollah of being party to the major crime of dividing Syria. To elaborate further, we state the following: 
 
Although the protests erupted a month ago spurred by the waste disposal crisis, they have however evolved gradually to turn into a mass protest against other issues such as corruption and the government's failure to provide other services such as electricity, in addition to the crisis related to unpaid salaries. Subsequently, the protest movement added another dimension by demanding the downfall of the government and the dissolution of parliament, and by calling for elections under a fair electoral law, and even demanding the abolishment of the sectarian system. 
 
As for the real instigator of these protests, it is clear that America has a finger in the pie; she has as usual inspired her puppets through her depraved and twisted means to act. Here are the signs: 
 
1- The coordinator of the "You Stink" campaign is Imad Bazzi, a trainee of the Serbian NGO Optor, an organisation linked to the Unites States Institute of Peace (USIP). Optor was instrumental in toppling  Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic. It trained,   under the tutelage of executive director Sergio Popovic at the CANVAS centre in Belgrade, hundreds of activists in more than 37 countries to spearhead and oversee coup d'états and  "soft" and "colour" revolutions by instigating civil and peaceful protests. Foreign Policy magazine named Imad Bazzi as one of the seven most influential bloggers in the Middle East in 2011. This evidently was designed to embellish his image and raise his profile. In the wake of the 2006 war, Imad Bazzi called vehemently for the resignation of General Emile Lahoud who was a favourite of the 8 March forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, an opponent of the Lebanese Forces of Samir Geagea and a foe of the 14 March forces who had been calling for his resignation especially after the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005. And all this makes the notion suggesting that Imad Bazzi is working for Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement implausible.
 
Hence, the presence of Imad Bazzi as the coordinator of the protests, which are apparently not attributed to any specific movement, is deliberate so that the political demands are made on behalf of all the factions and so that they maintain their public-protest feature like the so-called "Arab Spring" revolutions.  
 
2- The sit-ins have been ongoing unabated and the stakes have been raised even though the cabinet headed by Tammam Salam had cancelled the tenders for the waste management contracts. This indicates that the plotters of these protests are well aware of the fact that by rallying the masses around a demand upon which everyone is in agreement, namely the waste disposal crisis, they could subsequently lure them into seeking other political demands related to the regime as a whole. And by reaching that stage of political demands, the masses would be able to smash the duality of the "for and against 14 and 8 March" political equation that has been dominating Lebanese politics for years. Hence, the waste disposal crisis has been exploited as a pretext to lure the masses onto the streets to protest against the government's inability to undertake the simplest of decisions related to a public service, due to the deep political division, and due to the absence of any role for the legislative authority. This political failure is evidently reflected in the post of President which has remained vacant for months after 26 parliamentary sessions due to the absence of a quorum as the majority of the parliamentarians, especially the 8 March bloc, stayed away. This acute political polarisation has been on the increase especially since the eruption of the Syrian crisis and the split of the Lebanese politicians between the two warring parties in Syria. 
 
3- Some observers claim that a section of the 8 March movement is behind the protests; but this statement is inaccurate. Some of the supporters of Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement have been exploiting the protests against the worsening waste disposal crisis to exert pressure on the cabinet of Salam and force it to resign in order to bring the country to a standstill; this is why ministers of the Free Patriotic Movement and the four Hezbollah ministers walked out of a cabinet meeting on 25 August.  However, this type of struggle is not unusual in Lebanese politics; the 14 March alliance, which includes the Future Movement and the Phalanges party is blaming the political vacuum that has been blighting Lebanon since May 2014 on Hezbollah and its ally Michel Aoun, or what is known as the 8 March alliance, who have been forestalling the quorum that enables parliament to elect a new President. This is why the leader of the Future Movement Saad al-Hariri backed the stance of Prime Minister Salam and urged him to set the work of the government in motion and tackle the urgent crises such as the waste disposal. As for the leader of the Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea, he warned against the resignation of the government and called on the protesters to remain in the Martyrs Square in the heart of Beirut to exert pressure on the parliamentarians to elect a new President, thus leading to the downfall of the cabinet and to holding fresh legislative elections. This proves that all the parties in Lebanon are attempting to exploit the sit-ins of the "You Stink" campaign to their advantage but this does not mean that a specific party from among those partaking in the political process is behind the protests. 
 
4 - It is clear that the historic reconciliation between the warring Lebanese factions, brought about in the wake of the 1975-1989 civil war and epitomised in the Taif Agreement or the National Reconciliation Accord, which called for the abolishment of sectarianism from political life has never been acted upon or effectuated despite all the slogans being trumpeted by some here and there. In February 2011 America kick-started the process of "Abolishing the Sectarian System" campaign but this was aborted few months later because the various sectarian and political parties decided to dig their heels in. Observers of the dynamics between the two camps can perceive that those who lead the protests are the same old face known as the "civil society" forces.  And it has become clear - which is in itself deliberate - that the traditional parties that share power and wealth in Lebanon did not have any involvement in the protests and the sit-ins at first. Before the demonstration of Saturday 29 August, the "You Stink" campaign wrote on its Facebook page that the: "Lebanese authority insisted on burying its head in the sand and overlooking the demands of the masses, because the politicians are attempting to exploit the protests to score points and generate division among the demonstrators; the trash crisis has not been resolved yet and those who assaulted the demonstrators have not been brought to account yet."  It added: "The Lebanese youths from all political affiliations gathered in the Martyrs Square to protect their independent voice and hammer the last nail into the coffin of the sectarian system."  The question is, since America is endeavouring to divide the region on sectarian grounds, why would she do the opposite in Lebanon? The answer is as follows:  Sectarianism is in the first place deeply rooted in Lebanon, irrespective of whether the Taif agreement was abolished or implemented. However, abolishing the sectarian apportionment in key government posts will lead to corroborating officially the "Shia" dominance over political decisions since they allegedly are the majority; thus Lebanon would become part of the "Shia Crescent" which is being deliberately projected to counter the "Sunni Bloc". This will establish sectarianism firmly in the region and America will exploit it to weaken the Muslims further.  
 
18 Thil Qi'dah 1436h
2 September 2015
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