Lebanon’s choice: Havana or Honolulu?


IN international relations, at some point, some conjunction, a nation must choose which way to go. There is a limit to how much you could play others for time, hoping that you may, somehow, win them all.

Neutrality is a solution when you can’t decide. And Lebanon chose that option, but unfortunately couldn’t stick to it. A government influenced by one party which is totally owned by a foreign power, couldn’t be neutral.

On the other hand, there is also a limit to how far other nations can understand and appreciate, wait and tolerate such submission to an enemy state. Instead of getting better, it gets worse. Lebanon is being used as a base for terrorist activities and aggression against other states. Under the legal cover of a normal, democratic, functioning government, decisions are taken, deals are made and wars are launched by a Lebanese political party that is a dominant part of the legitimate government.

Still, others are required to regard such a party as both an integral component of the Lebanese government, and an independent authority conducting its own foreign policies and business, and getting away with murder.

Well, it doesn’t work that way! Are they either Lebanese or Iranian, represent their country or a foreign one, answerable to Lebanese or Iranian leadership? They cannot be Arab and Persian, government and militia, legitimate and rogue, responsible and irresponsible at the same time. This is a dilemma only Lebanese can solve. And those are choices only the government and Hezbollah can make.

As for the rest of us, we cannot afford the luxury of patience and understanding, or to “wait and see.” Since the Al-Khobar bombing in 1996 of American compounds by Hezbollah, we have had it with Iran’s promises of “no more” and “this would be the last time.” Reformists presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami managed to keep us waiting, hoping and betting on so-called “moderate” movement and leaders.

Then, came a more transparent leadership, who speaks its mind. Since President Ahmadinejad, Iran became bolder and clearer in its expansion designs and aggressive foreign policies. Maybe because the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamaeni, thought he was winning. Iran controlled Iraq, thanks to to the United States, and Syria, thanks to Russia, then Yemen, thanks to both superpowers. Lebanon was under Iranian virtual occupation and Hezbollah was running the show.

Even in African Arab nations, Iran has a say. The aging Ayatollah might have thought he could execute the Commandment of his predecessor, the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. It calls for controlling the Muslim world and establishing an Islamic Caliphate, including Makkah and Madinah. He probably felt that this can be done during the remaining years of his life. All or some of the above may explain all the rush, recklessness and boldness Iran exhibited in recent years.

The moment of truth has arrived for Lebanon to decide which way to go. Does it want to be a Havana or a Honolulu? as Lebanese leader, Jumblatt, once put it. Does Lebanese government wish to be the Switzerland of the Orient (like it once was), or the Qom of the Mediterranean? A respected member of the Arab family or a second-class citizen in the Persian Empire?

We would do all we could if Lebanon asks for our assistance to break away from the Iranian jail. The first call for help came from Prime Minister Saad Hariri in his resignation statement. He clearly pointed to Iran intervention in Lebanese affairs and its agent, Hezbollah’s, enforcement of Tehran's agenda with its military might. More calls for help came from Lebanese Christian statesmen, such as former President, Michael Suleiman, and party leader Samir Jaja, as well as countless Sunni and other leaders. More would come as politicians become less afraid of bogeyman, Hassan Nasraallah, and more worried about their country’s security, identity and future.

After crossing the last redline with its firing of Iranian Scud missile toward Saudi capital, Riyadh, the Arab Alliance should now present Hezbollah with an ultimatum. Either they give up their arsenal of missiles and heavy weapons, disband their private army, and becomes a normal political party, like all others did in accordance to Taif Agreement of 1989, that ended the Civil War, or else. We will no longer tolerate an internationally designated terrorist militia governing an Arab country and spreading war, conflicts and drugs in our nations. They declared war on us and they should receive one. Other Lebanese parties and leaders should pick sides now. Better choose right or take the bite! Life can’t just go on! There is a new world, new order, now, where criminals are punished, crimes are revenged, and innocents are protected. Hear that Iran and company! If not, soon you feel it, too!

— Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi