An assessment of the current political scene in Lebanon reveals a divided parliament made up of new faces motivated by the common goal of rescuing the country but lacking a cohesive plan of action to achieve it. Among these newly elected parties is the Lebanese Forces (LF), a right-wing Christian party that has its roots in the civil war era. In the post-election period, the party is now aiming to rebrand itself as a national movement capable of reaching out to all Lebanese, not only its traditional sect.
In a recent discussion at the LF party office in Maarab, LF Executive Chairman Samir Geagea was candid about his view on the source of Lebanon’s problems.1 Overall, he believes that Hezbollah, with its arsenal of heavy weapons beyond the state’s control, is to blame for the ongoing crisis, saying Hezbollah is motivated not by patriotism but rather by an ideological commitment to enforcing Iran’s strategic and regional ambitions.
Undoubtedly, Hezbollah’s autonomous military status is a symptom of Lebanon’s wider problems of systemic corruption and the absence of a state monopoly on war and peace. Many Lebanese have renounced the current system, voting for new parliamentarians from independent parties like Taqaddom. 13 seats in parliament are now filled with members of non-sectarian political factions which aim—at least officially—to implement the reformist ideas of Lebanon’s 2019 protest movement.
However, the LF also gained 19 seats, making it the party with the highest level of Christian support. Prior to the election, it was the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM)—Hezbollah’s Christian ally—led by Gebran Bassil that boasted the largest Christian representation in parliament. President Michel Aoun of the FPM was elected in 2016 after reaching an accord with his old rival Samir Geagea. This secret deal, referred to as the “Maarab Agreement, ” was supposed to be the cornerstone of a new national strategy to save Lebanon. However, in the agreement’s wake, things have progressively turned for the worse. When asked about the agreement, Geagea acknowledged that there was a lack of choices at the time but denied that signing it required a leap of faith on his part, claiming that he was convinced of Aoun’s commitment to the bargain.
In June, Geagea warned that a “major confrontation” with Hezbollah is ahead. There is little space to build a consensus between the LF and Hezbollah, as both sides have diametrically different perspectives on domestic and regional politics. Indeed, when asked about the possibility of putting differences aside with Hezbollah to prioritize “governing politics,” Geagea responded simply, “I don’t know, I doubt it.”
Regional-level dynamics remain the biggest area of contention. Lebanon has officially adopted a policy of neutrality, but, in practice, this has not materialized. Prominent political figures frequently throw the term around. Acting Prime Minister, Najib Mikati said that Lebanon insists on adopting and implementing a policy of neutrality in Arab conflicts while Lebanon’s Maronite patriarch, Bechara Al-Rai stressed, in 2020, the need for Lebanon to embrace the country's allegedly historical position of “active neutrality.” Similarly, in an interview with the author, LF member, Melhem Riachi called for the adoption of “positive neutrality,” citing Austria as an example, and contending that Lebanon should stay out of regional proxy wars while being a responsible member of the international community.
The LF, along with other parties, has won a victory, but without a united front on a list of common aims, this victory will quickly prove hollow. While representatives of the LF and Taqaddom have recognized this risk, it is unclear how a united front can actually be achieved. The presidential election is only three months away, and another episode of paralysis, similar to the deadlock experienced around Aoun’s election, may occur. For the sake of stability, this scenario should be averted. The Lebanese people, who have suffered from years of neglect by their government, deserve peace and justice.
Adnan Nasser is an independent foreign policy analyst focused on the Middle East. He is a graduate of Florida International University where he studied International Relations. Follow him on Twitter: @Adnansoutlook29.
1 This interview was conducted by the author on June 24, 2022 at the party headquarters for the Lebanese Forces in Maarab, Lebanon.