Lebanon now faces two options for its future

Either it will form a government, or it will collapse.

US TROOPS hold up an American flag as President Donald Trump delivers remarks to military personnel, in an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, on November 2 (photo credit: REUTERS)
US TROOPS hold up an American flag as President Donald Trump delivers remarks to military personnel, in an unannounced visit to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, on November 2
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanon now faces one of two options: It will either form a government of national rescue or one of sure collapse. There is no room to confuse the two. The International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) has already made this clear when it drew a clear road map for the future of our country.
At its most recent Paris meeting, the ISG repeated its warning of a chaotic collapse of the Lebanese economy that would fuel even greater instability. Its officials called for the formation of a credible and effective government that would implement the commitments and reforms outlined in the Cedar Conference while distancing itself from all regional tensions and crises. This vision is in line with the demands made by the people of Lebanon, who have taken to the streets to demand a technocratic government consisting of experts who can implement immediate reforms, stop political theft and waste, and get Lebanon out of a monetary and economic pitfall.
Unfortunately, our political leaders currently fear losing their power more than they fear our country’s downfall. In a desperate attempt to save their seats, they are doing everything they can to deflect attention away from the political impasse. But, the truth is that their time has come: Those who acted with greed and enacted failed policies that pushed our country to the brink of collapse while refusing to take responsibility for their actions must not be allowed to remain in office.
Sadly, we are all prisoners in a geopolitical game whose calculations have nothing to do with our own well-being, but rather with that of those in power and their allies in the region. Iran, Beirut’s ultimate patron, has already threatened to use Lebanon as a front against Israel. We already witnessed what happened to similar strongholds Iran established itself in places like Gaza, Syria, and Iraq.
We must ensure that our politicians remain accountable to the people, not to external powers. Their choices are too often influenced and shaped by a greater geopolitical game. – Rafik Khoury
Removing Hezbollah from the Lebanese Government
Asharq Al-Awsat, London, December 16
The continuing popular uprising in Lebanon beyond two months – longer than most of us expected – means that the political elite has no choice. The only option is recognizing that the situation has now gone beyond their control and that procrastination will only lead to the collapse for which they will be blamed and held accountable.
The people on the street demanded the formation of a new government without any currently-serving politicians. Another demand was immediately removing Hezbollah from power. Without fulfilling these two conditions, two things will continue: first, the daily acts of civil disobedience and, second, other countries concerned with Lebanon will be reluctant to provide any financial assistance to Beirut. The likely result: The Lebanese lira will enter a free fall, more angry people will join the protesters, and the political-financial crisis will grow deeper and deeper by the day.
While all Lebanese politicians are to blame for the current situation, it is no secret that Hezbollah has been particularly to blame for this crisis. The money provided by Iran to Hezbollah is consistently shrinking as a result of the US sanctions. Revenue sources from Iraq have completely vanished, leaving the organization in dire straits.
All of these are interrelated setbacks: When Tehran was strong, Hezbollah was strong; when Tehran is weak, Hezbollah is weak. Iran constitutes the beating heart of Hezbollah; the organization’s source of strength and wealth – and, today, its source of weakness.
So can this impasse be solved? I believe that it is likely to get worse. US President Donald Trump appears to be in a stronger political position than before. He will likely survive the impeachment process initiated against him and will come out stronger in time for the upcoming election.
Contrary to the beliefs of the mullahs in Tehran, who expected that the American president would reduce his confrontation for fear of making mistakes before the election, Trump has enacted an iron fist policy against Iran. He doubled down his administration’s sanctions against the mullahs, increased American deployments in the Gulf region, and added an unprecedented number of Iranians to the US wanted list. The Iranian regime will likely respond with further provocations and acts of terror, which will not bode well for future stability in Lebanon.
– Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed
Afghanistan and the Secrets of the  US War
Al-Etihad, UAE, December 14
Last Monday, The Washington Post published an important investigation of what it described as the “secret history” of the American war in Afghanistan. In classified testimonies that were collected as a part of an internal government review, hundreds of US officials and experts acknowledged the confusion surrounding the 18-year war that still has no end in sight. They expressed their despair at the failure of the American strategy to confront the Taliban and their anger at the massive corruption that American aid facilitated within the Afghan government.
Many question why thousands of Americans had to lose their lives and why billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money under both Republican and Democratic administrations had to be wasted, while the crisis in Afghanistan continues to unfold. US Gen. Douglas Lott, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the administrations of former US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, testified in an interview with government investigators: “We had no basic understanding about Afghanistan and we didn’t know what we were doing there... We had no idea what we were doing.”
According to The Washington Post report, US officials also acknowledged that they misleadingly issued “rosy statements” about their progress in Afghanistan despite knowing that these statements were false. “Every piece of information was being modified to paint the best possible picture,” said Bob Crowley, a retired colonel who served as a counterinsurgency adviser at the US military headquarters in Kabul between 2013 and 2014. Interestingly, this Washington Post report was released only after a lengthy legal battle with federal authorities. The final report consists of more than 2,000 pages of unpublished notes and transcripts of officials and experts involved in the Afghanistan war effort. Craig Whitlock of The Washington Post pointed out that “most of the sources were talking under the assumption that their statements would never be published so American officials acknowledged that their strategies for fighting the war were fatally flawed and that Washington wasted huge sums of money in trying to turn Afgh
anistan into a modern country.”
The findings of The Washington Post only confirm what some observers already know. Katie Kaiser, director of politics at the progressive Win Without War group, claimed that there was little doubt that the distinctive legacy of the Afghanistan war would be the incredible loss of life and the waste of taxpayer dollars in a country whose elites have been corrupted. But in Washington, it seems, there is still a range of political elites and members of Congress defending the military’s indefinite stay in Afghanistan, asserting that a withdrawal will simply lead to a greater catastrophe. This report, however, confirms that the very same politicians who have so vigorously been defending the war are also the ones secretly complaining about it behind closed doors. – Ishan Tharoor
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.