The US Agenda for the ME vs. The Christian Lebanese Interest
By Pierre A. Maroun


Depending on the type of analysis utilized to evaluate the political progress in Lebanon, micro versus macro,
the view point is drastically changed. When analyzing the situation in Lebanon on a micro level, or a
Lebanese perspective, it appears that the proceedings are not occurring in the proper order as a Lebanese
would wish for Lebanon. However on a macro level (ME), and from a US perspective, political affairs in
Lebanon are succeeding in the proposed direction, despite Christian dissatisfaction with the way events are
unfolding.

On the macro level, the US has its own plans for the greater middle eastern (ME) region which includes
Lebanon, but whose scope is much wider than that of a Christian Lebanese one. The US support of the
current Lebanese elections is a practical one. While it is true that Christians are pro-West and do not use
terrorist attacks and car bombs as a means of their political struggle, this is also true of the Muslim
Lebanese political elite. For example, the first trip for Mr. Saad Hariri following his trip to Saudi Arabia, was to
the USA accompanied by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. This is a significant step for the Saudis, Mr. Hariri,
and for the USA. It meant that Mr. Hariri is a Saudi sponsored personality who is to be treated as such in the
USA. What is significant about this, is that the US, who is fighting terrorism, can count on Mr. Hariri and the
capitalist Sunni class in Lebanon and its surroundings (Syria & Palestine) to restrain, even contain, Sunni
Muslim fundamentalist groups from gaining ground. It is a fact that Capitalism and Muslim fundamentalism
are opposite. Poverty makes people more susceptible to backward ideologies such as Bin Laden and
Zarqawi’s. Thus, the best way to fight fundamentalist groups is to empower Muslim capitalist ones. Who is
better than the Hariri’s Future movement group to achieve such a task?

In addition, it is clear that one of the most important overall US objectives is to curb, or eliminate, Hizbullah’s
military and political power in Lebanon and the Middle East. Here, too, a powerful Muslim political group will
achieve such a task with less risk than a Christian political group, for it will minimize the risk of a sectarian
conflict. A Muslim demanding that Hizbullah disarm is more likely to succeed than a Christian doing such a
demand. This is just another reason as to why the US has no objections at this time of a powerful Muslim
political influence in Lebanon.

The same goes for Syria’s influence in Lebanon. After the assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, the Muslim
Sunnis, who have been historically known as sympathizers to Syria, not to mention their repeated calls for
unity with Syria, are now on clashing terms with the Assad regime. Thus, it will be much more effective to
allow the Lebanese Sunnis, and allies (Druze), to fight Syria’s motives and influence in Lebanon, than to
position the Christian Lebanese in the forefront, especially since they have been historically known for their
opposition to Syria. Weakening Syria does not only strengthen democracy in Lebanon and Iraq, but it will
also weaken the insurgents in Iraq, rupture the link, and eventually destroy the Axis of Iran-Syria-Hizbullah.
This is not only an achievement, but it is a first step for a US/EU victory over the then isolated and weakened
Iran. After all, the top priority and the most important objective of the US/EU, beside spreading democracy, is
dealing with Iran’s nuclear capabilities; this, in itself, is not an easy task unless Iran is isolated.  Needless to
say, if the Lebanese parliament fails to wisely deal with the Hizbullah issue, they will be then forfeiting their
rare opportunity to deal with the issue internally. Consequently, the US/EU will deal with Hizbullah in
accordance with the UNSCR 1559. This will not make matters easier for the Lebanese officials who will then
have to stand by the West against Hizbullah, or vice versa. Either way, they will be positioning themselves
between a rock and a hard place.    

On the micro level, certain Lebanese are unhappy with the current political situation in Lebanon. Demands
for postponement of the elections are being voiced by different parties who are dissatisfied by the outlook of
the upcoming elections. The basis for this dissatisfaction is multifactorial. Some believe that flaws exist in the
current parliamentary laws, which will lead to a weakening in the Christians' political influence in Lebanon.
However, it is important to note that the Christians' political influence is not limited to just within the walls of
parliament, but extends to other branches of government including the presidency, the cabinet, and the
Judiciary. Therefore, any fear that the outcome of the elections will lead to the suppression of the Christians'
political influence, is unfounded. For others, their discontent arises from personal and selfish reasons, while
some are looking at Lebanon's situation with a narrow understanding of the current situation. Another factor
which is worth mentioning is that a lot of Syrian era "influential" people will be toppled after the International
Investigating Committee begins its work. In fact, some "big shots" have already decided not to run for re-
elections, while others have resigned from their government posts.

As for the Christian leaders who showed support to the Patriarch's stance vis-à-vis the electoral law of 2000,
not all of them did for the sake of supporting the Patriarch, but rather did it in order to boost their status
within the Christian camp by simply taking advantage of the Patriarch’s frustration. As for those Christians
who did not blow things out of proportion after the Bishops' rough statement (warning), and whose act
seemed selfish and/or spineless, their position was in fact based on clear understanding of the political
situation facing the country and the region, and not because they were following their own narrow-minded
personal interests. To some Lebanese leaders, they prefer to be right but misunderstood, than to be wrong
and popular.

Nevertheless, it is a legitimate concern to wonder whether delaying the elections will achieve better results
for the Lebanese, especially in terms of representations. However, for the US, delaying the elections means
entering a tunnel with an unknown results for they will lose control of events in the parliament to Syria’s
puppet Speaker of the House Nabieh Berri. For the US, this is a risk, or leverage to Syria, which they are not
willing to take in order to satisfy some opposition groups. Accordingly, from a US perspective, going for the
elections with the current law is a risk of a lesser evil.   

On the whole, the US agenda for the broader ME and Lebanon is not at odds with the interest of the
Lebanese, especially the Christians. The difference, however, is only a matter of priorities. The Christians
should not be worried about losing influence in Lebanon, especially since their influence stretches beyond
politics to include their dominance in the social and economic aspects of the Lebanese life, not to forget the
Media and the power of the Diaspora. Besides, they can always substitute any loss of power which may
occur as a result of the flawed electoral law by striking alliances with the broader opposition groups and by
preserving the spirit and unity of the "Cedar Revolution." As the Rev. Jesse Jackson once said, “In politics,
an organized minority is a political majority.”


Long Live Free and Democratic Lebanon.



Pierre A. Maroun
May 21, 2005


Published on
Lebanonwire
PERSPECTIVE
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