Al-Manshour 10 March 2021

According to the Carnegie Middle East Center the commander of the Lebanese Army, General Joseph Aoun, told senior officers that the ongoing crisis is undermining the military.

The economic collapse has meant that army salaries have lost 80 percent of their value, with many officers having to take up supplemental employment in order to make ends meet.

The report warns that,

“The armed forces’ internal estimates project that the current account can support military salaries and contract wages until the end of June, no further. After that either the government must agree to supplemental funding or the armed forces will have to suspend paying personnel in increasing numbers.”

General Joseph Aoun is hinting that the army is on “strike” and will refuse orders to disperse street protests. According to Carnegie:

“The commander’s speech was the first open criticism voiced by a senior military official against the political class since Lebanon’s collapse began in late 2019. It was also a signal that the military had crossed the Rubicon. The commander spoke at 10:00 AM. At noon, President Michel Aoun called on the army to clear the streets. By 5:00 PM no action had been taken. Therefore, Lebanon appears to have entered the unknown in terms of civil-military relations.”

The primary danger for the ruling class is that the army would become even more dependent on foreign assistance – the US released $100 million USD in December 2019 that covered a large part of the wages bill. There is now a real danger that the UAE, which has become a key ally of Israel, will trump up the cash.

This can only deepen the schism among factions inside the ruling class, and shred whatever gloss of national unity the military provides.

The army remains the most stable section fo the state, it aims to overcome the fractures inside the ruling class and posit itself as the collective defence for the system as a whole. Yet all the contradictions within society are magnified within armed forces, making its potential collapse a disaster for “national unity”.

Imperialism fears that the only winner in this crisis would be Hizbollah. Carnegie warns that “the party would be the only one left standing, an outcome few outside Lebanon, particularly in Washington, want to see materialise.”

Clearly the Lebanese military, in its present form, has no future in a country wanting rid of the toxic sectarian system. If soldiers are no longer willing to suppress the street on behest of the political class, then they should join the ranks the protesters, and transform the military into one that serves the people, not the sectarian ruling class.

This involves developing the institutions of the revolution, and going beyond simple demands for systemic reforms, to the total transformation of the system itself.