By Mohammad Mazhari

Part of the problem, out of the solution

August 2, 2021 - 21:53
International intervention will not solve Lebanon's problems: Lebanese professor

TEHRAN - Head of the Center for Political Studies at the University of Lebanon says international intervention will not heal Lebanon's wounds. “The international intervention will not solve Lebanon's problems,” Talal Atrissi tells the Tehran Times.

“Part of the crisis in Lebanon has to do with the Western-American blockade on Lebanon, and this started two years ago,” Atrissi adds.

The United States under the Trump administration imposed a bunch of economic sanctions on prominent Lebanese politicians and key allies of Hezbollah on charges of corruption.

The action was the latest in the Trump administration’s efforts to put pressure against Lebanon. It also intensified that pressure under the guise of fighting systemic corruption in Lebanon, which is on the brink of political and economic collapse.

 “Sanctions were imposed on banks, as some banks were closed by U.S. direction, and thus the external role had a significant impact in this regard,” Atrissi remarks.

The economic deterioration caused by U.S. sanctions is coupled with a complicated network of corruption.

Although the protests triggered on the 17th October 2019 sent a strong message for a major reshuffle in the country’s political figures, people witness the return of the same names who institutionalized corruption in the country. 

“The return of the figures that are linked to the corrupt system, is because of sectarian features of a system that allows them to return.

“Reassigning the prime minister who was in charge of the government during popular demonstrations, has to do with the sectarian system that requires a prime minister from a certain sect; a prime minister who had resigned during the protests,” the Lebanese academic notes.

Following is the text of the interview:

 Q: How do you read the recent events in Lebanon?

A: What is going on in Lebanon is a sign of political crisis caused by the nature of the country’s sectarian system, which is based on the distribution of political positions and chairs based on sectarian attribution.

This sectarian power-sharing is reflected in the Council of Ministers, Parliament, and in various administrative bodies. This political system has lasted for decades, but today it is facing a crisis. There is no longer room for consensus among the leaders of the sects, and thus the country has gotten entangled in this crisis.

So, we are facing a woe in the political system and a crisis of consensus between the political parties while there is no side that can play the role of mediator, as the country used to.

  Thus, this situation was accompanied by an economic and social collapse and deterioration in national currency, which has made the crises more complex and inextricably intertwined and turned them into economic and social woes.

  This is the reality Lebanon is encountering today, and worse than that, it is not known how long these conditions will continue.


Q: The various sects and parties in Lebanon accuse one another of being involved in corruption? What are the features of the corrupt class that rules the country? 

A: Corruption in Lebanon is not limited to a particular sect, religion, party, or person. Current corruption in Lebanon has turned to a system that contains a network of relations that transcends sects, meaning that corruption is a consensus point between sects where there are common interests for people and companies established by the participation of different sects that share the spoils and gains are distributed among them. 

Therefore, it cannot be said that only one sect is involved in corruption or is the cause of the exacerbation of corruption. In Lebanon, the matter is not understood in this way, and it is not possible to accuse a specific party of corruption. On the contrary, there is an intertwined and unified system of corruption that has concluded contracts over years. For this reason, the supposed reforms were not successful, as the money allocated for them was stolen by a group of people belonging to different sects.

So corruption is trans-sectarian. The second point, which is more serious, is that the judiciary is no longer impartial in Lebanon at all, and therefore it does not play its role in prosecuting the corrupt people, arresting them and putting them in jail in a way that convinces the people. The judiciary is not committed to its missions and functions where it is under pressure from politicians, sects.

This is what makes corruption strong while enjoying political and sectarian protection.


Q: Since the past two years, the Lebanese people have been expressing their opinion, demanding the dismissal of figures that have stuck to the current political system. But after all the demonstrations, we see that the same figures and personalities return to the fore. What is the solution?

A: The demonstrations that swept Lebanon last year failed to set priorities. It raised the slogan of fighting all political classes and voices without making any distinction between politicians who were not involved in corruption.

The demonstrators neither set priorities for the required reform programs nor agree to dialogue with some political parties; they did not set an agenda for their priorities.

The second point is that these demonstrations were attended by supporters of the political parties in the same system. Those who contributed to the government have also been engaged in corruption.

 Groups linked to political parties and figures came to redirect the demonstrations. Consequently, this popular movement lost its credibility and influence. 

In a word, in the first week, Lebanon faced a strong movement, but in the following weeks it receded and divided into political groups that were supporting opposing approaches; for this reason, this movement failed to achieve its goals in fighting corruption or changing the ruling political class.

As for the return of the figures that are linked to the corrupt system to the political scene, that is because of sectarian features of a system that allows them to return.

The return of the same names to the fore, such as re-assigning the prime minister who was in charge of the government during popular demonstrations, has to do with the sectarian system that requires a prime minister from a certain sect, a prime minister who had resigned during the protests.

 We need a change in the articles and foundations of the Lebanese constitution, starting from the election law to other laws that concern the Council of Ministers and how to nominate the prime minister and the like.


Q: How do you see the impact of international intervention on Lebanon's economy? There are people who call for deepening Western intervention in the Lebanese economy.

A: International intervention will not solve Lebanon's problems.

 Part of the crisis in Lebanon has to do with the Western-American blockade on Lebanon, and this started two years ago.

Sanctions were imposed on banks, as some banks were closed by U.S. direction, and thus the external role had a significant impact in this regard.

When the money was taken out from Lebanon (including the money of banks and depositors), this was done with the knowledge of the Western powers.

The money that goes out from Lebanon to Switzerland, Britain, or the United States of America is known; Western states know well who the owner of this money is, how it was shipped out, and where is its destination.

If there was no international plot to take out these funds to deepen the crisis and achieve the goals sought by the United States of America, then the authorities turned a blind eye to the transfer of this money, to say the least.

Washington spared no effort to encircle Hezbollah in a bid to weaken the influence of the resistance axis and its allies, including the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese president.

That is why one of the aims of the Western embargo on Lebanon is to weaken the influence of the resistance, and therefore today talk of international intervention to save Lebanon's economy is a statement that carries big question marks.

 First, the International Monetary Fund does not intervene to save countries when they reach the point of bankruptcy. Rather, it gives them loans and mortgages the repayment of these loans on political terms, constitutional amendments, changes in laws, and the imposition of certain policies.

 In the case of Lebanon, for example, this fund requires the presence of international forces on the borders between Lebanon and Syria in the south, or other areas in the port and at the airport.

Therefore, it cannot be accepted that the solution lies in Western intervention. Nobody refuses cooperation with the West and the East and ties with Europe, Russia, and China in the reconstruction of large sectors such as electricity, the port, and others. This is something acceptable and required, but that the West be considered the only solution to the economic crisis is a wrong attitude and will put the Lebanese economy and Lebanese sovereignty at risk.


Q: Don’t you expect a return to civil war in Lebanon in light of the current policies?

A: Fears for a return to civil war are not realistic and no one wants this war at the level of domestic issues.

 Even the foreign powers are not interested in triggering a civil war in Lebanon, although wars are always fueled by external decisions, whether at the regional level or at the international level.

The war will not change anything on the ground, but it will end in settlements and understandings, as happened in the previous civil war (1975-1990).

 The real concerns are about chaos. I mean, there will be a security vacuum that may trigger attacks in certain areas.

The fears are that the security forces evade their duty in controlling the situation. This is the most likely possibility, but I rule out the occurrence of a civil war between sects or regions, or between Muslims and Christians as well as between Sunnis and Shias.

I do not think that this is on the table at the present time. Perhaps some parties are thinking that sedition may be the most appropriate solution to weaken Hezbollah or implicate the resistance, but such projects are old and not new.

 Lebanon is not on the brink of civil war despite the economic and social crises that engulfed it.

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