Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Mustafa Fahs

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : From Iraq to Lebanon... The Path of the Ruling Elites

From Iraq to Lebanon, dates converge and events intersect, but differ only in names, to the point where the history of the two modern countries, that is, since their founding more than a century ago, can be described as a common history of two states, or two common histories of one country.

If any person - quoting ideas - simply wanted to replace the name of Iraq with Lebanon, in an article by Professor Hazem Saghieh entitled, “Iraq Is Seemingly Being Founded from Scratch and Not Being Founded”, which was published in this newspaper on June 2, he would only need to change the names of the perpetrators so that the quote becomes applicable to Lebanon, in its difficult past and complex present.

In the Iraqi and Lebanese cases, there are parties or sides, and at distant times and events, that have made and are making a great effort to deny or monopolize the geographical and demographic formation.

Those do not hesitate at every turn, or whenever they feel powerful, to tamper with the first founding identity of the two entities that was hastily formed under colonialism, and which the modern national state failed to consolidate, either because of a defect that distorted its narrative, or as a result of a military coup, as in Iraq, or the defense of sectarian privileges, like we saw in Lebanon.

The irony was that the events of 1958, which coincided with the fall of the monarchy in Iraq, led in Lebanon to the political elite handing over power to a military figure, the late President Fouad Chehab, who succeeded in securing the state and preserving a high degree of civility within its institutions, with the help of his generals.

Despite the power of his security apparatus, Fouad Chehab is recognized for building state institutions. Those who criticized him were implicitly, and then publicly, rejecting his bold steps to integrate sects and expand their partnership.

The Chehab era came in response to the first mini-civil war, known as the “events of 1958,” which constituted an early warning of a broader civil conflict that occurred in 1975, as a result of the Lebanese right’s clinging to its privileges and using force to protect them, which encouraged the left to resort to confrontation and try to obtain them by force.

In the July 14 coup, Iraq entered a bloody phase of its history that continues until today at the hands of General Abdul Karim Qasim. This period aroused the appetite of the Baath Party, which ousted Qasim with a bloodier coup and left behind a more horrific occupation, whose identity, cultural, social and political repercussions are still present to this day. Iraq was handed over to a political elite that dedicated itself to dismantling the state and taking care of subsidiary identities, working to erase the history of its predecessors, waging internal wars and acting externally by proxy.

In describing the Iraqi situation, Hazem Saghieh says: “Naturally, passion for finding the truth or allegiance to an objective historical account is the least of the parties to the dispute’s concerns. But if kinship-based, sectarian, or ethnic loyalty drives the debate, the responsibility of the party pursuing hegemony far outweighs that of the parties trying to stand in its way.”

In Lebanon, the party seeking hegemony does not stop trying to rewrite history according to its terms. It denies the establishment of the entity and tries to blame colonialism for what it considers its marginalization more than a century ago. It leaps above the Taif Agreement and parity, and sometimes resorts to counting if faced with a demographic impasse, or threatens with power whenever the “formula” besieged it.

This party does not hesitate to disrupt the constitution, empty and seize state institutions, monopolize national identity, and fabricate new founding dates attributing their achievements to its own authority.

From the coup against Chehabism that began in 1970, with the arrival of the late President Sleiman Franjieh, until the end of the civil war, and then the assassination of President Rafik Hariri and up to the October Uprising, the division is still raging over the unified book of history, over belonging, identity, the constitution, and institutions, and the ruling elites were still under the influence of consuls, foreign projects, and hegemony over the state.