and an international agreement to implicitly accept a Lebanese government that includes Hezbollah with a seat at the UN Security Council. Regional and international messages exchanged through the Lebanese arena are reassuring for the Lebanese and for the region, at least for now. Also reassuring is what the Saad Hariri Government claims by defining itself as “the government of achievements”, signifying that it will focus on the economy, reform, job-creation and privatization, considering that consensus and rapprochement, especially between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Syria, provides a good window of opportunity for political stability that would be characterized by giving priority to the economy. All of this represents an opportunity for Hezbollah to position itself locally, regionally and internationally as a Lebanese political party that has its place and its standing, and to shake off its reputation as the third corner in what is referred to as the “Emirate Triangle”, the common denominator being the fact that they receive rockets from Iran, as well as its enmity towards the United States and the countries of Arab moderation. Its enmity towards Israel is natural as long as there is no peace between Lebanon and Israel, but rather a state of war, since officially the conflict between the two still stands. Nevertheless, it is not in Hezbollah’s interest to be part of a “triangle” or to form what is described as the “South Lebanon Emirate”, alongside the “Gaza Emirate” under Hamas’s supervision or the “Saada Emirate” under the Houthis in Yemen. The South’s inhabitants may want to lend moral and material support to help the Palestinians get rid of the Israeli occupation, but they most probably do not want to be party to the wars of the Houthis or of Al-Qaeda in Yemen. Such plans are truly destructive and are feared to turn Yemen into another Somalia. The responsibility of the Yemenis themselves is the prime consideration, this including the mistakes made by the Yemeni government and by President Ali Abdullah Saleh in particular. Nevertheless, there are external forces that are tampering with Yemen and there is interference, one which Iran in particular admitted to. The reactions of Saudi Arabia in warding off the spread of the fighting to its own soil are understandable, as are its fears that the internal conflict coupled with the dry nature of Yemen’s territory could lead to an unnatural flow of human migration across its borders. Indeed, the geological aspect represents a “time bomb”, according to one of the most prominent experts on Saudi-Yemeni relations, a matter which urgently requires a well-planned policy towards it, within Saudi Arabia, regionally and also in the United States, as does the possibility of Yemen turning into Somalia. Yet the aims of the Islamic Republic of Iran are difficult to understand in Yemen - beyond dangerous sectarian polarization - especially as such polarization involves the possibility of turning portions of Yemen’s territory into fertile soil for Al-Qaeda. The slogans of enmity towards America and hatred towards the “Great Satan” seem necessary for the relationship of the Islamic Republic of Iran with the United States, even at a time of increased rapprochement between the two and increasing talk of behind-the-scenes agreements, of which allowing Lebanon to finally have its government cabinet is perhaps an indication. This does not negate the reality of the shifts and surprises, as well as the incomplete and bad policies in the region, for which Lebanon has become the testing ground. Today, however, the strongest indicator points to the fact that the correct interpretation of the situation is an American, regional, European, Russian and local necessity to avoid the available opportunity slipping into corridors and nightmares for everyone.
In the issue of Lebanon, to begin with, the era of Fouad Siniora heading the Lebanese government in one of its most difficult phases should be bidden farewell to with appreciation, praise and congratulations for the pleasant surprise that was Fouad Siniora himself. Indeed, this capable man has set down an important cementing element for Lebanon, that of emphasizing the importance of state institutions for the future of the country, a legacy which it is necessary for the current Prime Minister Saad Hariri to uphold and build upon insistently.
Lebanon’s membership in the Security Council for the next two years strengthens the possibilities of it playing an exceptional role regionally and internationally, and such a role must strengthen its political and social internal fabric. Thus, instead of a reputation that turns it into an arena for proxy wars, and of sarcasm at its political structure and at its leaderships bound to external powers, the exceptional role played by the only Arab member of the Security Council can bestow on Lebanon a prestige it is in need of. This is if it correctly understands the qualities of such a position as well as its constraints, without exaggeration or excessiveness in giving the seat at the Security Council an importance that exceeds its bounds
Lebanon’s Permanent Representative at the UN Ambassador Nawaf Salam is capable of representing Lebanon in the best way at the Security Council, and with him is an excellent team of diplomats, most of them having experience with the Security Council and two of them having represented Lebanon during one of its most difficult phases as Chargé d’Affaires of its mission, namely: current Deputy Ambassador Caroline Ziadeh and diplomat Ibrahim Assaf. During this period and before it, Majdi Ramadan had also been with them in the Lebanese mission for years, and he has returned to join the team. Thus the performance of Lebanese diplomacy has been characterized by wisdom, flexibility and composure, and that is part of the prestige Lebanon seeks after.
And because Nawaf Salam is an expert on international law, he has for example been able to play a fundamental and constructive role in bringing Arab stances closer together, and has participated in formulating an intelligent strategy in the Arabs addressing the report of Judge Richard Goldstone, which stated that Israel and Hamas had committed “war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity” in the Gaza war. This report will remain pivotal for Arab diplomacy at the United Nations and perhaps at the Security Council, especially if the Middle East peace process continues to deteriorate to rock bottom. Indeed, there is talk of the possibility of heading to the Security Council on the issue of the peace process, if the conclusion is reached that US sponsorship of such a process has reached a dead-end. In fact, the Security Council has adopted important resolutions over the peace process, including the resolution of establishing the state of Palestine alongside Israel on the basis of the road map.
If the issue of the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict was to return to the Security Council, Lebanon’s role would be of the utmost importance as its only Arab member. Similarly, in any non-Arab issues, Arab membership, represented by Lebanon, will have exceptional weight. In any case, there is the importance of proximity in forging resolutions concerned with world peace and security, which places countries elected to a seat at the Security Council at the same table of talks and negotiations that includes the five permanent members: the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France.
However, alongside rights and honor, tremendous responsibilities fall upon the shoulders of the Lebanese government as it takes its seat at the Security Council. Indeed, this seat is also one of testing the seriousness of the state and the standing it seeks after. Thus if the Lebanese delegation comes to reflect internal Lebanese disputes in the stances taken by Lebanon towards international issues, it will lose respect and also its ability to influence decision-making, as Lebanon is not a country that holds the right of veto and its vote is therefore not decisive. Hence, the importance of Lebanon at the Security Council lies in its influence much more than in its vote.
Security Council members, in their first meeting after the Lebanese government was formed this week, welcomed this achievement without any of them - including the United States - voicing reservations over the composition of the cabinet, which includes ministers who are members of Hezbollah. This is also a welcoming message to the membership of Lebanon in the council and a message of willingness to look the other way in order to help the country, however with an insistence on the resolve to implement all resolutions, including Resolution 1559, which the US representative made sure to mention. Indeed, the Security Council will not retract resolutions, and any attempt - or thought of one - towards the possibility of annulling or removing a certain resolution is only an unrealistic dream. Indeed, Resolution 1559, which demands the dismantling of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias is staying at the Security Council, as are the resolutions that established the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to try those implicated in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his companions, in addition to the other assassinations which the investigation proves to be related to that of Hariri. Thus it would be wise to avoid any attempt to rally against Security Council resolutions, and it is necessary for Lebanon to cling to the firm stance it has taken, that of committing to implement all of the resolutions that concern it.
Iran could create a climate of confrontation at the Security Council, this to bring the nuclear issue out of it and to return it exclusively to Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is based. The message of the United States and Britain during the closed session this week to look into Resolution 1701, which is concerned with Lebanon and which has laid down the circumstances and the conditions of sustaining the ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel, was a clear one. Indeed, the representatives put forth the issue of the Iranian ship that was seized by Israel, which claimed that it was carrying weapons and headed to Syria on its way to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Yet they did so by holding Iran responsible and did not make use of it to attack Hezbollah. Similarly, the Security Council decided to refer the matter to the sanctions commission concerned with Iran, which prohibits Iran by virtue of Resolution 1747 from smuggling weapons outside of its territory.
Yet such a message of goodwill will not last if Hezbollah insists on forcing its own agenda on the Lebanese government. Indeed, the issue of “resistance” which it seeks to introduce to the ministerial statement was resolved under the Siniora government and there is no need to provoke a crisis and an unnecessary problem on the eve of Lebanon entering the council.
As for Iran, it is well able to take care of itself in its relations with the great powers. And just as there is no need for the United States, Russia or France to corner Lebanon on the issue of Iran, there is no need for Iran to expect Lebanon to clamor on its behalf. Indeed, Lebanon’s identity at the Security Council is an Arab one.
Hence developments on the regional scene should be monitored, as some of them may reach the UN Security Council. Indeed, the council has previously addressed the Yemeni and Saudi-Yemeni issue, and developments may bring this issue back to the council on a completely different basis.
Iran has admitted this week through its Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki its direct role in Yemen, thus supporting reports which state that Iran has been providing the Houthis with funds and weapons. In fact, Mottaki threatened, saying: “we strongly advise regional and neighboring states not to interfere in Yemen’s internal affairs”. He added, promising, that “those who pour oil on the fire must know that they will not be spared from the smoke that billows”.
The United States, its government, congress, media and people, are in complete ignorance of what is happening in Yemen and why. There are even high-ranking directors in the US Administration in charge of the issue of Yemen and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) who are surprised to hear of basic evident facts, after having decided to dwarf the issue and to reject the reports of Iran’s role in Yemen. Today, the US Administration, the American media and American intellectual and research institutions must devote themselves to understanding what is happening in Yemen before it is too late and it becomes the most dangerous failed state for the region and the world.
Likewise, Saudi diplomacy must participate in the information campaign by clarifying what its current policy and strategy is towards Yemen, and how it intends to handle the issue with Iran. Indeed, there is dire need to make US officials and the American media aware of the dangers of the “time bomb” called Yemen, in terms of the geology as well as of the rebellion, the tribal structure, the Houthis and the government.
The mistakes of the past are many and there is a need today to stop engaging in proxy wars and to build regional relations on the basis of turning countries into “effective states” for regional forces. Iran seems enthusiastic about persisting in this pattern, nearly making it its “signature brand”, while Arab countries wish to put a stop to such a pattern - either out of necessity or purposely due to them being occupied with internal matters and with the challenges of creating jobs for millions of young people.
Lebanon has benefited from rapprochement, consensus and agreement, at least temporarily and as a first step. As for Yemen, it deserves international mobilization before it is too late.