Lebanon’s neutrality essential for stability - GulfToday

Lebanon’s neutrality essential for stability


George Kordahi.File

Crisis-ridden Lebanon is embroiled in an unwanted diplomatic crisis because of its Information Minister George Kordahi wrongly criticising the Gulf Arab states for the war in Yemen and defending the rebel Houthis. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait have cut off diplomatic relations with Beirut, and the newly-formed Lebanese government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati is desperately trying to mend fences with the neighbouring Arab states. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have also blamed Lebanon for the illegal drug trafficking that originates in Lebanon and affects their respective countries.

Kordahi is seen as a political outsider, a TV personality who hosted the Arabic version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, worked as a TV presenter of channel Al-Manar and earlier worked as BBC’s bilingual BBC correspondent in the Middle East. But his highly questionable pro-Houthi statement made before he became a member of the new coalition government of Mikati has endeared him to some, but those opposing  in the country want Kordahi to quit the government and avert precipitate an avoidable crisis. But Kordahi has so far refused to oblige even as Prime Minister Mikati is making efforts to use diplomatic channels to the Gulf Arab states to end the standoff.

The Mikati government has been formed after a year of unsuccessful bid to form a government which will include all the groups in the intensely factional country. For a government to survive in Lebanon, all the factions must be present in the government. But the position of  and its allies is too pronounced to make things easy for Mikati. Meanwhile, Iranian foreign minister in the new Iranian government under President Ebrahim Raisi, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on a visit to Beirut talked about positive dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia. And Mikati expressed the wish that Iran could help in the rapprochement between Beirut and the Gulf Arab states.

Whether it is in Lebanon or Yemen, it is the Iranian factor that has been the cause of political instability in these two countries. Iran perceives itself as a regional power which wants to unacceptably exert its influence beyond its borders, but it has failed to deal with the countries as such. In Yemen, it supports the violent Houthis, and in Lebanon the . And that is at the root of the problem. Despite the assurances of Abollahian, it is not clear how Iran could help in the matter.

Mikati seems helpless even as some of the politicians have said Kordahi should resign or Mikati’s government would have to go as well. The stark fact is that if Mikati’s government falls, then it will push Lebanon deeper into chaos. France, Russia, the UN and the US have called for resolving the crisis, but there have been no specific solutions. US State Department Spokesman Ned Price said that Lebanon should leave all diplomatic channels open for a dialogue with the Arab states.

The only solution seems to be the political neutrality of Lebanon, and this can be ensured only if Iran observes the rules of the game and desists from influencing political factions inside Lebanon. Whether Tehran would choose to do so for the sake of Lebanon remains an open question.  can wreck any political truce in Lebanon and it does not appear that Iran can or is willing to convince . It is necessary then for Lebanese politicians of all factions to declare that their domestic affairs are off the limits for foreign powers. They must not allow themselves to be caught in the uneasy relations between Iran and the Gulf Arab states.

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