Lebanon's presidential crisis: Navigating regional dynamics and international interests

Press Highlights
2023-07-13 | 00:05
High views
Lebanon's presidential crisis: Navigating regional dynamics and international interests
Lebanon's presidential crisis: Navigating regional dynamics and international interests

 With a great deal of innocence that borders on naivety at times, the Lebanese are grappling with the presidential crisis that is suffocating them. 
The debate revolves around a package of names. At the same time, the real problem is more profound and broader, reaching the level of reshaping the Middle East in light of the new international alignments and the volcano that erupted in Ukraine. 
Lebanon indeed becomes a detail in this situation. Still, it is an essential detail due to its geographical location on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
There is no doubt that the fire raging in the Old Continent has compelled European countries to draw up a new policy, especially as the warring parties are Russia and its allies on one side and the United States of America and its allied camp on the other.
Although constraints are preventing this war from crossing a carefully drawn line, defined by the "American fox" Henry Kissinger as one in which Russia is not allowed to lose and at the same time should not win, all indicators suggest an international desire to continue the war indefinitely.
So far, this war has consumed some of Moscow's strength and prestige, but the attention is now focused on China, which will not accept an American victory and, at the same time, awaits further exhaustion of Russia, pushing it into total collapse in the embrace of the Chinese dragon, so that Beijing can directly enter the fray. 

That is why the summit of NATO member states was crucial this time, as it was held in the Lithuanian capital, just 35 kilometers from the border with Belarus, Russia's main ally.
The initial conclusion of this summit is that Europe has returned to the era of the Cold War but with even more intensity, this time due to the Ukrainian fire.
While some interpreted Washington's refusal to initiate the process of Ukraine's accession to NATO as a positive sign, others read it from a different perspective. 
It signifies Washington's reluctance to engage directly in the Ukrainian war as required by the conditions of the alliance's member states. 
This implies that the war will continue for a long and indefinite period. 
One of the objectives of this summit revolves around shaping a new military and political strategy. This should be inferred from the proposal to expand the European deterrence forces from 40,000 to 300,000 troops, which must be constantly alert.
European countries have preferred to address the challenges they have faced since the end of World War II through settlements, negotiations, and occasional concessions. 
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union amplified Europe's bet on diplomacy at the expense of military strength and combat capabilities. 
This prompted former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to criticize aging Europe during US preparations for the invasion of Iraq. 
However, Europe's mood has begun to change after the waning of European influence on the international stage, the tolerance towards illegal immigration waves, the rise in crime rates, and, last but not least, the fear of Russia's ambition to impose control over Europe following President Vladimir Putin's firm grip on power domestically.
Therefore, the wave of far-right extremism has been rising in most European countries, indicating a resurgence of the policy of firmness demanded by European people. 
Moreover, recent events in France have revealed that the movement of the Algerian community in France occurred uniformly across most of the country. 
Consequently, some have inferred that this may signal encouragement from Algeria, a country preparing for a dispute with the United States through Morocco. More importantly, Russia, a close ally of Algeria, may be behind the request to escalate the riots in France due to Paris' stance on the ongoing war in Ukraine.
While it is true that moving towards enhancing European deterrence capabilities carries a high financial cost, some producing and manufacturing countries see the return of military factories to their total production capacity as a factor for prosperity in the military and armament sectors.
During the NATO summit, some aimed to create a European capability to mobilize 100,000 soldiers within a maximum of ten days and approximately 200,000 additional soldiers within ten to thirty days, ultimately reaching half a million soldiers within a maximum period of six months. 

One of the summit's objectives is to deter Moscow from breaching the borders of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and other small countries on the continent through European deterrence capabilities and increasing the deployment of US military forces. 
Notably, the countries under Soviet control were the most enthusiastic about activating NATO and reshaping its policies. 
However, the difference between today's reality and the Cold War is that the length of the confrontation line back then was, at most, approximately 1,400 kilometers, which was the dividing line between East and West Germany. Today, Finland alone shares a border with Russia that is about 1,300 kilometers long.
However, what matters to us is that Europe is on our maritime borders, and the new NATO strategy encompasses the Middle East and the entire Mediterranean Sea. 

The new European direction, supported by the United States, aims to remove Russian and Chinese influence from Europe's southern and eastern borders. This is where the crux of the matter lies.
Undoubtedly, there is a new phase that may witness the movement of Arab and African communities within Europe in exchange for the required changes in the Middle East and Africa.
It was no coincidence that China strengthened its presence in the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time, Russia focused its strategy on expanding southward from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean and Africa.

 Here lies the importance of Turkey, which initially took positions that seemed strange at first. It abandoned its policy of neutrality and moved closer to the American side. 

It went even further when it called for Ukraine to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and "gifted" Zelensky, the leader of Azov, in violation of the agreement that had been reached with Russia.

Despite these advanced positions, Russia was careful to "express its understanding" of Erdogan's positions and did not alter Putin's program of visiting Ankara.
Turkey's primary position is evident as it serves as a crucial gateway to the Middle East and has chosen the American side, even without confronting Russia directly. Consequently, the Western reading, specifically the European-American reading of the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, of which Lebanon is a part, becomes clearer.
Moreover, the Western interpretation of the Lebanese presidential election must be approached from this perspective. Similarly, Hezbollah's handling of this election is subject to a regional reading rather than a local one. In this context, let us carefully read the statement of the European Union in all its paragraphs.
Thus, it becomes more understandable to say that Lebanon is not abandoned, but the timing has yet to arrive. The pieces of the puzzle need to be arranged in northern Syria, the necessary agreements must be reached with Turkey, and a new political equation in Lebanon needs to be established. 
Therefore, French presidential envoy Le Drian will exert efforts to push Saudi Arabia to engage more in the Lebanese issue, as instructed by his administration.
Saudi Arabia, for various reasons, including the complexities of its relationship with Iran and the ongoing challenges in the Yemeni file, still maintains a cold approach towards the presidential crisis in Lebanon.
Furthermore, it is essential to note that Washington is still sidelining the presidential issue, perhaps waiting for new regional developments to mature. 
However, what's new is that the Vatican, in coordination with Paris, has reactivated its diplomacy toward the White House due to its deep concern about the Lebanese situation. The Vatican is disappointed by the selfishness of some Christian officials and their constant pursuit of personal interests at the expense of the public interest.
According to limited circulating information, an agreement has been reached for an American move through the assistance of the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, in cooperation and coordination with France and the Vatican in the second half of September, and possibly towards the end of the month, to provide the necessary push to accomplish the presidential process in Lebanon.

It has been agreed that Leaf will accompany the head of the French diplomatic delegation, Emmanuel Bonne after Le Drian has finalized his plan for the mission he has been entrusted with.
The new US Ambassador to Lebanon, Lisa Johnson, has arrived at the embassy headquarters in Awkar. 
However, what is essential is that Washington has asked Dorothy Shea to stay alongside Johnson for a few weeks to assist her in gaining a complete understanding of the complex background of the Lebanese file before Shea departs for her new position in New York.
It is evident that Washington does not want to be absent for a single moment from the Lebanese developments, no matter the reason.

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