THE BLOG
12/08/2010 09:26 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lebanon's Weariness Not Awoken by WikiLeaks

This week, a cartoon published in pan-Arab daily Al-Sharq al-Awsat best summed up (as drawings often do) the effect revelations made by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks had had on the Middle East and North Africa.

Depicted under the caption: 'The Arab World before WikiLeaks', a man was pictured dozing on a chair. Alongside was an identical image of the snoozing gentleman. The caption? 'The Arab World after WikiLeaks.'

In Lebanon, in particular, the response to hundreds of leaked diplomatic documents -- detailing deception by officials, scandalous volte-faces from politicians and condescending appraisals from United States Embassy staff -- has been lukewarm at best.

Lebanon is country used to several things thrown up and apparently exposed by 'Cablegate.' Long wearied by their position at the center of regional power brokers' tugs of war, many here are rightly unsurprised when they hear, for example, that former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora encouraged US officials to try and cleave a break between Iranian and Syrian influence in Beirut.

It comes as little shock to hear that the United Nations investigation into who murdered another former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was beset by delays and uncertainty. People have been saying as much since the establishment of the UN International Independent Investigative Committee (UNIIIC).

That the UN employs burdensome bureaucracy would surprise only the most naïve underling at New York HQ; that the US may have been using intelligence flights to gather data on Lebanon and transferring DNA information from Hariri's blast sight back to the FBI only appears to confirm what UNIIIC's decriers have uttered repeatedly.

That the investigation was a US backed 'plot' may be a barb too far, but there is certainly enough suggestion contained within cables to cast aspersions on the probe's impartiality.

Even the revelation that Saudi Arabia pressed for an "Arab Force" to confront Hezbollah in Lebanon is unlikely to rouse local somnambulism.

Riyadh doesn't like Tehran. It would countenance anything that could perceivably weaken Iranian influence in the region. So far, so predictable. The Lebanese Army is unable to guarantee security or impose authority (it was even less apt to do so back when the cable was sent in 2008).

Hezbollah had just flexed its muscles in Beirut, reneging, in the process, on a promise that its controversial arsenal of weapons would never be aimed at fellow Lebanese. Majority lawmakers were squawking how the clashes of May 2008 demonstrated, in the clearest possible terms, Iran's desire to turn Lebanon into a Tehran fiefdom. Pro-government forces had been hit hard. So Saudi Arabia's foreign minister had informed the US of a harebrained scheme to bring in peripheral fighters from Arab states in order to kick Hezbollah out.

Strangely enough, given what "US air and naval support" had won the Americans last time they meddled directly in Lebanese military affairs, Prince Saud Al-Faisal's plans were never enacted.

Perhaps the only genuinely shocking thing about this is how a senior official from one of the US's chief regional allies could misread a security and infrastructural situation so profoundly incorrectly.

A similar incident, dealing with Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias Murr, did pique some interest. He is alleged to have informed US representatives how best to handle a fresh Israeli offensive in Lebanon in a manner that could weaken Hezbollah's clout. Treason! some cried at the news.

Murr was making it clear that in the event of another potentially devastating conflict, the Lebanese Army would not get involved. It may not be the kind of thing you want journalists pressing in your face, but these comments were far from unimaginable. Nevertheless, a denial was issued.

The cables we have so far seen on Lebanon are interesting, but not revelatory, in the same way that it is satisfying to catch a co-worker you long suspected of stealing your milk in the act of thievery. We know politicians lie, especially in Lebanon. We know that external pressures and allegiances fragment the domestic political scene and that US officials have their favorite parties, ordained from on high in Washington. It is scarcely necessary to mention the pervasive distrust of US agendas in this part of the world.

The miasma of Lebanese political and diplomatic chatter often -- daily, even -- throws up similar allegations to those exposed by WikiLeaks. And exposing them is absolutely the good and right thing to have done, as is reported what's unearthed. But while the world stares agog at cable after cable of diplomatic duplicity, Lebanon's weariness at political double-standards has not been refreshed just yet.