Monday, October 31, 2016

Lebanese elections: on the one hand and on the other hand

So it was settled today, that Michel Awn got to be president of Lebanon.  But Awn really coveted the job when it had meaningful powers. Ironically, his stance and "war of liberation" of the late 1980s, practically pushed the Saudi-Syrian-US order to push for constitutional reforms which emptied the Lebanese presidency of its powers.  Lebanese MPs never elect the president: they receive orders or money to vote for whomever is decided upon.  Back in April 1976, the US government and Syria wanted to make Ilyas Sarkis president.  So there was a meeting in the White House with Jerald Ford and his National Security Adviser, Brent Scowcroft and Dean Brown (then presidential envoy to Lebanon).  Ford expressed concern whether Lebanese MPs would indeed select Sarkis.  According to declassified US documents, Brown assured Ford and Scowcroft that "votes would be bought and sold in the election".  Awn had a very checkered past: he started in the Lebanese Army as an enthusiastic supporter of the right-wing militias during the war. He was first close to the Ahrar militias but then became one of the closest military advisers of Bashir Gemayyel.  For me he committed the one unforgivable crime of all: he participated in the war on the Palestinian refugee camps, and helped put the plan for the siege and bombardment of the Tall Az-Za`tar camp in East Beirut.  He utilized his training in artillery to supervise the indiscriminate bombardment of the camp.  He never utilized his training in artillery to ever fire a shot against the Israeli occupiers of Lebanon.  He later became commander-in-chief under Amin Gemayel, and quickly harbored dreams of becoming the Napoleonic emperor of little Lebanon.  He launched wars against West Beirut and East Beirut simultaneously, and didn't win either of them.  He wound up a refugee in France (and the French government nurtured and encouraged his presidential ambitions) where he coordinated closely with American Zionists to work against Syrian domination in Lebanon.  He would appear on Pat Robertson TV program and was a dinner guest at his house.  The rest of the story is too well known to be retold here.  He struck an alliance with Hizbullah.  I don't for a second trust the "resistance" credentials of Awn: but I believe that he--unlike other Lebanese politicians--can be firm in his stances.  But his alliance with Hizbullah is less a political alliance based on shared principled of resistance and more on a tribal-sectarian-personal alliance with two political leaders, Awn and Nasrallah.  That is how Awn sees it, in my opinion.  It was quite astonishing that Awn remained a firm ally of Hizbullah even during the Western-Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006.  He helped to change the political culture in East Beirut regarding resistance to Israeli occupation and aggression.  But he betrayed all his other declared principles: support for reform and commitment to secularism.  He became a typical Lebanese sectarian Christian politician who was smart to align himself with the most powerful political grouping in Lebanon.  He will have no power in his post, and may play games with the Saudi regime, just as his corrupt predecessor, Michel Sulayman did.  But Lebanese politics does not matter anymore: it now reminds me of Jordanian politics.