The growing tensions in consociational Lebanon disturbing the peace and stability of the state because of outnumbered conflicts in and around the territory since Lebanon gained independence. Instability causing further fragmentation and atomization of the state. There are various explanations defining the current scenarios of instability in the country. Previous researches focused mainly on sectarian tensions but the situation changes when people decided to walk through the streets holding placards for maintaining peace. This qualitative research determines to find out the conditions and necessary for achieving peace and stability in Lebanon. The study will focus on the existing conditions and what can be transforming necessity for gaining peace and stability in the country. What will be those imperatives of peace and how it may achieve?
A country of the Middle East is considered as the ‘mini Middle East’ in its own terms. A state without the nation having instability wars and considered as the microcosm of every identity politics. A purely colonial construct with artificial boundaries created in September 1920 by the French government, has survived for a century—but barely, a place where so much blood has been shed, and so many tears wept and proxies rose. At the same time, all civilizations and religions started here.
As Charles Franklin Kettering quoted – “A problem well stated is a problem half solved”. A state with a consociational form of government is one of the important forms in a state of divided societies. The consociational system has survived since so long in Lebanon, working well with ups and downs. So for that, Lebanon is considered the unique country in the Arab world with confessional conflicts and a long war has revealed the instability of Lebanese democracy. But at the same time its everlasting endurance that prevents authoritarianism. People in Lebanon lived together, intermingled, yet fought a bitter civil war among them.
Later on, in the 1970s the National Pact did play a role in the Lebanese Civil War in the building of political tensions that ultimately sparked the violence. Instability aroused basically because of internal and regional tensions which lead to serious violence and regional conflict with Israel undermines Lebanon’s fragile peace.
The result after ethnonational and sectarian-based wars lead to Taif agreement on October 22, 1989, most members of the Lebanese parliament (elected in 1972) met in Taif, Saudi Arabia, and accepted a constitutional reform package that restored consociational government in Lebanon in modified form which ended the conflict after 14 years after major killings. Under this pact, the Christian agreed not to seek French protection and the Muslims agreed not to seek unification with the neighbouring state of Syria.
Drivers of Instability in Lebanon
Lebanon’s problems are like a spider’s web, Complicated and interrelated. It’s not easy to understand that what actually a real issue affecting the peace in Lebanon as there are many to recognize. In Lebanon, since 2010 a new cold war has been started between western states and their Israeli allies and Arab world led by Shia and Sunni states which are paralyzing govt. activities are one of the reasons for instability and removing peace from the state. All leads to the failure of political leaders of Lebanon who has become incapable of taking responsibilities for the country and its people but ruled as proxies of foreign powers not more than puppets. They themselves don’t work for sovereignty, peace and stability for their own country but act as corrupts. They surrendered their sovereignty due to external ties and influence.
This is most important to know that the drivers of instability in Lebanon are only corrupt governance system. The government work through confessional representations among 18 sects. And the intentions behind the Taif agreement of 1989 were to mitigate existential fears and promotion of harmony and peace between the different denominations. However all turned wrong, the system institutionalized sectarianism and promoted jingoistic cynicism reflected in the political stability in Lebanon today.
Another reason for instability in Lebanon is also the corruption in taxes and money for their benefits which is later affecting the economy of the country leads to economic malfeasance. In contemporary times also Lebanon’s economy is in crisis. The economic malpractices of pol. Elites are a key driver of popular unrest and instability. The caretaker government appealed assistance from foreign countries.
Another would be regional instability as a battleground for outside actor’s proxy wars and power plays. E.g Lebanon’s proximity to Israel and political ascendance of Hezbollah led to greater Iranian influence in the country. Iran and Saudi Arabia are competing in Lebanon. As PM was under Saudi Arabia’s thumb and speaker of Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy. Christian splits with both of them. This led to many protests for call out of Iran and reforms of the state.
Hezbollah: A State Within a State
Historically accepted, Hezbollah is a resistance movement. But still, its true nature in the lands of Lebanon is not yet understood. What Hezbollah actually wants from Lebanon? As this militant group is having three aims in this land as it seems. First, in its own words, it’s a resistance movement which actually doesn’t define its true nature. Second, it is an Islamist political movement also engaging with non-Shiite parties within Lebanon. At the same time, Hezbollah’s support to basher Al-Assad against Sunni Muslims in the Syrian civil war has contributed to sectarian tensions with Sunni Muslims in Lebanon. And according to its own manifesto, it is a revolutionary movement formed around a special Shiite school of thought that seeks to establish an Islamic state based on the radical ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran: Wilayat al-Faqih or “rule of the jurist”.
US-listed Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization. It eliminates the possibility of open discussion on its rights to bear arms. They did this in Lebanon with the agenda of various like-minded allies in the region. They believe in one person one vote and disagree in confessional quotas under the Taif accord. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has many times spoken against sectarianism and said that ‘he will be the first to join a true Sunni government but sectarianism, power-hungry politicians and a sham democracy are among the main factors that have prevented the establishment of a strong Lebanese state. If Hezbollah is purely a tool of Iran why is it popular in Lebanon? If acc. to its manifesto US and Israel are its prime enemies and it’s so hell-bent on liberating Jerusalem how it managed de facto agreement with Israel. The main question is: “Are Hezbollah’s efforts in developing social services and schools in an attempt to replace the Lebanese state”? If that so than Hezbollah and Lebanon are the brink of civil war again. This is causing more instability in Lebanon and left no place to attain peace unless and until this issue has been solved.
Conditions of Peace and Stability
Lebanese are not merely passive victims of a violent fate but many are hungry for change and exploring opportunities and pushing boundaries to achieve it. It’s a much-praised post-war model of power-sharing and liberal economic growth has failed to deliver for most Lebanese. Because repeated outbreaks and political violence since 1989 led to the failure of the Taif Accord.
And in spite of that, three levels of peace is still much needed in Lebanon for future stability- social, governmental, and regional/ international peace. There are various flaws in Taif Peace Settlements lead to internal tensions and regional interests and instability. E.g. Syrian interference and Israeli armed threats and incursions as nosy neighbours. Looking outside Lebanon’s borders for a solution to Lebanon’s problems mitigates its pol. Leader’s domestic responsibilities and ignores the Lebanese people’s insight and capacity to affect change. Peace hasn’t achieved yet just because of overlapping domestic and regional conflicts. E.g. Hezbollah’s arms linked to Syrian-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli development but Hezbollah is also a domestic actor.
Local and foreign, state and non-state, civilians, external manipulations and private interests like a boxing match, the Lebanese used to say rounds of fighting one after another. After Taif agreement what went wrong is that the Lebanese are experts at internal communal prejudices, consumerist selfishness, lack of public responsibility and self-destructive society. They want peaceful communal coexistence, security and propensity although the same constituencies are quick to deny responsibility for common losses. Sectarian tensions within Lebanon are legitimized and reinforced by a global discourse on ‘cultural differences’ and by regional appetites for power, namely between Riyadh and Tehran. Palestinian-Israeli relations are deteriorating as military containment appears to be the only ‘solution’ in town. In response, Lebanese leaders withdraw into conservatism and seek to protect their privileges, blocking practically every peace-building initiative and expected reform. First of all, it is important to focus on the problems of stereotyping and mistrust in order to prevent more violence. There should be dialogue and peace between both religions.
As Fawwaz traboulsi a Lebanese historian said, “Lebanon suffers from constitutional schizophrenia”. The pol. Regime with quotas for the electoral system and govt. appointments contradicts the rights of political and legal equality. Such as, while the constitution makes the abolition of the confessional system a basic national goal, another part of it tends to protect that system to end this confessional political system and to bring secularization there were movements noted for the secular state on proportional representation in Lebanon as electoral constituency”.
Access to Salim Bidoui a French-educated Lebanese journalist; “the 1943 national pact dead and the 1989 Taif accord were no longer viable, even if Lebanese Shiite were now openly calling for a constitutional convention which will reach to a new power-sharing accord which deliberately will be an Iranian sponsored Taif since it would be based on excessive Shiite power, Lebanon would disappear. Access to the article published says that all sects failed their people and the majority of Lebanese wished to see real technocrats in charge of their government. A desire expressed during the October 2019 protest and recently after Beirut explosion also.
One govt. resigned and was replaced by another with the same political leaders manipulating the process. In reality, nothing changed. Also because the financial situation and the deadly explosion took place in Beirut port that killed more than 200 people in august 2020 worsen by corruption and mismanagement and people lost faith in political elites and lead to their PM’s resignation after the whole country took to protest against corruption. Protests in Lebanon that begun last October against a political elite that had ruled since the 1975-1990 civil war have led to the resignation of two governments, but politicians have since failed to form a new government. The global coronavirus pandemic and the august 4 explosion have also brought further suffering to the country already facing an economic crisis and the collapse in the currency as well as robbing the protests of their momentum.
In foreign policy, an American news publications in an article argued that partition is the only condition to achieve peace and stability in Lebanon, according to the article published in the FP magazine argued that ‘a century is a very long time for a failed experiment in nation-building. These 100 years of neglect and greed produced were immense contradictions all leads to poverty, unemployment, sectarian corruption, worst economic crisis, inflation galloped, the price skyrocketed, emigration exploded, poverty settled 50% of the population and the Lebanese lira lost merely 80%of its value in less than a year.
At the centre of tensions, holding the key to both chaos and peace is Hezbollah. The rise of Hezbollah, feared by both of those other communities, is a matter of pride for many Shiites. As Lebanon teeters on the brink of collapse, the country’s Christians, Druze, and Sunnis—along with some Shiites—are determined to preserve their freedom, internal peace. However, comes at the cost of accepting the hegemony of Hezbollah and its allies. That would trap Lebanon in the crippling status quo: a failed economy and ineffective sectarian politics.
In contemporary times Lebanese people have mobilized in historic and unprecedented protests across confessional lines, they are now united in their belief that their current government is corrupt, predatory and outdated. Protesters are not interested in stabilizing Lebanon if that means a perpetuation of the status quo system. Also amid protest, local civil society and Lebanese armed forces have emerged in the front line. Lebanon is one of the recipients of the United States Agency for international development assistance in the Middle East. The US and its allies quietly supported the growth of LAF and civil society over the last decades which they are now creating an alternative to the corrupt system. They are also trusted by Lebanese but the issue is they are limited in their impact on conflict drivers and corruption. To support them, US can reinforce better efforts while pressuring Lebanon’s current government officials to take immediate steps to address the economic crisis to support Lebanese protest and to be responsible to their demands for reforms by peaceful conflict management. Because the United States frames Lebanon’s policies and programs in anti-Iran terms during their delicate times. This should be avoided by the US to not framing narratives that will play directly into Iran and Hezbollah’s playback. Also, the stabilization can be achieved when the United States and its allies as nosy neighbours stop intervening in Lebanese organic movement or rather to support them.
The most immediate need is to address Lebanon’s economic crisis. As now Lebanon is entering a period of transition that some believe will forever change governance in the country. Consequently, traditional frameworks of stability and resilience may no longer apply. But after October 17 a revolution the situation switched. The people had been pushed too far and the people themselves had discovered the fraternity. United them took the streets, filling spaces with peaceful protest, all affirmed a new imperative after October 17 Lebanese revolution. It was a fleeting event that led to Hariri announcement of resignation under pressure from the protest. Lebanon will be in crisis, will completely fail unless there is no unity, acceptance, and respect for each other’s beliefs. But those who choose to be united and together will always have peace.
After having the worst history of Lebanon with many ups and downs Lebanese people are struggling for the right. Its historical turning point is far from being over as there still is a long way to go for a constitutional reboot. The first battles were undoubtedly won by the street but this is merely the beginning of a legal war aimed at bringing down a sclerotic regime. This comes down to the question of combating immobilism, nepotism and corruption. The generational gap between a youth fed up with worrying about its future and the political establishment is now too big to be ignored. Whatever may come out of 2019, 2020 protests, people discovered that they are strong. The Lebanese nation rose and solutions are now to be found within its society and not outside.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of the Government of India and Defence Research and Studies
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