You can tell the future of a country seems bleak when people start calling for a return to colonial rule. And it’s equally surprising when the colonial power looks to grant that request.
Such is the hopeless case of Lebanon, which French President Emmanuel Macron visited for the past two days.
Almost a month ago, a massive explosion ripped through downtown Beirut blowing off the veneer that made Lebanon appear like a normal state. Decades of corrupt rule, foreign interference and government divisions had made Lebanon virtually ungovernable.
The people no longer respect their leaders, whose mismanagement and sectarian rifts made the reality of living in Lebanon harder with each passing year. A decade of rule by Iranian proxy Hezbollah has further sunk the nation. Rolling blackouts, mountains of uncollected trash, and food shortages had become the norm in the weeks leading up to the blast.
The August 4 explosion that killed almost 200 people and devastated much of the city was meant to be the wake-up call to the world that Lebanon needed help.
And for a couple of days, the world seemed to pay attention to Lebanon.
You probably paid attention too.
But as is the case with 2020, other serious events have taken away our attention, and we have moved on.
The Lebanese people have not moved on.
Stuck with their failed state, the people of Lebanon are still hopeful that the blast, destructive as it was, can be a catalyst for change in their nation.
With the same leaders in power today that have ruled the country for the past 30 years, the Lebanese people know that change can only come from the outside. Luckily, it seems France is willing to oblige.
As we noted at the time, French President Macron was the first leader to visit Lebanon in the wake of the blast. Within 48 hours, he was in the streets rubbing shoulders with victims as they started to pick up the pieces of their lives. Lebanon’s leaders were nowhere to be seen, but the French president was at ease with the people, offering hope where it seemed like there wasn’t any.
Before he left, Macron promised he would be back on September 1 to see if the Lebanese government had started to make changes that would qualify them to receive the massive financial aid package that France and other governments were willing to give.
Last night and today, that French president was back.
The symbolism of his return was not lost on the Lebanese, and it shouldn’t be lost on you.
On Sept. 1, 1920, 100 years ago from today, Greater Lebanon was created under the direction of the French government.
In the aftermath of World War I and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, much of the Middle East was divided up among the victorious allied forces of Britain and France. Great Britain would go on to receive much of modern-day Iraq, Jordan and the area of Israel. France, already having a long history in the eastern Mediterranean, would receive control of a great swath of Syria, including the territory of modern-day Lebanon.
However, before the French could secure Syria, many of the Arabs of the region decided they would rather rule the territory themselves. Of particular concern to some of the Arabs was the area around Beirut, which was heavily populated by Maronite Christians, an offshoot of the Catholic Church. Aided by France, Mount Lebanon, as it was known then, had already achieved a level of autonomy within the Ottoman Empire and did not share the ideal of Arab nationalism espoused by those who wanted to cast off French dominance.
The Maronite rulers of Mount Lebanon then called on France to not only rid the Arab nationalist forces from Mount Lebanon but also create a larger state that would be called Greater Lebanon, inhabiting the same territory we know today as the state of Lebanon.
With a strong Catholic government in power in France, the army answered the call, sending French Gen. Henri Gouraud to implement Greater Lebanon.
When French forces landed in Beirut to put an end to the short-lived Arab government, Maronites and other Christians waving French flags cheered their arrival at the Beirut port. They hailed France as their “tender, loving mother” (Arabic, al-umm al-hanun). The Arab nationalists were soon run out of Beirut and defeated in July 1920 on the outskirts of Damascus.
Returning to the Pine Residence in Beirut, General Gouraud assembled with leaders of the Maronites, and the other religious sects of the newly forming country to announce the establishment of the new state: Greater Lebanon.
One hundred years later, France was back in Lebanon and once again meeting with Lebanese leaders and seeing how the country could be saved. As Macron said after the blast, “France will never let Lebanon go. The heart of the French people still beats to the pulse of Beirut.” Some Lebanese once again were celebrating “France, the tender mother.”
Yet change has not come soon enough for Lebanon. Several commentators have criticized Macron’s visits of being excessive on optics, but making little progress in concrete actions.
Indeed, it was somewhat bizarre to see French fighter jets stream the colors of the Lebanese flag across the sky over Beirut earlier today, all while Lebanese citizens protest the lack of government action. Ironically, the Lebanese security forces used French-made weaponry and teargas to disperse the crowds of protesters.
Still, with all the fanfare and the ongoing protests, change is in the air in Lebanon. Macron is certainly determined to lead Lebanon down the path to reforming its corrupt government. “It’s a risky bet I’m making, I’m aware of it. … I’m putting the only thing I have on the table: my political capital,” Macron told Politico en route to Beirut from Paris.
Just prior to Macron’s visit, the Lebanese parliament announced it had selected a caretaker prime minister to manage the reforming process. Mustapha Adib, who has been Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany since 2013, was charged with the task. The Sunni diplomat has some ties to a previous prime minister, which is upsetting those desiring a wholesale uprooting of the political establishment. Nevertheless, Macron has accepted the selection and will give Lebanon’s leaders a chance to make changes before he returns in October.
“It’s the last chance for this system,” Macron told Politico. If there are no concrete changes, he will “switch tack, taking punitive measures that range from withholding a vital international financial bailout to imposing sanctions against the ruling class.”
Clearly, Macron is showing himself to be the only world leader willing to not take his eye off the ball after the Beirut blast.
The Lebanese people are hopeful he can be successful.
Biblical prophecy indicates that eventually he, or another European leader, will be.
The Bible prophesies that massive changes are coming to Lebanon, which will see Iran removed from being the force of influence in that country. The Bible prophesies that a full Lebanese alliance with Europe will take place.
But the Bible is even more specific: It will be a German-led Europe that allies with Lebanon and other Arab states. France will be part of that union, but will eventually play a backseat to Germany’s lead.
Is it a coincidence, then, that the new caretaker prime minister of Lebanon has been stationed at the embassy in Berlin since 2013? After spending seven years rubbing shoulders with German leaders, Adib could be uniquely positioned to give Germany a greater role in Lebanon.
However it plays out, we can be assured that Lebanon is heading toward a huge clash between European influences supporting the people on the streets and Iran-backed Hezbollah. Today’s protests show that Lebanese anger has not dissipated since the blast.
Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote recently, “Following the explosion, the streets of the capital are burning with anger against Hezbollah and the Lebanese government. France and Europe are watching and appear to be ready to support the people in throwing off Iranian influence.”
We are watching this start to happen.
As noted by many Middle East experts, what happens in Lebanon doesn’t stay in Lebanon. The tiny nation of 7 million people is a microcosm of the trends that play out throughout the region.
As Nadim Shehadi warned in his column yesterday, “On the centenary of Greater Lebanon, as many ponder the fate of a country teetering between the need for a strong state and a neutral one, my message is that the whole region is also failing due to the same phenomenon of bearded men in black preaching perpetual war. The idea of Lebanon is the exact opposite of that and, if Lebanon falls, the region will follow.”
Continue to watch Lebanon as this takes place. We at Watch Jerusalem will do our best to keep you informed.
To help you understand more of the prophetic context and where events are leading, please read our coverage of Lebanon in the latest issue of our sister magazine and request Mr. Flurry’s free booklet The King of the South. This booklet is essential reading to show how events in the Middle East will impact your life.