Last month’s so-called election of a Lebanese President must have seemed to international onlookers an event drenched in degradation, an example of both how low Lebanon’s politicians have sunk and allowed themselves to be manipulated by those who claimed to be their friends — and those the politicians vowed to fight because they sought to destroy Lebanon’s national integrity and kill its leaders.
A more intriguing question begs what actually happened in Doha between the power broking Qataris and Saudis? We have heard the rumors of the night flights in private jets to hammer out a regional accord, but what is certain is that a deal was made. We don’t know the details but the result was that our MPs, like chastised schoolboys, were reduced to obediently writing a name on slip of paper and casting it into the ballot box under the watchful star of the head monitors of the international top table.
Lebanon will bounce back, it always does. Already the tourism ministry is bullish about how many visitors will jet into Beirut the summer season — though we should be satisfied if we get half the 1.6 million visitors predicted to stroll, shop and eat in the recently liberated BCD — and the Beirut Stock Exchange rattled into action even as the tents in Downtown were being dismantled.
Meanwhile, across the Middle East, Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinajad, one of the players that helped shape Lebanon’s shameful sell-out, is sitting pretty after this latest round of real-life Risk. In four years his economic “policy” has been shaped around the twin-pronged approach of insulting the US and the West, hinting at apocalyptic conflict and raising the price of crude oil. It is a rough-and-ready economic policy but one that has seen Iran once again cast as the world’s most menacing nation and its GDP rocket to $300 billion from $123 billion in 2003. There is little sophisticated economics: No labor economics, no sustainable development initiatives, just posturing and revenues.
Has this hurt his enemies? Not as much as you would think. Yes, the major economies are feeling the pinch but the US government in particular is using the illusion of an Iranian threat to secure vital research and development funding for alternative energy sources. Preparing for the next revolution, courtesy of a revolutionary. It makes you think.
But back to Beirut — sept fois détruite et sept fois reconstruite, she is older than all of us and will still be here when we are gone. Beirut will endure. We just hope the powerbrokers of the region will let us show the region what we can do and make our capital proud of our achievements, as much as we are proud of hers.
Yasser Akkaoui, Editor-in-chief