A broad agreement among Lebanon's political groups and leaders, warning about Sunni-Shiite strife as their response to the blast that targeted Beirut's southern suburbs on Tuesday, could have served as an occasion to launch an understanding in Lebanon to break the state of political crisis in the country. It could have brought a bit of vitality to Lebanon's political and constitutional institutions, instead of the paralysis it has been characterized by for months as a result of the vertical political division in the country, particularly over the Syria crisis. This situation has begun to apply to all issues, big and small, in managing the affairs of state.
However, this consensus on the part of the various political groups has remained at the verbal level. Each party to the country's political division has begun to claim that responsibility for preventing strife, which might be the objective of the bombing in the suburbs, lies with others.
If we pose the silly question – who will become involved in this strife, since all sides reject and criticize it? – then the obvious answer is that no side announces openly that it is going to engage in strife and decides to launch it, taking responsibility for its outbreak. Instead, strife is based on grand slogans that seem noble, but events then unfold, as strife slips into the stances of various sides, based on group loyalty and instincts that are wrapped up in patriotic, pan-Arab, Islamist, struggle-related, and religious stances as well.
There have been many analyses and accusations about who was behind the explosion in the suburbs. Among them are reasonable and possible ones, as well as those that seek to exploit the incident politically. The most realistic analysis has been to link the bombing to the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon. This has not been hidden in the many comments by Lebanese and others; otherwise, why has there been talk about takfiri extremists, or the need to return to Lebanon's policy of disassociation from the conflict in Syria, or the Baabda Declaration?
The explosion took place at a new moment of linking the Syrian crisis to the new political map in Lebanon. Anyone who ignores that Hezbollah is linking the survival of its influence, strength and weapons in Lebanon, backed by Iran, to the survival of the Syrian regime, is burying his head in the sand. This is why Hezbollah has openly declared its involvement in the fighting, alongside the regime. Anyone who ignores that the other side, namely the Future Movement and its March 14 allies, is betting on a re-ordering of the political formula in Lebanon – because the strength of the Syrian regime and Iran should be subtracted from the influence gained by Hezbollah and its allies domestically, as the influence of the regime in Damascus is receding, or expected to collapse – is also hiding his head in the sand. The political formula for both sides in Lebanon is that the balance of power in the political establishment is an extension of the nature of power in Damascus.
The last few months have proven that the side with the biggest influence in Lebanon, namely Hezbollah and its allies, by virtue of the strength they enjoy, were able to postpone the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on the balance of power in Lebanon. However, the direct military intervention in this crisis has led to accelerating the security repercussions on the country. Therefore, the Hezbollah-led March 8 camp has been able, for now, to postpone parliamentary elections, and delay the formation of a new government, amid expectations that the Lebanese will be unable to elect a new president next May.
Hezbollah has been unable to implement the slogan of its secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, to "let us fight in Syria and keep Lebanon neutral," which he deployed in a bid to put a positive spin on his forces' participation in the battles raging in Syria. Nasrallah was unable to see this slogan apply to his party's stance on Lebanon's constitutional institutions, which required avoiding a vacuum while preparing for engaging in political agreements to end the stand-off. In parallel to Hezbollah's hard-line stance vis-à-vis attempts to topple its ally, the Syrian regime, the party was unable to accept compromise solutions when it came to official Lebanese institutions. This was either because the party believed that others might weaken it, or because it expected victory in Syria, which should also take place in Lebanon.
The Future Movement and its allies were unable to convince their rivals to establish a neutral government in which neither they nor Hezbollah would be represented, because the former are biased toward the policy of toppling the Syrian regime, a stance that has not been matched by military developments on the ground in the last few weeks and months.
The dangers that have surfaced in the wake of the bombing in the suburbs lie in the absence of any sign of consensus on how to deal with the vacuum in Lebanon's military, security and administrative institutions, and in the government, and seeing vitality return to the newly-extended legislature. Perhaps these institutions can deal with attempts to ignite strife in the country, but the most dangerous aspect lies in trying to chase away the moderates who can play a role in halting strife. We are seeing this in the organized campaign of accusations launched by supporters of Hezbollah against Saida MP Bahia Hariri, claiming that she sponsors extremists and those who are carrying out bombings. Does the objective behind this "chasing away" what remains of the Hariri family involve leaving the arena to the extremists, as it comes after Hariri's residence was fired on and laid siege to on 23 June?
The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent or reflect the editorial policy of Arabstoday.