Lebanon: France Moves To Incite Civil Unrest
French President Jacques Chirac is set on starting a new bout of civil fighting in Lebanon. For months, his ambassador to Lebanon, Bernard Emié has been pumping steroids into the muscles of the US supported Lebanese Government. The French are conniving with the US administration to block all possible avenues for compromise between the Lebanese Government and the Opposition. This is effectively paralyzing the country and creating an environment conducive to civil strife.
Last week, while the Lebanese were commemorating the start of the 1975 war with chants of “never again”, France was submitting a strongly worded motion to the UN Security Council. The text openly referred to the Lebanese Resistance as a “militia” (a term still rejected by the Lebanese state) and called for its disarmament. It also drew explicit connections between Iran’s nuclear aspirations and the resistance to Israel. The motion is so extreme in its support of Israeli ambitions that it is being opposed by China, Russia, South Africa, Ghana, Congo, Panama, and Qatar, all currently members of the UN Security Council.
What does Chirac want? Not much: an International Tribunal empowered by the UN Security Council. The Tribunal will exact revenge for the murder of his friend and benefactor, Rafic Hariri, the Lebanese (born) Saudi magnate who was Lebanon’s prime minister for over a decade.
What’s wrong with a UN sponsored International Tribunal? A lot has been written about this supra-judiciary tool. Besides the intricacies related to national sovereignty and legal minutiae, the main issue lies in the use of the Tribunal as a political tool. The current perception of the Lebanese Opposition is that this Tribunal cannot be neutral nor objective (the UN being a surrogate of the US administration); and that its main purpose is to end resistance to US (and Israeli) hegemony in the Middle East. In simpler terms, phony International Justice will be used as the weapon to accomplish what neither diplomacy (UN resolution 1559 calling for the disarmament of the Resistance) nor violence (33 days of relentless Israeli bombing, mayhem and destruction of Lebanon in July-August 2006) could achieve. Disarming the resistance will facilitate the physical elimination of its leadership and remove the last bastion of opposition to Bush’s New Middle East.
Lebanon is a nation hopelessly divided into self-serving sects. Weakening one sect will automatically strengthen the others. Hizbullah and the Resistance represent today the Shi’a sect of Lebanon. Eliminating their leadership will automatically relegate the Shi’a back to their traditional low caste status.
For this reason, many Lebanese are very hostile to an UN-sponsored International Tribunal. For this same reason, many Lebanese want the International Tribunal. The US-supported Lebanese Government has sent a draft approval of the International Tribunal to the Security Council. To become legal, this draft has to be approved by the Lebanese Parliament and countersigned by the Lebanese President. This is where the stalemate lies.
Negotiations to find a compromise between the International Tribunal and the protection of the Lebanese Resistance from US and Israeli vindication have been going on, but very slowly. Chirac, however, is in a hurry. He wants a tribunal before the end of his term in May 2007. He has been unremittingly lobbying for the Tribunal to be approved by special UN Security Council resolution under the 7th Article of the UN Charter. This would effectively declare Lebanon a non-state, and place it under the control of the UN. This is also the best way to start a civil war. The Opposition has repeatedly warned that forcing the International Tribunal through the Security Council will lead to “chaos”, a euphemism for unbridled civil violence. But what does Chirac get out of that? After all he opposed the US sponsored invasion and destruction of Iraq, and has bragged plenty about it. Could it be that the alligator actually has a heart? That he really misses his friend Rafic Hariri? That the insurmountable loss has turned him into a political vigilante? This is the story being peddled by the Hariri-controlled media in the Arab World, with regular news items about the emotional bonds that tie the Elysée Palace with the Hariri Dynasty.
In reality, the Chirac-Hariri relationship has to be viewed from a different perspective. As soon as he leaves office in a few weeks time, Chirac will be investigated by the French judiciary on charges of corruption and undeclared personal and political “funding” during his tenure as mayor of Paris. Many of his senior aides have already received prison sentences.
It is very likely that Chirac has received “funding” from his Saudi-Lebanese billionaire friend. It is very likely that Chirac did not declare this money. Chirac needed funds. Hariri needed credibility. And Chirac has no shame when it comes to selling French credibility. A few weeks ago, he bestowed the French Honor Legion onto Saad Hariri, son of the late Rafic Hariri. Saad’s achievements in the political arena before his dad’s death are well known: he was spending his dad’s money between Riyadh, Paris, Monte Carlo and Washington. Well worthy of the honor legion.
The Hariris still need President Chirac, a powerful ally with permanent membership on the UN Security Council. Chirac may still need the Hariris, one of the biggest fortunes on earth, with tentacular connections to help him in his legal predicament. This may well be the dark side of this friendship.
In his efforts to restart the Lebanese civil war, Chirac is supported by the US and Britain. They’re happy to lead him down the path they have cleared in their Iraqi adventure, and to teach him one last lesson before he goes: never say “I told you so” when you are a corrupt politician. Lebanon could well become Chirac’s Iraq.
Rami Zurayk is a Professor of Ecosystem Management Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the American University of Beirut. You can view more of Rami Zurayk's work at www.landandpeople.blogspot.com