BEIRUT. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya) — These days the Lebanese are observing one more anniversary of the start of the civil war, which broke out in 1975 and ended in 1990.

The 15 year long confrontation involved not only different ethnic, religious, and political groups in Lebanon but also outside forces. The war ended more than 15 years ago, but the Lebanese are haunted by the fear that history may repeat itself, and this fear is well justified. At the same time, Lebanon is trying to return its prewar glory of a Mid-Eastern Switzerland, a paradise for tourists and businessmen. Will discord prevail over a common striving of the Lebanese to make their country prosperous?

The lessons of the past are making the Lebanese politicians very cautious – despite periodic political rows inside the government and parliament, they always come back to the negotiating table. But does everything depend on the Lebanese alone? They are under a very strong influence of the outside forces, and their country depends too much on the geopolitical situation in the Middle East in general.

Geographically, Lebanon is located between Israel and Syria. Geopolitically, it is affected not only by the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but also by the developments around Iraq and Iran.

The conference of national dialog, which has been going on in Lebanon since March 2, has the following problems on its agenda: the destiny of President Emile Lahoud, prospects of Lebanese resistance, a disarmament of the Shiite Hezbollah movement and Palestinian refugee armed formations (militias) in Lebanon. They are tied up into the knot of regional problems. The latter cannot be solved unless the Arab-Israeli conflict is settled and the Palestinians are happy, and unless Washington achieves mutual understanding with Tehran and Damascus. But these goals are unrealistic today.

It is hard to imagine that Israel will ever recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return. So, regardless of whether they want it or not, the Lebanese will have to absorb the Palestinian refugees on their territory into the Lebanese society. Otherwise, the refugees will continue to be a source of many domestic cataclysms. But at the same time, the outstanding refugee problem and the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian territories make Palestinian and, on a broader plane, regional resistance forces legitimate for the majority of the Arabs.

The Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian resistance forces are naturally interconnected and give each other all-round assistance. Iran does the same, because they have the same goal. Therefore, it is very difficult to prevent Damascus and Tehran from interfering in the domestic affairs of Lebanon, because it is part of the resistance territory. It is in the context of the resistance prospects, that is, by agreement of all outside forces, that the destiny of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud can be decided.

The Lebanese leaders who are members of the March 14 coalition headed by Saad (son of ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated last year) believe that the head of state, whose term was extended for another three years in the autumn of 2004 under pressure from Damascus, is a pro-Syrian politician. Other members of the political elite think that the President is a genuine patriot supporting the resistance forces. They are part of Lebanese society: the Shiite Hezbollah, Amal movements and their Christian ally, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement Gen. Michel Aoun. They are also Lebanese, and their opinion cannot be ignored. A failure to understand this will prod the country to a civil war.

In early April, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the links of the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah with Iran and Syria are the biggest problem for Lebanon today. Describing the situation in Lebanon, she said: "This is probably the worst example of Iranian intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign country". However, Washington’s and Paris’s influence on the internal Lebanese situation is quite comparable with that of Tehran or Damascus.

Lebanon is a very diverse country. Its ethnic and religious groups are being driven to different poles: some to the West, other to Iran, and still others to Syria. This situation is rooted in history. Different trends prevailed during different periods.

It is not possible to separate Tehran from Hezbollah, just as it is not possible to separate the Vatican from the Catholics scattered all over the world. But at the same time Hezbollah is part of Lebanon in much the same way as the French Catholics belong to France, and German to Germany. An attempt to disrupt the links of the Lebanese communities and political groups with their vis-a-vis from the outside world may upset the equilibrium inside the country.

But in reality neither the West, not the regional forces care about Lebanon’s destiny. They are working for their own interests at its expense. In this context, the Lebanese politicians should display wisdom and remember that their task is to implement a popular Lebanese slogan: "Lebanon is Above All!" This task is not an easy one.