Political circles in Lebanon are following the turn of events in Switzerland featuring Iran, the US and European powers with great interest, as they discuss the Iranian nuclear file. This concerns the future of Lebanon greatly, so much so that everywhere you go in Beirut the first questions people ask are, what do you think of the Iranian nuclear programme talks? Will Iran and the great powers reach an agreement? What impact will these talks have on Lebanon and other countries within the region, regardless of whether they succeed or fail?
Various opinions are doing the rounds in Lebanon and being discussed in the media. They centre on the likely effect on Lebanon and the wider region.
There are several perspectives regarding the nuclear talks and their implications with the most anticipated being the following scenario: Iran and the US both have a vested interest in reaching an agreement; if it is not reached now, they will certainly agree on certain basic points upon which to build a future deal on Iran’s nuclear programme, working together to do so. Several countries are waiting in the wings to apply sanctions to Iran as they oppose any kind of deal with Tehran; they include Britain, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
If a US-Iran agreement is reached, it will pave the way for many positions to be open to negotiation, including the situation in Lebanon. Until then, Lebanon and the rest of the region will be subject to a tug of war and each individual country will be working to improve its own situation until the prospects brighten.
The worst possible scenario, but also the least likely according to political figures in the region, is the failure to agree on a deal, which could turn the current conflicts into a crushing war. This fear was expressed recently by a US government official in a discussion held at the Lebanese embassy.
The fear circulating amongst members of Lebanese political circles is that the failure of the nuclear talks will be the catalyst to fuel further unrest in most Arab countries. Lebanon’s Interior Minister, Nihad Al-Mashnouq, expressed his concerns about an increase in confrontations within the Arab world during his recent trip to Washington.
As they wait for the outcome of the talks, the people of Lebanon fear for the future. Many Lebanese officials know what to expect, so politicians are encouraging negotiations to be held in Beirut in an effort to pre-empt what might happen as conflicts develop.
According to one Left-wing politician, intellectual and member of the March 14th Alliance, what is needed today is for everyone to work on serious initiatives that aim to resolve the conflicts in Lebanon and in the rest of the Arab world. This, he insists, is especially important given the rise of ISIS, Turkey’s involvement in the region and the resurgence of Iran’s imperial influence, all of which will undoubtedly lead the region into dark political conflicts for years to come.
While there is no consensus between Lebanese politicians on any particular form that an Iran-US agreement might take, many do agree that it will be the first much-needed step on the way to taking the region out of its current political turmoil and deteriorating security situation. Reaching an agreement on Iran will also encourage the Lebanese government to hold presidential elections and work towards resolving other outstanding domestic issues. Everyone is afraid of what lies ahead in the event that a final agreement is not reached, as Lebanon and the region will be open to all kinds of unpleasant possibilities.