After a fortnight of protests throughout Lebanon the Prime Minister Saad Harari has submitted his resignation and his cabinet. On the surface, was this action a necessary step to restore stability in the country?
If one gauges the protests that have spread from the capital of Beirut to other cities such as Tyre and Sidon then the answer could be a resounding no. The protesters are demanding a change in how the Power is distributed throughout the country. That means the people are demanding that the National Pact of 1943 whose structure acts as the current Constitution of the Country.
Currently under the Pact the President of the Country is a Christian, The Prime Minister is a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of the Parliament is Shia. This system almost collapsed on several occasions including the Eisenhower Administration sending Marines into the country back in 1958, plus the bloody Civil War period from the mid-seventies until the mid-nineties. It appeared that after this period of violence peace would prevail. But there are two factors that currently place this system in jeopardy.
The first issue is the number of Refugees that are hosted by Lebanon. Some of them are Palestinians having been forced to flee twice first in 1948 when Israel won its Independence and was invaded by its Arab Neighbors and the second time was in 1970 when Jordan expelled them after a series of hijackings and other events. Since 2013 the number of Refugees in the country has exploded as a result of the Syrian Civil War. Although the violence from Syria hasn’t spilled over Lebanon there is a risk of that actually occurring.
The rise of Hizbollah is another factor that affects Lebanon. Most Security Analysts have determined that the group acts as an Iranian proxy. The group has sent troops to Syria to assist the Russian and Iranian efforts to prop up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the fighting that has waged throughout Syria. The group has been known to launch rockets into Northern Israel as well from time to time. It also seeks a legitimate role in the Lebanese Government as well. It has managed to maintain some Ministries as well in the Harari Government.
That being said there are some people who are pleased to see Harari out. First of all has to be Saudi Arabia. A couple of years ago Mr. Harari was actually held “prisoner” in Saudi Arabia in an effort to obtain his resignation. When he returned to Beirut he promptly rescinded the letter. So one could ask did MBS play a role in this downfall?
A stable Lebanon is a vital interest to the United States. Before the resignation of the Prime Minister the Americans announced that it would maintain the current schedule of the delivery of military equipment. The US has also encouraged that a new Government be sworn in as quickly as possible. The concerns of regional stability has to be paramount in breaking down this request from Washington.
A stable Northern Border sans Golan Heights is a benefit to Israel as well. Whenever there is a clash between Hezbollah and the Israelis more often than not it’s the Lebanese who suffer the most.
Now we understand why the Lebanese People want change.