General Lebanese Equations
Hazem Saghieh
Al-Hayat - 04/09/06//

A prominent Lebanese intellectual, Ahmed Beydoun, wrote that "those who want us to either be with Iran and Syria, or Israel and the US, do not have the self respect to be with themselves".

According to this equation, which is both moral and political, the Lebanese are supposed to give priority to the interests of Lebanon above anything else. This is not a chauvinistic call according to which patriotism means mounting aggression against or looking down on another nation. It is nothing more than claiming the right to live and the right to a small homeland. This is an almost 'natural' demand for every living human being.

But to achieve this, if we survive the current crisis, we must ensure that the current ordeal will not be repeated: we must be certain that Sayyed Nasrallah will not misjudge again, and that his 'victories' will not amount to blockading our land, sea or air. And finally, we must be sure that he will loose the ability to misjudge.

In the end, and to avert Nasrallah's 'strategic' assessments, it would be advisable to begin from where real problems begin.

No matter how long we close our eyes to and delay the issue, we will not be able to continue disregarding Lebanon's military neutrality. This is the natural and institutional conclusion of the 1949 truce, which everyone(?) says they are committed to return to.

In fact, anyone who continues to provide pretexts for Israel to destroy Lebanon in the hope of compensating with a Resistance that scuppers the 'New Middle East project' is, at best, like someone who resigns from his work and leaves his family in destitution, because he has been promised that he will win the lottery.

Nevertheless, some tiny details should be highlighted. Military neutrality between the US-Israeli and Syrian-Iranian axes does not eliminate the need for some scrutiny: Syria is the lungs of Lebanon, and there has been a strong bond between them. In spite of the current regime in Damascus, any military neutrality cannot be interpreted as emotional neutrality between Syria and any other party.

It goes without saying that a diplomatically and culturally healthy and active Lebanon can help Damascus regain the Golan Heights, if Syria really wants to. Lebanon can also help, much more than today, the Palestinian Authority establish its own State.

Lebanon now is a permanent cause for cornering Syria. It may become a cause for implicating and exposing it to an Israeli offensive, backed, of course, by the US .

On the other hand, we have seen, with a naked eye, how the outbreak of the latest war distracted attention away from the suffering in the Gaza Strip, instead of it being in the spotlight. It harmed the perpetual Iraqi tragedy by concealing it from view, despite the addition of nearly 2000 bodies to the morgue in one month.

We can also say that the majority of the Lebanese no longer have the luxury to sympathize with issues other than their own, or to condemn US policies unmindful of finding a solution to the Palestinian problem, though Israel and Hezbollah are the only beneficiaries of such heedlessness.

In addition, advocates of a relationship with Iran similar to those with Western countries have replaced facts and interests with formal equality between countries. Indeed, there are highly significant cultural and religious links between some Lebanese and Iran, however, the need of the Lebanese nation for the West's economy, education and institutional experience is unmatched by a similar need to Iran that has modest capabilities.

Only permanent war can allow this formal equality between nations. Undoubtedly, Iran can provide us with a thousand rockets in return for a university from the US and a hospital from France. It is, as we recall, a case similar to that of some Arab countries with the former Soviet Union: Whenever Arab countries moved away from war and confrontations, they moved away from the Soviet Union and approached Western countries. Lebanon, as far as every one(?) says now, intends to steer clear of the state of war and ally itself, according to Beydoun's equation, 'to itself.' Now is the moment.