He promised them autonomy away from the influence of foreign powers, declaring that: “All Egyptians will be called to manage all places. The wisest, the most educated and the most virtuous among them will rule and the people will be happy. He did not tell them, of course, that the French would be masters of this apparent autonomy for four years, until the British forced them to withdraw.
More than two centuries later, we now have President Emmanuel Macron walking the streets of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, in the wake of last month’s catastrophic explosion, walking among the rubble and consoling the people. He assured them that their beloved old France would save them from the blunders of an indigenous, corrupt and incompetent government, promising to send the Lebanese government a roadmap for reforms that it would implement to get back on its feet. .
This draft reform proposal was recently sent to the Lebanese government and its political blocs by the French Embassy, consisting of a general outline of the necessary reforms, in terms of finance, international humanitarian aid, construction of systems of improved governance, combating smuggling and corruption, improving the electricity sector and rebuilding the destroyed port of Beirut.
France has even given a deadline for the implementation of these reforms according to their importance, with limits ranging from one month to one year. And it didn’t end there, but also threatened Lebanese politicians with sanctions if reforms are not implemented on time.
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These reforms and their stated goals all look very good at first glance, but the document has an underlying condition for Lebanon’s revival: France must lead the process. Paris would play a major role in the reforms, with its teams proposed and deployed for the financial audit of the Banque du Liban, the improvement of its health care, the establishment of early elections and the reconstruction of the port.
With diplomatic and financial leverage, this leading role would give France – backed by the threat of sanctions – a position of colonial power that it once was, rather than a nation in solidarity with another nation.
Macron’s actions against Turkey – a local and indigenous power in the region – are also worrying when it comes to France’s true intentions. Last week, he highlighted a “red line policy” against Turkey’s assertion of its rights in the eastern Mediterranean, choosing to side with Greece and its attempts to invade and severely limit the waters. Turkish territories.
In justifying his reasons for establishing these red lines, he repeated the old colonial notion that the East only respects force and force rather than diplomacy. “I can tell you that the Turks only consider and respect this,” he noted, ignoring the fact that it was Turkey that repeatedly called for negotiations, while Greece consistently refused. to engage in it.
Turkey has, of course, recognized France’s colonial style and – although Turkey itself has offered aid to Lebanon and assistance in rebuilding its port – has spoken out against it. At a press conference, following discussions with representatives of Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said: “We went to Lebanon with a hospital and food. Macron goes there in colonialist arrogance, despising everyone, including the president. This is what France does wherever it goes. We went to Haiti and saw the same thing. France had pillaged the country.
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In recent months, France has already embarked on its quest to influence the European Union’s foreign policy and tip it in favor of Greece, and against Turkey, whatever the consequences of such a decision. position. Macron’s ambitions may be more than that, however, and his strong anti-Turkey and anti-democratic stance on the Middle East and North Africa appears to be more than just a political posture. What Macron displays is the neo-Napoleonic vision and the worldview of France, a vision that prefers to threaten and take advantage of its former colonies and rivals, rather than take the path of reliable diplomacy.
In these efforts, Macron takes an approach that is not far from his country’s old imperial model – playing with the cultural values and icons of local populations in order to voluntarily draw them into France’s hands. This is clear from her meeting with famous Lebanese singer and cultural figure Fairuz at the start of her trip earlier in the week, awarding her the Legion of Honor.
With Syria neighboring Lebanon, France also played according to its expansionist and colonial ambitions, with French delegations having traveled to northeastern Syria to meet representatives of the Kurdish militias and members of the militia of the Unités de protection of the people (YPG). These meetings, as well as the assistance provided by France to Iraqi Kurdistan, were attempts to build relations with some of the main actors in a divided country and region, thus increasing its influence on the situation in that country.
Macron is trying to make France a guarantor power and an intermediary in its former Lebanese and Syrian colonies, and it would be naive to expect that his neo-Napoleonic attempts to establish red lines against regional powers would not be questioned.
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