Ayman Sharrouf

Dead on arrival: March 14’s National Council

Biel has arrived, the Bristol Hotel is gone. The National Council appears and then it is gone

"It is the 10th anniversary. The Damascus Spring ended many years ago, and now the Cedar Revolution is just a story for Hezbollah to laugh at." (image via honasaida.net)

Many times, in recent years, news has circulated suggesting that the March 14 alliance intends to form a national council as part of its supposed efforts to formally incorporate “its” civil society into its political activities. The alliance wants to create a platform for civil society involvement but it doesn’t know how. There is always a project on the shelf called the National Council. Many people believe it really exists and that it will bring about a new reality. The enthusiasm is strange. It is as if reviewing the last 10 years isn’t enough to show how the political forces in question can’t keep up with the people—all the people who once believed in the idea of a Lebanese state, whether it was March 14 that made that state a reality or someone else.


This time, March 14’s leaders have agreed to announce the National Council’s formation. There is, of course, no guarantee of what will come after the announcement. In any case, each one of them is marching to the beat of its own drummer. So many projects lay scattered about on so many tables. They aren’t what they once were and they never will be again, no matter how much some people try to sweeten the bitter situation that has been in place ever since it was decided that reconciliation with a criminal regime was necessary. That was the time when all the slogans finally lost their meaning. Now, it seems, they can be freely bought and sold. As was the case before, there are still people in that sovereignty-championing alliance who are fond of such “consumerist” games.


In years gone by, ordinary people—or to be more precise, the people who were not part of the March 14 Alliance’s ruling parties—used to gather to hear about the National Council, which has now almost become a reality. Its purpose is to express all the variation within March 14 and give everyone the chance to participate. More importantly, it is meant to give people who have been marginalized a place to express themselves. This is a right March 14 forces say they are fighting to establish at the level of the state, the state which cannot be.


As it happens, there is a wealth of experience with the forces in question; most of it gained in events that took place after the blood of the departed had cooled. The results have failed to meet expectations, or rather; they are not in keeping with the sacrifices made so that a state could exist. Most March 14 politicians act as if nothing has changed, as if the same battle is still being fought. They always talk about dreams, but these are dreams that have become impossible. They have become mere pictures hung on the wall to commemorate days that are now no more than a memory.


In any case, this well-known reality is related to the old concept of the National Council. Since the idea was first proposed, a sequence of events has taken place that the new National Council must look in to as a way of familiarizing itself with what it is about to embark upon. This must be done so that the new council is not reduced to a mere façade from the moment of its creation, a multicolored conglomeration that no longer knows anything about the forces it is made up of or what they stand for. If the Council ever actually possessed such knowledge in the first place, it’s probably because it was compelled to do so.


The announcement of the Council’s formation has come at a fateful moment, a time when all the forces are looking for a way out of the current situation. So, let us first examine the case of the Future Movement. Not so long ago, Future Movement leaders were saying that Hezbollah had brought terrorism to Lebanon and that they would never share power with the party. Now the Future Movement and Hezbollah sit around the same table in the Grand Serail. They are also sitting more intimately around another table, at Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri’s house. So, the bearers of non-state arms are engaging in a dialogue with the state builders—and the result? Non-state arms and the state will work together to protect the border.


The Kataeb Party, whose leaders say they are at the heart of March 14, are another example. The party supports the state and rejects Hezbollah’s statelet. They share the cabinet with Hezbollah and say that Syrian refugees are a threat to Lebanon’s Christians. For them, the choice of whether to support Syrian refugees or the heavily-armed party that prevented the state being established is more than easy. Of course, accepting the power of arms is easier for the well-established party than taking on new problems with refugees it says are changing Lebanon’s demographic balance.


The Lebanese Forces held on to the idea longer than any other party, but now it has entered a dialogue with its archrival, Michel Aoun. All is not well, neither in Lebanon nor at the heart of its political alliances. Now, going to your rival is encouraged, as long as your ally does so first. And the agenda? All the bearers of big slogans will return to small support bases, small prisons and realistic slogans.


And who is left? The March 14 General Secretariat is fighting to achieve some unclear goal. The sharks swimming around it are big, and they are ready to swallow everything. However, before the dangers surrounding the General Secretariat comes the danger posed by the people inside it, or some of those people. They want to transform the General Secretariat into an appeasement squad that adapts itself here and gives its blessing there. As a result, any initiative taken is subject to their own personal interests. The decision to take a stance has been made when taking a stance no longer has any meaning. All this has produced is a lot of hot air that one picture, statement or meeting can easily blow away. Independents have also been looking for a role for years, but no role will come. They, too, like the parties, are held back by their individual interests.


Beyond this, where is March 14’s stance on what is happening around Lebanon? Has anyone taken stock of the amount of change that has taken place? The big events in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya make the forces in the alliance look very small indeed. They seem incapable of doing anything. Confused, they haven’t even taken the initiative to re-evaluate events. They have grown used to reading out and ratifying wishes. They have never been realistic or even come close to realism. Asking for the formulation of a new discourse after 10 years is tantamount to demanding the impossible. The Islamic State (ISIS) will not make this happen, and neither will the war on terrorism, the Iranian nuclear program or Qassem Soleimani’s returning influence.


It is the 10th anniversary. The Damascus Spring ended many years ago, and now the Cedar Revolution is just a story for Hezbollah to laugh at—now the party can control its allies and adversaries while happily going about its business. While the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is set to continue into another decade, Rafiq Hariri’s killers are participating in state decisions, determining Lebanon’s future and defending its borders.


These are just a few of the many issues that the National Council will not raise. All we have is a picture, a few statements, and the belief of a few believers who have been betrayed by the time and place in which they have found themselves. Biel is just a conference room. It doesn’t resemble the Bristol Hotel in any way. There is no way back to the square and no place for Samir Kassir or any of March 14’s other martyrs. There is a large number of large questions. Once again the slogan has been raised in an attempt to hide the real situation. Once again the slogan has been lost, destroyed. The concept remains far, far away from being realized.


On the 10th anniversary, the concept still exists. A council has emerged, dialogue sessions have been convened, and a new reality has unfolded. As for March 14, although it is keeping up with new developments, it doesn’t realize it has been dispersed over a map that is bigger than Lebanon.


On the 10th anniversary, the concept is still far from being realized. Questions are no longer being asked. Biel has arrived, the Bristol Hotel is gone. The National Council appears and then it is gone.


This article has been translated from the original Arabic by Ullin Hope

"It is the 10th anniversary. The Damascus Spring ended many years ago, and now the Cedar Revolution is just a story for Hezbollah to laugh at." (image via honasaida.net)

Biel has arrived, the Bristol Hotel is gone. The National Council appears and then it is gone."

  • Petrossou

    This is your wishful thinking. No just cause has ever been destroyed or demolished. It has always overcome all the difficulties. The 14th of March movement will too overcome the difficulties. Would you present the same analysis regarding the talks between the West and Iran? If they talk to each others does it mean that the USA or Iran are giving up their policies or principles? No matter what happens in the area nothing will stop the ideas of the 14th of March to prevail as NO bristol is that far away and the principles are still on. If in the region moderates were fighting against the killing regime of Damascus or any other criminal one, yes I would have had the tendency to agree to the fact that it "has been dispersed over a map that is bigger than Lebanon" unfortunately only criminals are left killing each others and the only way out is what the 14 March movement is proposing. So if you wrote your article to discourage those who believe in a better future, you failed, and if you wrote because you are deceived, I can only say, stop crying on your status, leak your wounds and keep on walking your head held high. If not for you for those that are coming after you!!!

    March 18, 2015

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Petrossou: ...and you, you should fix your English. It stinks.

    March 20, 2015