Lebanon: One Hour to Midnight?

The political impasse in Lebanon between the two major political alliances, March 8 and March 14 has solidified even more in the past three weeks and the gulf separating the two parties has widened and deepened. Terrorist operations by al-Qaeda affiliated jihadists that earlier had spilled over from Syria have intensified and spread beyond Tripoli in the North, Sidon in the South and Baalbek in the East. Sleeper cells are biding their time before they spring to action. The US «creative chaos” strategy could then make Lebanon a victim for the second time since the July War (2006). In that case, it would be highly likely for the conflagration to engulf the entire region, as it would be difficult to imagine Israel contented being a bystander. To begin with, Israel has been active in fomenting trouble in Lebanon, Syria and beyond. The most recent act was the assassination of a Hezbollah leader in Lebanon. Its long chain of violent acts, ranging from killings, assassinations, land confiscation, etc., constitutes crimes against humanity insofar as international law is concerned. Any flagrant Israeli move to aid its Lebanese allies could lead to an open war with Syria, the March 8 alliance and possibly Iran. A third Intifada in Palestine would be likely. Furthermore, Israel’s tacit and not so tacit understandings with Arab states in the Gulf and Africa has already consolidated the pro-US camp.

Two parallel motions have been taking place since the Syrian chemical-weapons deal (CWD) a few months ago. The first was that the US upped the ante on Syria after the battles of al-Qusair in which Hezbollah took part and the battle for Syria reached a strategic tipping point in favor of the Assad regime. Immediately following, the US threatened direct intervention with the chemical weapons attack on civilians as pretext. The terrorist al-Qaeda accused the regime of launching the attack, despite some evidence (including Youtube clips) that the terrorists had launched it. Be that as it may, the strategic consequences were that the US decided to take the CWD rather than attack Syria.

The Assad regime had since scored several strategic military victories. Those battlefield successes and the initial nuclear deal between Iran and the 5+1 states, helped lead to an agreement between the US and the Russian Federation regarding Geneva 2.

Several major analysts in the region seem to think that because the US was dealt a significant blow to its smart power strategy, it has decided to make a deal with the Russian Federation. To improve its chances in Geneva 2, it has escalated the fighting through proxies to score military victories.

However, a closer look at the situation shows that such thinking assumes that the protagonists have all the variables under control.

As it is currently unfolding, the second parallel motion demonstrates that the US trajectory looks at its global geo-political strategy as a whole, which still allows it to play first among equals in several global hotspots.

Although the Russian Federation and China have emerged as the main US rivals, the US is still in an excellent geo-political position in the Pacific, despite China’s recent moves to expand its maritime influence in the Far East. While the Russian Federation has essentially regained its influence in Central Asia, the US still has significant influence there and gained over it in Eastern Europe as it challenges it in the Caucasus region.

The Middle East is a critical region for the US in this global geo-strategy and still has much influence there. Israel, Turkey, the Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi Kurdish region, the Lebanese March 14 alliance are all mobilized to support US Middle East geo-strategy.

While it appears that a few regional states have begun to reevaluate their positions regarding Syria, witness recent developments in Egypt and Turkey, the US is trying hard to bring back Egypt into the fold through Saudi support of the new regime. The US is applying pressure on the Turkish government to continue its support of the terrorists in Syria. US support of probable cosmetic changes at the top could bring back stability to Turkey since the Erdogan government’s popularity has plummeted significantly.

To top it all off, the US regards Lebanon as a game changer. Hence, terrorists have escalated the fighting in Lebanon in the past several weeks. The increasing political gulf between the two main rival alliances indicates that Lebanon inexorably is moving towards war.

Although it might be too late for the peoples’ movements to avert a regional conflagration, yet cooperation among those movements could be the first step for strategic alliances to end death and destruction perpetrated against the peoples of the region.

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