Lebanon: a risky new beginning

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned Iran not to interfere in Lebanon or impede the efforts to form a new government. And German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for extensive reforms to make foreign investment possible during a visit to Beirut. What conditions are needed to ensure a successful fresh start for the country?

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Le Figaro (FR) /

Ensure neutrality, define borders

Lebanon would do well to rely on the world powers to ensure its security, Le Figaro advises:

“The desires of the Lebanese for the security that the regional powers (Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey) supposedly offer them are illusory. Only the great world powers which take a disinterested view of the present situation can develop long-term security for the country. The UN Security Council could very well pass a resolution making Lebanon an officially neutral country and defining its borders. ... That would require it to cite Chapter VII of the UN Charter (allowing the use of force under certain circumstances) so as to counter all those seeking to violate its neutrality. That includes the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who want to wage a covert proxy war.”

Público (PT) /

Radical reforms inevitable

Lebanon's political system must be rebuilt from the ground up, says Público:

“Without radical changes to the political system, none of the essential reforms will be possible. The process could become violent. Much depends on the reaction of the elites. For politicians and oligarchs, the choice is a difficult one: maintaining the system is an 'existential issue' for them. But these same elites must also change in order to survive. After the explosion in the port of Beirut, there is no going back.”

Der Standard (AT) /

A change for the better is not guaranteed

Iran won't give up its influence in Lebanon without a fight, says Der Standard:

“The two strongest camps in the country today are probably the protest movement on the one hand and Hezbollah and its well-organised supporters on the other. And Hezbollah is also the strongest military force in Lebanon, and is integrated into a powerful regional network spun by Iran. The idea that Tehran will simply let go of its influence in Lebanon, exercised through Hezbollah, is naive. No one should believe that Donald Trump's 'maximum pressure' policy has already threatened the regime to such an extent that it is ready to do this. The weaker it is domestically, the more importance it will attach to the so-called 'axis of resistance' in the region. If the old system in Lebanon collapses this is no automatic guarantee of a change for the better.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

Confessional system still essential

Since Lebanon's independence in 1943, power has been divided among the country's largest confessions according to fixed rules. La Libre Belgique warns against sidestepping this structure:

“It has become clear that this system is completely misguided. State structures are based primarily on clientelism and are divided up between a few clans. But calling this confessional system into question would only further exacerbate tensions and accelerate the collapse of the country - which lies in the middle of a complex region. The system needs to be maintained, but modernised. The problem is that to achieve this, a sufficient number of independent persons must be found to sit at the negotiating table. Lebanon will only survive if there are Lebanese who put morality above religion.”

News.bg (BG) /

Resignation doesn't change anything

The Lebanese harbour no illusions that things will change with the government's resignation, news.bg stresses:

“The explosion in the Lebanese capital was the straw that broke the patient camel's back. Last year's mass protests have flared up once again and led to Prime Minister Hassan Diab's resignation. However that won't satisfy the Lebanese because they know full well that the status quo will simply be maintained, be it with new elections or a new cabinet appointed by the current parliament. And this is the same status quo that has already put an end to an international investigation into the circumstances of the Beirut explosion.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Powerless against corruption and terrorists

The government's resignation may not be enough, fears columnist Osvaldo Migotto in Corriere del Ticino:

“In his television address to the nation yesterday, Diab admitted that political forces are operating in the country that are partly responsible for a network of corruption. The fact that the outgoing head of government has not mentioned any names indicates that during his term in office he had neither the courage nor the strength to oppose these forces and preferred to coexist with them rather than combat them. This is why the news of the resignation of the executive has not stopped the street protests. The future of Lebanon is still obscure, also because Hezbollah fundamentalists don't want to hear anything about democratic reforms.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Trapped in a waiting loop

NRC Handelsblad also says the move leads nowhere:

“One of Diab's most important tasks was to secure an emergency aid package worth billions from the International Monetary Fund. ... But the political blocs that pull the strings behind the scenes didn't agree with the reforms the IMF demanded in the fight against corruption. So the prime minister's unforced resignation will hardly make the demonstrators happy. ... The country is to be temporarily governed by an executive cabinet while its political elite negotiates the appointment of a new prime minister. And judging by past experience that could take months.”

La Vanguardia (ES) /

What's needed is a new political system

The protesters want more than just new faces, La Vanguardia points out:

“A snap election is not one of the main demands coming from the streets because the parliament is controlled by the traditional confessional forces, which have tailored the electoral law to suit their own interests. So the political system would remain unchanged, and that's what the demonstrators venting their anger on the streets don't want. Rather than a change of government they are demanding a change of regime, of the political system, to put an end to the division of power between Muslims and Christians according to quotas that emerged after the civil war.”