LEBANON. WSN Editor Broader Middle East, Manuela Paraipan, has again been on tour on the third fact finding mission for the independent World Security Network Foundation in Lebanon. She collected information and has transformed it into knowledge.
She had the rare opportunity to meet Druze leader Walid Jumblatt at his residence in Beirut. Following in the footsteps of his father, Walid Jumblatt is one of the major political players in Lebanon. The exclusive WSN interview gives an interesting insight into the complicated and fragile political situation in Lebanon.
Manuela Paraipan: What are your comments after the meeting last night with Speaker Nabih Berri?
Walid Jumblatt: It is important to have President Michel Sulayman convene the national dialogue session to discuss the issue of the arms of Hezbollah. It will take a long time to settle it, as it is not a local issue, but we have to speak about it. One day, I hope, they will be incorporated into the Lebanese state.
Manuela Paraipan: Is there a common vision to talk about regarding the national defence strategy?
Walid Jumblatt: There is no vision. We have several ideas, but no vision to speak of yet. We have to talk together and see what their aim is and what they want to do and whether or not they will accept joining the Lebanese state and the Lebanese army.
Manuela Paraipan: Through the years you have had a complex relationship with Hizballah. What is the status quo now?
Walid Jumblatt: After 7 May, I decided for the sake of avoiding a civil war and blood in the mountains, to cool it down and see what we can fix, and to reconcile. This is why Nabih Berri is very important for me.
Manuela Paraipan: How do you view the cabinet statement, especially article 24? Isn't it hypocritical to condemn Hezbollah for having arms and at the same time work with Hezbollah in the same government?
Walid Jumblatt: We have no other choice than to abide by reality. The question of Hezbollah cannot be settled by complaining, crying in sorrow or shouting that they should disarm. Its impossible. It's a regional issue that goes from Tehran to the United States. Tehran uses Hezbollah and its power to tell the Americans that in case they attack us, we can use Hezbollah. And Hezbollah proved it is able to be quite efficient through its actions in the July 2006 war.
Manuela Paraipan: A few months ago you went public and spoke of Hezbollah's parallel telecommunication lines and the control over airport security. However, these were well known secrets, if I may say so, in Lebanon. Why the specific timing and what did you hope to accomplish?
Walid Jumblatt: The Minister of Defence sent this memorandum about Hezbollah's video camera in the airport, and Marwan Hamade was always claiming that Hezbollah has a network. Therefore, I was a little bit upset as to why my partners, these two ministers, were unable to say it publicly. I said it publicly. Anyhow, the end in sight was positive: Doha.
Manuela Paraipan: You seemed content at the time with the agreement. What is your opinion now?
Walid Jumblatt: Regardless of what you may think of Doha, at least we are living a normal life for the time being. We no longer have the siege of the Serail (Grand Serail, the government's building), the paralysis of downtown. The Doha agreement gave us an opening, and we will use this opening and the dialog. We have to be realistic. We could not stay like this endlessly, shouting and denying and labeling each other as traitors. It was really an unbelievable situation.
Manuela Paraipan: When you were in the United States speaking at several think tanks, you spoke quite openly about your opposition to the present regime in Damascus. Do you still have the same view?
Walid Jumblatt: I have not changed my mind. But I cannot change anything on my own. I did not change my mind because I think that as long as this regime stays in place, there is no stability for Lebanon. Unless this regime is contained and obliged to recognise an independent Lebanon. They accepted diplomatic relations, but to tell you that I like the regime? No. To tell you that I will change my rhetoric about the regime? No. Also, at the same time, who am I? An individual against this apparatus. I can do nothing.
Manuela Paraipan: Now that President Sulayman has visited President Assad in Syria, should we expect to see a better state-state relationship emerging?
Walid Jumblatt: Its not only about this regime. The Syrians never acknowledged Lebanon's existence. For the first time since 1920 after the formation of the greater state of Lebanon they accepted, at least in theory, to recognise Lebanon and to have an embassy here. Which is good. We have to start somewhere.
Manuela Paraipan: How do you envision Lebanon's role in the Arab world where Iran is emerging as a strong regional player?
Walid Jumblatt: Lebanon should abide by the non-alignment policy. We have to solve the problems and have a truce agreement with Israel. I don't say peace with Israel, but truce, and through the non-alignment policy, Lebanon will stop being used by the Americans or by the Iranians. We also need to have good relations with Syria. This is what has been written in the Taif agreement. However, its a double role. The Syrians should not use elements of their relations to sabotage Lebanon, and we have to do the same.
Manuela Paraipan: What do you think of the latest events in Tripoli? Was it a message for the army?
Walid Jumblatt: I don't know who is encouraging the Salafist groups there. The local people, the regional powers, I have no idea. But for Tripoli this is a time bomb. We have to reconcile and not give Syria the pretext to come to Lebanon to defend the Alawite minority.
Manuela Paraipan: How do you see President Assad's visit to Russia? These days everyone talks about Israel, Georgia and the plausible change of Russian policy toward Syria and other Arab states.
Walid Jumblatt: The West tried to grab Georgia, fix it and introduce it to NATO. The Russians have a good relationship with Syria, and I think it will further improve. This is why I am keen to see Lebanon in the non-alignment agreement instead of somewhere in the middle following a similar line to the foolish policy of Georgia.
Manuela Paraipan: In a world dominated by aggressive capitalism, globalisation and the rise of religiousness, often as a cover for all, what is left for the socialists, if anything?
Walid Jumblatt: It is a bad situation. Look at what caused the failure of socialism. It was the tactical approach, because it did not accept individual freedom and individual property. That does not mean that we should abandon the idea of socialism and accept globalisation, multinationals and so on. What is happening now is a disaster against humanity created by capitalism. Someday, we will need a new revolution. Not a Bolshevik one, but a new revolution. The Bolshevik Revolution had its heyday, except of course for the terror, but nonetheless, it had an impact on countries that fought imperialism in China, Vietnam, Africa and in the Middle East in the struggle against the Israelis.
Manuela Paraipan: Is it likely that there will be a realignment of world powers, and maybe a new policy, now that the US has moved from a military-focused policy back to the negotiating table?
Walid Jumblatt: Its impossible for the United States to move peacefully. It is just impossible, with all the corporations ruling the country. Furthermore it is a competition between the United States, China and others as to who will control more of the wealth of this planet, and the planet is being systematically destroyed by the United States, by the climate change and the common market. It's a total misery, billions of people living in starvation. I don't see any new approach.
Manuela Paraipan: Do you believe that you already have a state, and I ask because the sense of citizenship seems to be absent.
Walid Jumblatt: We never had a state because we have no sense of citizenship. We always claimed we are Lebanese, but Lebanon is divided along confessional lines. When my father was leading the leftist parties - the national movement - he tried to change the system of Lebanon. However, the so-called progressive environment, the Baathists and the reactionist environment of the Arab world were all against having a secular state in Lebanon. When he was powerful, at one point people from certain circles - like Kissinger - said that Kamal Jumblatt was an extremist-leftist and he was eliminated. In 1975, the Americans allowed the Syrians to come to Lebanon, and they killed my father.
Manuela Paraipan: Are you going to reopen the dossier of your father?
Walid Jumblatt: I never forgot about the dossier of my father. It was real politics because we were besieged. At that time we were expecting a total war, with the isolationists, with the Phalangists, and I went to Damascus because I am an Arab, and the Arab identity of Lebanon was in danger because of the Phalangist alliance with Israel. I decided to reconcile with the terrible regime, but not to forget. What's the use of re-opening it? We will see if the international tribunal for Hariri and others will lead somewhere.
Manuela Paraipan: Is there anything of value left of this investigation that at best seems to drag its feet?
Walid Jumblatt: Last year in June we were expecting the international tribunal, but it did not materialize. This year we might have it, by the end of the year, but I don't know. It could be a bad sign if there is no international justice.
Manuela Paraipan: What about social justice? Is Lebanon getting anywhere close to such a trend?
Walid Jumblatt: Social justice is not leading anywhere. We were subjected to Syrian rule for years, and our syndicates and movements were used by the Syrians. Now we have to build everything up again, from our own trade unions to our political parties. Most of our political parties are just confessional parties. We don't have transnational parties - maybe the communist party but it split into two or three parties.
Manuela Paraipan: Any chance of an increased strong attachment to national citizenship?
Walid Jumblatt: I don't know.
Manuela Paraipan: You are not an optimist?
Walid Jumblatt: I am a realist.
Manuela Paraipan: Thank you very much sir.