Archive

Tag Archives: lebanon telecommunication ministry

Is Lebanon coming out of its Cabinet Crisis that has been going on since June? Well just like the cabinet crisis itself no one has a clue what is going on. I just met someone from the Carter Centre who has done the rounds with the various political analysts who said their response was much the same. Each has their different theory but they are all speculating.

No Saudi – Syria gain

I still stick to my view that the essential dilemma is the vital telecommunications network. The interesting aspect of this particular cabinet crisis is that it has become increasingly clear, but far from crystal, that the delay is very much an internal affair. Despite the protestations from all sides as to the usual external interference this particular issue I think has a strong internal failure. There is no benefit for Saudi or Syria to have a cabinet crisis in Lebanon at the moment and both appear not to want confrontation; this given the recent open display of reconciliation and also the announcement from actors, such as France, that Syria is not to blame for the current paralysis. Syria and Saudi have an active interest to push the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons and the tribunal to a side for now, so why the delay?

What’s going on in Lebanon?

The internal dynamic is stressed by the bizarre intervention by Patriarch Sfeir. He stated in a interview, with al-Massira, that: Hezbollah acts in the interests of Iran and that Syria will return if not managed properly. In other words do not give in to any opposition demands regarding the cabinet formation because they are external demands. This statement, knee deep in hypocrisy, has unsurprising ruffled a few feathers on the opposition side that if we are to believe the media had almost reconciled with the government as to the make up the cabinet.

The Patriarch has over the years shown an active desire to involve himself in the political situation but only at vital moments. This was articulated just before the June Elections where the Patriarch made provocative statements against March 8 and Hezbollah in particular; the intervention by Sfeir was seen as vital part of the  March 14 victory.  So why make the provocative statement now? I cannot find a reason, it does not make sense. If you are stating a principal as to how to approach the cabinet crisis why do you wait until three months when signs appear that it may finally get resolved?!

Impact of the cabinet crisis

The most worrying aspect of this cabinet crisis is that it is beginning to lose meaning. No one can understand what is going on. This loss of meaning is creating a deep apathy in Lebanon (not that it was by any means shallow to begin with). The elections really created a buzz within Lebanon’s civil society as to the role of politics in the possibility of change and reform. The cabinet crisis and its laborious continuation has decidedly fizzed out every little bit of buzz there was. The impact for Lebanese politics in the ever-increasing apathy is that already rotting institutions will no doubt continue and the break down of the state will occur further. The result of this of course is that the fat cats get fatter….

Advertisements

Lebanon’s political stagnation is not a surprise given the history but  after such a peaceful election in June that created a pretty much uncontested winner in the March 14 coalition it was not implausible to think that a cabinet would be formed without too much hassle. If not only because the reasons that allowed for a peaceful election continue namely Saudi-Syrian reconciliation carries on slowly, but for the moment surely, and the Doha agreement has more or less maintained the tone of reconciliation among Lebanese at all levels. It is clear that the Lebanese political actors do not want confrontation at the moment, with the great exception of Aoun who after a disappointing election is being as bellicose as ever.

However, Lebanon despite all the reconciliation in the air is haunted by the big issues that have not been addressed in any of the political reconciliation talks and that continue to create paralysis:

1. The weapons of Hezbollah
2. The International Tribunal

These two massive issues are the central reason blocking the formation of the government. The telecommunication ministry is being the centre piece of the fight. Hezbollah’s telecommunication network that was essentially the cause of the May fighting of 2008 does have some overlap in the ministry, in which the FPM gave access to the telecommunication network in the Ministry. Also there is the issue of being able to monitor phone calls, this is useful for both political coalitions but for Hariri it is particularly important for evidence for the International Tribunal. The Guardian makes this latter point and also states how the Ministry is also going to be important as the privatization of the two state run mobile phone networks will soon occur raising a possible $4.2 billion.

Qifa Nabki argues that the current crisis is to do with the architecture of the political system in Lebanon and focuses on the internal argument. But the current paralysis rests on these two almost existential issues that are bigger than the internal structure of Lebanese politics. The big issues continue to haunt Lebanon and there appears to be no end in sight. Hariri will no doubt try to push through a technocrat government which appears to be the only road to go down. Lebanon suffers from internal issues that are bigger than itself and are unlikely to be solved through internal means.