Thursday, February 12, 2009

Whither the Cedar Revolution?

Whither the Cedar Revolution?

May 02, 2007/09 - Woodrow Wilson center...

May I start by expressing my deepest thanks and appreciation for the Woodrow Wilson Center for inviting my colleague and myself today to present our view on a dear topic to our minds and hearts being the Cedar Revolution, and, more importantly, to emphasize on the vital role that the center is playing in advancing democracy in the world through encouraging a comprehensive and constructive dialogue on issues that could contribute to resolving conflicts by political means....

The Cedar Revolution, that we are addressing today, is in fact the fruit of a long process of struggle that Lebanese people fought for their freedom and their independence since Lebanon was occupied by the Syrian army in the mid 70's.

This long struggle took different forms during the last 3 decades varying from military resistance that culminated in Liberation war in March 14, 89 to peaceful resistance that started in 1990 and reached its peak in March 14, 05, one of the most symbolic dates of our recent history (ref. to the long 8 miles walk I had with my family ? wife and 2 daughters ? to the martyrs square).

Hence, it would be naive and/or dishonest to reduce a people?s long fight and sacrifices to just a short period or day where the Cedar Revolution is known to have started.
Thousands of people died, thousands others were wounded or disappeared and thousands were arrested and tortured in this thirty-years-old struggle with the Syrian occupation and it is thanks to them that the Lebanese will for freedom was kept alive until it was met by an international one and made our liberation dream become true.

If the Cedar Revolution succeeded in achieving its main goal of Liberating Lebanon from the Syrian army, it has unfortunately failed to rebuild the country on proper democratic basis. The multi-confessional alliance, reflecting a real national unity, that lead this revolution until March 14, collapsed after some of its main parties went on striking electoral deals with March 8 and traded seats instead of dealing with major national and political issues of paramount importance for the reemergence of a state and not just another form of a power sharing system with the so-called Syrian allies as described now by the Ruling coalition. That has resulted in a government with no political vision completely relying on regional changes and international support which led to instability, contradictions in the directions of the country when what was needed most is a clear Lebanese agenda to face the regional and national challenges ahead.

In fact, and as a result of this deal between antagonist parties being previously - during the past 15-30 years ? the pillars of the Syrian and Iranian installed regime that FPM resisted locally and in exile, I mean by that the coalition of Future ? PSP ? Hezbollah and Amal movements. However, This would have been a great move towards unifying Lebanon if what assembled them was nothing beside a haggling arrangement on power sharing without political agreement and particularly if it was not brought up again to the detriment of their Christians partners that were marginalized by the adoption of a fraudulent and unconstitutional electoral law called as the Ghazi Kanaan law ( with ref to the famous ex chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon for 2 decades) and their exclusion ( of the Christians) from this broad national alliance.

Gerrymandering the elections once again and paralyzing the Highest court in the country i.e. The constitutional Court equivalent to The US Supreme Court, by a law voted in parliament on its very first meeting following elections even though 11 claims contesting 11 seats were filed by our parliamentary bloc and which is still paralyzed to date 2 years after the elections!, led to a doubtful if not fake parliamentary majority due to the misrepresentation of popular votes. This has generated a government that is everything but a democratically elected government as built on the above referred to 'quadripartite alliance' with ambiguous and confused stances on major issues i.e. UN 1559, Shebaa farms, International tribunal, Palestinian armed militias and the very Presidential issue, that demonstrate the fragility of their common political platform, if any.

By establishing an unbalanced political system with regards to representation and political homogeneity, the so called quadripartite alliance jeopardized the whole initial project of the Cedar Revolution. The government was paralyzed by its essential contradictions and lack of vision as well as the balance of power in the main institutions, Presidency, Government and Parliament, was not sufficient for any of the two sides of this alliance to prevail.

No wonder that this union didn?t last too long and ended in the actual crisis that burst six month ago and sealed the end of the cohabitation between the two camps (8 and 14), leaving the whole country in a stalemate.

In addition, by betraying and consequently losing one of its main pillars, - the Free Patriotic Movement -, the Ruling coalition has weakened dramatically the original plan of the Cedar Revolution. The previously joint forces were now split between government and opposition and the FPM was forced to conduct a struggle of existence and reinstatement of a just and representative democratic system that consumed its efforts and energy instead of concentrating them on the fulfillment of all the revolution goals.

Nevertheless, the worst blow that the Cedar Revolution suffered was the deviation of the Ruling coalition from its real objectives. Originally, the revolution was aimed to liberate Lebanon, restore sovereignty and independence and rebuild democratic institutions in the country. It was supposed to reunite the Lebanese people around a collective national vision and consolidate their unity. It was promising to reform and strengthen the state and its institutions.

Instead, the Ruling coalition built a power of their own rather than a state for all. They implemented a hegemonic strategy on all the state institutions and spoiled the democratic process through the fiddled elections and all the government practices that followed. The power logic took over the statehood logic and the Lebanese partnership formula was seriously jeopardized.

Lastly, the Ruling coalition deceptive alliance with Hizbullah-Amal parties without true political understanding has prevented the accomplishment of a joint national vision that the Lebanese people needed badly after their independence has been restored.

A momentum was missed and an opportunity was lost at a historical moment where the international community has its eyes and mind focused on Lebanon.

The consequences of the Cedar Revolution failures were devastating :

- an unprecedented system crisis resulting in several violations of the constitution;

- a country severely divided between two camps in an even, and therefore futile showdown;

- a political and constitutional deadlock paralyzing the functioning of the main state institutions;

- a vulnerable situation, prey to insecurity with many crimes and assassinations occurring under an impotent and incompetent non reassuring authority to protect the citizens and the country;

- a country victim of huge pressure and influence by the regional agenda deepening its division and endangering its unity;

Unfortunately, this divided, perplexed and vulnerable Lebanon has to face major challenges and milestones. Many UN resolutions were issued. Resolution 1559 called on all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias to disband; Resolutions 1595 and 1644 called for the creation of an international investigation committee and an international tribunal for the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and was extended to all the terrorist crimes that followed; and Resolution 1701 that resulted from the latest war in July 2006 called for a series of measures, notably related to weapon control hand in hand with the development of a political solution.

Not surprisingly, these Lebanese obligations could not be isolated from the conflicting regional interests around them. This lead to growing external interference and has regrettably complicated the problems and the dissensions between Lebanese parties.

Thus, one can deplore the absence of a shared Lebanese vision to face fundamental stations going on in the Middle East in the dramatic standoff between two axis grouping Syria and Iran from one side and Saudi Arabia( taking some distance now as seen from the role the King is trying to play in bringing a global political solution regionally and locally) and USA from the other (ref is also made to the efforts the US is investing internally and abroad to widen their views on the conflict, Baker-Hamilton report as well as the US backed regional meetings ? Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria - in Baghdad lately and in Sharm el Sheikh beginning of May) .

But we, FPM, adopted this way of dealing with national issues between the Lebanese components of the political scene well before the actual crisis (and following the collapse of the quadripartite alliance) but definitely before the eruption of the July war in an attempt to reinstate inter-Lebanese confidence and avoid resorting to violence that would destabilize the country fragile confessional tissue. In fact, and back to Feb 6th Amid this stagnation, the Free Patriotic Movement took a courageous initiative to break the cycle of deception where Lebanese politics was locked up. Encouraged by a general consensus that the application of UN Resolution 1559 should come through internal dialogue between Lebanese, FPM seriously engaged Hezbollah on the issue and these talks lead to the announcement of a ?Memorandum of Understanding? (MOU) that included a variety of vital points such as defining the frame of the relationship with Syria and a disarmament roadmap for Hezbollah to the advantage of both the Lebanese State and Army as the sole military institution in charge of the country's security. (adopted months later by the national dialogue table and the 7 points plan of PM Siniora following the July war that were also mentioned in the 1701 UN resolution).

But rather than seizing this occasion that FPM created and elaborate it further towards a final solution, the Ruling coalition camp accused FPM of all kind of evil intentions and belonging to the Syrian-Iranian axis. Yet, a careful reading of the MOU would show that FPM did provide the beginning of a political solution that was not provided Prime Minister Siniora?s government in its first ministerial declaration ( ref. is made to the parag. related to preserving and protecting the 'resistance' i.e. Hezbollah until the liberation of the occupied land ? Shebaa farms - and Lebanese detainees in Israel, which the Hezb used as a legal covert to pursue its business as usual.

Another opportunity has been wasted and the ambiguousness that remained in the government contributed largely in the tragic developments that we witnessed in summer 2006 when the war broke out with Israel.

Despite this obscure and grim perspective, Lebanon still stands a chance to get out of its actual quagmire. For that, all the Lebanese parties should start by dissociating their calculations and stances from any bet on regional development in their favor and should reach the belief that the actual internal crisis would not end unless on a win-win basis.

Solution starts by reinventing the power sharing equation and therefore reinstating a real and effective partnership in the power. It is mandatory that any decision or agreement around the controversial issues be the product of a representative government with the adhesion of all, for the good sake of stability. Excluding any of the major Lebanese groups from crucial national decisions will undeniably expose Lebanon to the risk of new tumult and troubles.

Power regeneration could take place through different forms: a government of national unity with true representation; new parliamentary elections after adopting a just electoral law; or a fair consensus on the presidential elections.

No one should be shocked by the opposition call for government resignation or change. This has nothing to do with any putsch allegations that some in the actual government conduct against us. This is just a corrective measure to remedy all the damages that were made by these parties during the power constitution process. Please allow me to refer to a part of the US Declaration of Independence that expresses so eloquently our situation:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Once the power issue is correctly addressed, solutions should be found to the conflicting questions. The international tribunal has to follow its constitutional course through the Lebanese institutions in order to be created without further delay. It is healthier for the tribunal functioning that its creation happens under a wide Lebanese consensus that would provide it with a strong support and protection.

A unified vision for the Resolution 1701 should be put in place. It is imperative that Lebanese parties assume a unique interpretation of the resolution requirements. Any ambiguity or duality will imperil Lebanon to new dangers.

Progress is needed on the regional level of the resolution. Shebaa farms issue has to be solved as well as the prisoners swap with Israel. Lebanese borders have to be protected so that Lebanon is safe of any future foreign aggression or destabilization attempt by its neighbors.

More generally, a political solution approach has to be embraced with regards to UN resolution implementation rather than confrontational policies based on military techniques that proved to be vain. We remain committed to dialogue and trust building as the only and best way for Lebanese to sort out their differences.

Syria is a key element in the solution. Lebanese-Syrian relationship should evolve towards normalization within the frame that was agreed during the national dialogue and that includes borders demarcation, establishment of diplomatic relationships, and disclosure of the fate of Lebanese disappeared in Syrian jails.

Finally, and last but not least, it is essential to include the Palestinian issue in any solution. Disarmament of Palestinians, restitution of Lebanese authority on the Palestinians camps, international guarantees against any form of Palestinian implantation in Lebanon backed by a realistic alternative are a must for the resolution of the Lebanese crisis and for the completion of the sovereignty and independence restoration process. In this respect, I refer to the Geneva Accord between the Israelis and Palestinians, as the outcome of secret negotiations that ended in 2003, among the provisions of the 'Accord' an agreement on the question of the Palestinian refugies based on their settlement in the host countries in return of financial compensations. Israel went even further by asking for compensations to the Jews who were displaced from Arab countries. We therefore, draw International community's attention that Lebanon is a fragile multicultural/multiconfessional consensual democracy, as agreed between the Lebanese in the 1943 National Pact and the Taef National Pact. The settlement of the Palestinian refugees will destabilize Lebanon, but also the region and the world. That is why a realistic alternative is required...

Only a comprehensive package solution dealing with all the internal and external aspects of the problem can bring the actual Lebanese crisis to an end and carry stability and salvation to Lebanon. Any partial solution wouldn?t be more than a pause in the conflict and will put the country under the danger of a new eruption in the future. This would have serious consequences not only on Lebanon but on the whole region too. Therefore, no regional settlement should be done to the disadvantage of Lebanese interests.

Let us remember what M. Woodrow Wilson himself said in his visionary speech before the congress in 1918 about his 14 points perception of a lasting peace in the world. Point 5 of the 14 quotes:
5. A free, open-minded, and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims, based upon a strict observance of the principle that in determining all such questions of sovereignty the interests of the population concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the government whose title is to be determined.

We appeal to the international community to support impartially all Lebanese in their quest for peace. We appeal to all our partners in the country to reach together a truthful political consensus and a strong national unity that would preserve our coexistence within the actual Lebanese formula.

Though, The Cedar Revolution is also in need of a new vision if not a Redirection plan, It is then and only then, that we can hope to achieve its original national goals in securing a stable, independent and democratic Lebanon that would foster its historical role between East and West for the benefit of developing democracy in the Middle East, reduce tensions and encourage the abandon of extremism of all sort.