Voices from the Arab Press: Imagine Beirut without Hezbollah

India has thus far shown that despite its proximity to the US, it will try to maintain its previous ties with Russia.

INDIAN PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) visit the Zvezda shipyard, accompanied by Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, ahead of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, earlier this month. (photo credit: ALEXANDER NEMENOV/REUTERS)
INDIAN PRIME MINISTER Narendra Modi (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) visit the Zvezda shipyard, accompanied by Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin, ahead of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, earlier this month.
Asharq al-Awsat, London, September 9
It is hard to fathom that there are still people who believe the nonsense that Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, spread to justify their recent attack against Israel.
Hezbollah has spent years providing nationalistic, ethnic, and religious justifications for its war on Israel – from the liberation of southern Lebanon to the reclaiming of the Syrian Shaba Farms. But none of those goals are at the core of its mission.
Because of Hezbollah, Lebanon is besieged. Besieged externally in its banking transactions and incoming tourism, and besieged internally through a political system entirely controlled by Hezbollah. Make no mistake: the cost of this reckless behavior is paid for by the Lebanese citizen.
We can easily calculate the damage that every Lebanese is incurring thanks to Hezbollah today. The salary of a qualified engineer in Lebanon is much less than $24,000 a year; a quarter of an engineer’s salary anywhere else in the world. The same is true of Lebanese doctors, farmers and taxi drivers.
Similarly, Beirut’s tiny airport can handle no more than nine million passengers a year, while Dubai, home to half of Beirut’s population, handles 70 million passengers a year. While 13 million passengers pass through the British port of Dover, only 9,000 passengers dock at the one in Beirut.
To make matters worse, the Lebanese people do not have adequate health services, electricity, or municipal infrastructure such as roads, sewage lines, and cleaning services. Although politicians are often to blame for this, the main culprit is Hezbollah, which is stealing state revenues and bullying political reformists in the name of the resistance.
When the late Rafik Hariri expanded the Beirut airport, Hezbollah and the Syrian regime launched a vicious campaign against him, accusing him of corruption because he built an airport larger than the country’s needs. The bullying ended with Hariri’s assassination just four months after the airport opened.
The impoverishment of the country continues today, so that no group can take over the state and its institutions or undermine Hezbollah and its men.
It is not difficult to understand the damage that Hezbollah’s presence as an armed militia inflicts on Lebanon’s six million people. All other countries bordering Israel reached some peace agreement – or at the very least ceasefire agreement – with the Israelis, including Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. Even Syria did so in the famous disengagement agreement, which is why it resorted to using Hezbollah to carry out its attacks at the expense of Lebanon.
Millions of tourists from all over the world do not visit the country that is supposed to be the primary tourist destination in the region. Instead, most governments put Lebanon on the black list of destinations, only because of Hezbollah.
The poverty of the people of Lebanon, the emigration of thousands of Lebanese, and the flood of Syrian refugees are all caused by the Hezbollah. The weakness of the state and its poor services are also caused by Hezbollah. This is why the Lebanese pound has fallen, wages have fallen, and unemployment has risen. Israel is not the problem. The problem is Hezbollah. And unless Lebanese politicians begin to remedy this situation, their country will not come out of the hole dug by Iran and its proxy. Just imagine what Beirut could look like without Hezbollah. – Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Al Rai, Kuwait, September 14
Two interesting campaigns have been launched in recent weeks. In Saudi Arabia, local youth recently introduced the “We speak Arabic” campaign, and in Kuwait young men and women announced the “We are treated in Kuwait” initiative. The former aims at encouraging Saudi citizens to speak Arabic and enrich their knowledge of the language, while the latter calls on Kuwaiti nationals to put their faith in their health system and avoid receiving medical treatments abroad.
These youth efforts reflect our faith in ourselves and our nations. It is not reasonable – especially in an age of growing national sentiment – to lose our connection to our heritage, our culture and our identity. Arab youth across the Gulf, and the Arab world more broadly, are beginning to realize the importance of their shared roots. They have started collaborating on cross-national campaigns of this sort.
Soon, you will find the “We speak Arabic” banners placed in shops, restaurants and schools, with the hope of reviving the Arabic language, the language that has been fought for since ancient times and always won.
As for the doctors in Kuwait, they are proudly carrying the “We are treated in Kuwait” banner, calling on all of their fellow citizens to receive treatment in a country that provides most of the advanced health capabilities in the world. Dozens of Kuwaiti patients who have sought treatment abroad have either died or ended up incurring unfathomable debt. The time has come for them to seek treatment at home.
“We speak Arabic” is an ethical campaign, and I can only hope that Arab youth across the world will cooperate with it. Similarly, “We are treated in Kuwait” is a lifesaving effort with the ability to influence both the Arab public as well as its decision-makers. Such awareness campaigns are immensely important, and their value must not be undermined. We must thank our active youth for leading our nations forward and setting us on the right path. – Khaled Ahmed al-Saleh
Al-Ittihad, UAE, September 16
In the past six years, India has been getting closer to the United States. At the same time, however, it ensured continued relations with its old allies. Last week, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Russia. The main purpose of the visit was to revitalize the economic relations that had been declining between the two countries, which were close allies during the Cold War.
Certainly, Modi’s visit laid the groundwork for building economic relations between the two nations, in an attempt to expand their scope of trade, which in recent years depended only on weapons and oil sales. India has provided Russia with a $1 billion credit line to develop the Far East. A joint manufacturing agreement for defense parts was signed in India, along with nearly a dozen other agreements. The agreement involves technology transfers and joint ventures under the “Made in India” program, which aims to boost India’s manufacturing sector.
In the last decade, India has become closer to the US, while Russia has moved closer to China and has also begun defense cooperation with Pakistan, including the supply of helicopters. India’s efforts to maintain its relationship with Russia demonstrates that Delhi is keen to maintain the relationship it has experienced over time with other countries.
But the two countries have many areas to cover. India’s trade with Russia remains weak compared to India’s trade ties with America or China. Trade between India and the US reached $142.1b. in 2018, while it stood at a mere $11b. with Russia. Trade between India and China over the same period was $95.54b.
It seems that the time has come for both nations to consider diversifying their relationship through economic ties. There is political will between them, and there is certainly greater interest in advancing relations from the Russian point of view. Russia faces sanctions from the West and the European Union, so it is looking to other markets.
India has so far shown that despite its closeness to the US, it will try to maintain its previous ties with Russia. There is no doubt that the political will shown by the leadership of the two countries will help to change the relationship from a buyer-seller one to a more cooperative relationship. Under a changing world order, India certainly needs to develop and maintain relations with all old allies and new friends. – Zikru al-Rahman
The Media Line.