30 October 2019   3 comments

Among the many protests going on in the world today is a protest in Lebanon that has been going on for some time. The protesters are demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri who has been leading what was once considered a unity government. The Lebanese political system is unique in that it has tried to structure the government in a manner that reflects the religious affiliations of the population.

“Under the Lebanese model, political representation is split proportionally between Christian and Muslim denominations, with certain top jobs reserved for specific sects. Dating back to the end of the French colonial mandate in the 1940s, Lebanon has always had a Maronite Christian president, a Sunni Muslim prime minister, and a Shia Muslim speaker of Parliament.”

It appears, however, that many in the country think that the traditional system made the government unresponsive to the needs of the people and that the allocation of specific posts to various sects has led to a rigid and dysfunctional system. The BBC notes:

“Last week, Mr Hariri unveiled a package of reforms that he had hoped would assuage some of the protesters’ anger. He promised to slash politicians’ pay, invest in power plants and also tax banks to help reduce public debt.

“Lebanon’s debt is equivalent to more than 150% of gross domestic product (GDP), its economy has stagnated, and its currency recently lost value against the US dollar for the first time in two decades.

“The country’s public infrastructure, which was already stretched before more than one million refugees arrived from neighbouring Syria, is also ailing. Electricity and water supplies are disrupted frequently and rubbish often piles up on the streets.”

Additionally, Lebanon hosts the highest rate of refugees on a per capita basis in the world, most of them from Syria–about one in four residents in Lebanon are refugees.

But within this broader context, there is an immediate political conflict that is paralyzing the government. Prime Minister Hariri is a Sunni Muslim who had international backing–which included Saudi Arabia until last year–and who had been able to work out a degree of accommodation with Hezbollah, a Shia-based movement backed by Iran. But that accommodation has been frayed as both Iran and Hezbollah have become more powerful. Hariri resigned his position in order to break the political deadlock, but the leader of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, had urged Hariri to not resign. The economy is close to collapse and the Lebanese people are saying that they do not wish the traditional system to continue. But Hezbollah is the most organized of all the groups in the country–and has its own well-armed militia–and will not stand idly by to see the political system collapse. Nor is it likely that Iran will allow Lebanon to move beyond its orbit of control.

There are reports that Turkish and Syrian forces have fired on each other in Syria. The reports are credible since Turkey is occupying Syrian territory and the Kurds have requested the Syrian government protection as they have been forced out of the Turkish-occupied territory. Turkey had also taken the position that Syrian President Assad should be forced from office. So the differences between the Turks and the Syrians are quite deep and sharp. Russia has been trying to mediate the differences and it remains to be seen how effective those efforts might be. Reuters reports:

“Joint Russian-Turkish patrols had been set to begin on Tuesday at a depth of 10 km (6 miles) inside Syria, but Erdogan said they would begin on Friday and at a depth of just 7 km (4 miles), after a Russian delegation held three days of talks in Ankara seeking agreement on cooperation.

“’Getting the United States out of Syria was the one big interest Turkey, Russia and Iran had in common,’ said Nicholas Danforth, senior visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

“’But now Russia’s longstanding support for restoring the Syrian regime’s sovereignty will come into direct conflict with Turkey’s desire to project its interests and territory in northern Syria,’ he said.

“Russia has been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful international backer, while Turkey has supported rebels who fought for years to overthrow him.”

If Russia cannot mediate successfully, Syria will likely continue to experience violence for an extended period of time.

Posted October 30, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

3 responses to “30 October 2019

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  1. In my opinion, russia will be able to meditate successfully.
    Since she has been able to fill the power vacuum left my trump a few days ago.

    I’m saying this in reference to russia’s contribution in not letting asad fall, it makes sense for him to listen to them, no?

    Like

    • I agree that Russia has leverage over Assad, but ceding territory is a huge loss for any sovereign state. If Turkey looks like it is going to stay in the “safe zone”, then the question is whether Russia can persuade Turkey to leave. Turkish-Russian relations seem to be good right now, but historically the two states have been very suspicious of each other.

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