Musbah Ahdab, a Sunni Lebanese Member of Parliament and an advocate of democratic reform in Lebanon, spoke about the challenges the Lebanese government faces in the wake of the recent war between Hizbullah and Israel, as well as future possibilities for the reconstruction of Lebanese society. Ahdab stated that among the positive outcomes of the war was the sovereignty of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in Lebanon. He explained that it was the first time since 1968 that the LAF's presence was ubiquitous on Lebanese territory.

Ahdab then addressed the division between two tracks in present-day Lebanon. On the one hand, the Alliance of March 14, and its supporters, have advocated for the formation of state institutions and a re-building of the Lebanese economy. On the other hand, supporters of Hizbullah and the pro-Syrian groups have had open relations with Syria and Iran, and have contributed to the polarization of religious groups within Lebanon, particularly the Syrian government.

Ahdab stressed that this division is "cross-confessional," and not one that is divided along religious lines. Not all Shi'ites are in support of Hizbullah, and not all Sunni Muslims or Christians necessarily oppose Hizbullah. We should remember that Hizbullah has representation within the Parliament and in the cabinet.

Ahdab continued to note that victory for any one side was non-existent in this war which "shook the Lebanese government, hit the infrastructure, and worsened the economy." This was the seventh time that Lebanon has had to face a process of reconstruction. He asserted that it was also a defeat for Hizbullah because it was the first time that Hizbullah was forced to accept the deployment of the LAF, as well as the deployment of international troops in South Lebanon.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1701, Ahdab explained, "put Hizbullah and the pro-Syrians on the decline." It promoted sovereignty among the Lebanese and gave exclusivity to the Lebanese government by allowing for the enforced deployment of the LAF and UNIFIL. Rather than resolving the issue by military confrontation, the resolution allowed for "diplomatic mechanisms" to act as the means to the end. Furthermore, it has given the Lebanese government the "opportunity to face real problems."

Ahdab stated that the government must encourage investment, cope with the national debt, and face the challenges of transparent reconstruction and unemployment. However, he emphasized that none of this can be done without the support of the international community and Lebanon's Western allies.

Ahdab concluded his remarks in stating that any change within the Lebanese government "requests a change of the President." He believed that a reformist government and a pro-Syrian President cannot exist simultaneously and that although Syria, with its many social ties to Lebanon, can still be a Lebanese ally, it must not alter the course of Lebanese politics. The Lebanese people, Ahdab remarked, have a right to their individual sovereignty in the region, free of any foreign intervention.

Middle East Program
Drafted by Joyce Ibrahim