Why Lebanon And Iraq Are At The Brink Of Further Strife

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Above Photo: The army called on anti-government protesters to open all major roads they blocked for two weeks [Bilal Hussein/AP Photo]

Today the Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri resigned after -at times- violent protests. In Iraq the gadfly cleric Moqtada Sadr joined protesters after previous protests in Iraq also led to violence. In both countries at least some protesters demand the resignation of their governments. While the demonstrations in both countries are about local economic and political issues there are foreign actors involved who want to use them to achieve their own goals.

Elijah J. Magnier @ejmalrai – 12:37 UTC · Oct 29, 2019#Lebanon and #Iraq protestors hitting the “Axis of the Resistance” stability in these two countries and pushing Prime Ministers in both countries to resign and lead the country towards instability.

#US and #SaudiArabia has lost #Syria but are still fighting in other theatres.

On October 6 we warned of these ‘regime change’ attempts : The U.S. Led Coup Attempt In Iraq May Further Weaken That Country

During the last five days there have been protest all over the south of Iraq where the majority of the people are Shia. The protest escalated within a few days into shootings with over a hundred killed. In several cities party and government offices were burned and various groups hustle to take a position in the “leaderless” movement.There are legitimate reasons for protests. The majority of the people in Iraq are younger than 20. The people have little chance of finding a job. The state is weak and many of its actors are corrupt. Services the state is supposed to provide don’t get delivered. Electricity and water supply is often sparse.

But those are not the reasons why the protests immediately escalated into violence.

The protests are part of the conflict between the U.S., its Saudi proxies, and Iran.

The immediate aim is to bring down the government under Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi who strove to stay neutral in the conflict between the U.S./Israel/Saudi Arabia and Iran.

New U.S. sanctions against Lebanese banks who allegedly support Hizbullah are likewise part of U.S./Israeli/Saudi effort to squeeze Iran and its proxies …

An imminent breakdown of the very weak economy of Lebanon, partially caused by U.S. sanctions against Lebanese banks and the end of traditional Saudi subsidies to Lebanon, also led to protests and today to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He will now lead a caretaker government which will have too little power to change anything.

Both, Iraq and Lebanon, have ethnic-sectarian systems that are finely balanced. The warlords or clan leaders of the various groups use the state for their own enrichment. Providing services for the whole country mean nothing to them. All they want is more money that allows them to run a system of patronage and clientilism for their immediate followers which keep them in their positions.

In Iraq and Lebanon the positions in the parliament and government are decided (more or less) by group quotas that are difficult to change. Both countries would be better off under universal constitutions that would do away with any quotas and specific positions for special groups.

But the Christian groups in Lebanon would lose out as the Christian share of the population has decreased over time. In Iraq the currently strong Kurdish and Sunni positions would lose power to the Shia majority. These groups would rather fight than give up on their privileges.

The current political systems make any change extremely difficult. The demonstrators are asking for the corrupt politicians to leave. But even if the governments resign and call for new elections an adherence to the election laws and constitutions would only recreate a similar situation.

To call for resignations is thereby not the way to achieve change.

The best strategy for the legitimate protesters is to press the current governments for reform. The governments in Iraq and in Lebanon have both already agreed to make certain changes. The protesters should accept those and pull back. If the politicians do not stick to those commitments the protesters can always go back into the streets and demand more.

Unfortunately there are external actors with lots of money who want to prevent that. They want to throw both countries into utter chaos or even civil wars because they hope that it will weaken those factions that have good relations with Iran.

In Lebanon there was some violence by followers of the Shia Amal movement against a protesters tent camp. ‘Western’ media falsely attributed the violence to Hizbullah. In Iraq the guards of a government building in Karbala shot at protesters who tried to breach its gate. Some ‘western’ media falsely alleged that those shooters were Iranians.

But external actors have made such bids before only to fail to achieve the wanted results. The outcome of any violent strife now will – in the end – likely be a different one than they dream of. In both countries it is likely that, after a bloody and chaotic period, the groups that will come out on the top will be the very once that the Saudis, the U.S., and Israel want to push down.

There would also be a lot of collateral damage and both countries would be further weakened. That is why the Iran aligned groups are currently trying to avoid to react to the obvious provocations against them. But with blood flowing in the streets it will be difficult to adhere to that position for much longer.