Free trade and elections in Lebanon mean little to a population without healthcare, education or social services, the EU should note.
By Mai Yamani
".......Attempting to politically isolate and disarm Hizbullah is a task that the EU-led UN force cannot accomplish and should not attempt, for it would mean war, with Syria and Iran in the background. But were the EU to resign itself to mere observer status in Lebanon, the UN and Europe would lose all credibility. An armed peace has held for a year. But an armed peace never lasts. The mission must therefore walk a fine line to bridge the country's communal divisions, which will be possible only with a clear understanding of Lebanon and the wider Middle East.
The road toward peace rather than ceasefire in Lebanon precludes the EU's participation in America's emerging "containment" strategy vis-a-vis Iran, at least in its current form, which is based on organising the resistance of Sunni states to Shia influence. For the Shias are the biggest of Lebanon's three religious communities. They also form a majority in some Gulf states, as well as in the oil-rich regions of Saudi Arabia. So a neat Shia-Sunni dividing line cannot be drawn.
Europe should instead push for new constitutional and institutional solutions that ensure the Shias have a legitimate role in the political arrangements of Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states - all places where they now regard themselves as third-class citizens. Giving the Shias a real stake in the nations in which they live is the only way to satisfy the craving for empowerment that they feel after so many years of suppression.
Europe must also recognise why leaders like Hizbullah's Sheikh Hasan Nasrullah are popular. Anti-Americanism and an aggressive foreign policy are, of course, part of the allure of men like Nasrullah. But what has really allowed Hizbullah (and Hamas, for that matter) to win elections and cement support is their ability to provide education, health, and other social services, particularly to the poor......."