Patriarch Al-Rahi denounces creeping coup in Lebanon
by Fady Noun

Through an appeal to the United Nations, the Patriarch calls on the international community to save Lebanon from turning into a failed state, an Iranian satellite, insensitive to the growing poverty of its population, and diplomatically isolated at the Arab and international levels.


Beirut (AsiaNews) – Maronite Patriarch Beshara Al-Rahi on Saturday broke a taboo that had been dragging on in Lebanon for years, telling a crowd of about 15,000 people gathered in the outer courtyard of the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerké (north of Beirut): “We no longer want a state in a state, nor a parallel army.”

Carefully avoiding a lecturing tone, the Patriarch complained about the political crisis that has prevented the formation of a “mission-oriented government” that meets the criteria of the international community, especially France, since last August, when Hassan Diab's government resigned.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing political paralysis that has prevented Lebanon’s economic and economic recovery, with the Lebanese pound losing 80 per cent of its value against the dollar over the past year, the Patriarch sees a creeping “coup d’état” that in his view the Lebanese must resist.

Pointing the finger at Hezbollah, without ever naming it, and its Christian allies of the Free Patriotic Movement whose historic leader is President Michel Aoun, the Patriarch also called on the international community to fulfill its obligations towards Lebanon, which is one of its founding members, and to act to save it from turning into a failed state, a satellite of Iran, insensitive to the growing poverty of its population, and isolated diplomatically at the Arab and international levels.

Hezbollah is the only Lebanese party that has not given up its weapons after the civil war (1975-1990). Many Lebanese view it as the “armed arm” in Lebanon of the Pasdaran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The solution, for the patriarch and the civil society groups that support him, is to enshrine Lebanon's “neutrality” in the constitution at the end of an UN-sponsored international conference.

“Freedom, equality, neutrality” is one of the slogans the patriarch launched on Saturday. The proposal, which has been around for months, has just been forwarded by the head of the Maronite Church to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“It was not only as the head of the Church that Beshara Al-Rahi spoke on Saturday. He did so above all as head of the institution that sought and created the modern Lebanese entity in its plurality,” wrote on Monday Elie Fayad, editor-in-chief of Lebanon’s French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour, responding to the patriarch’s initiative.

Before seeking popular support on Saturday, the Patriarch's ideas had already received the support in principle from some factions representing the Christian electorate such as the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb, as well as from the powerful Future Movement of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and many multifaith groups hostile to Hezbollah.

In his appeal to the United Nations, the head of the Maronite Church also calls for the implementation of international resolutions concerning Lebanon, assistance in delineating its borders with Syria, and a radical solution to the problem of the presence in Lebanon of Palestinian refugees and displaced Syrians, who number between 1.5 and 2 million people according to unofficial statistics.

In a speech in February, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah rejected the proposal without appearing to speak directly to the head of the Maronite Church, saying that it opens the door to foreign interference and even “occupation”.

In an initial reaction to Patriarch Al-Rahi's call, Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah on Sunday said that it is “a danger to the country” and that it will “complicate the crisis.”

For his part, the Patriarch rejected claims that he was closing the door to an internal agreement. Instead, he noted that he tried, unsuccessfully, to reason with the pro-Iranian party, and that he had exhausted all venues to restart the internal dialogue.

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