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“Orient Tendencies”

Once again, Samir Geagea loses his bet

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Samir Geagea

Once again, Samir Geagea loses his bet

By Ghaleb Kandil

The candidacy of Samir Geagea at the Lebanese presidential election, announced Friday, April 4, was considered there three years. It was a very serious decision, agreed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the American diplomat Jeffrey Feltman, in view of the destruction of the Syrian state The enthusiasm of Mr. Hariri for this plan had reached its peak when he said he would return to Beirut only by the Damascus airport.
First: This bet was based on the fall of Syria, the destruction of its state and its army and its integration into the Western camp, which would have established new regional equations. Feltman plan was to take the Lebanese Resistance vise: inside Lebanon, with a war launched by the militias of the Future Movement and the Lebanese Forces, supported by terrorist groups working in Syria, who expressed their intention to enter Lebanon to fight Hezbollah well before the involvement of this party fighting in Syria; and through the southern border of Lebanon with an Israeli invasion, which would allow Israel to avenge his defeat in July-August 2006, which shattered the dreams of Tel Avi, the West and all its Lebanese and Arab allies, who threw all their forces to destroy the Lebanese Resistance.
It is in this context that Saad Hariri announced his support for the candidacy of Samir Geagea to the presidency, betting on the rapid fall of the Syrian state.
Second: The war against Syria is in a deadlock. The alliance of the United States, Israel, the West, Turkey and Arab allies, seek, at this stage, to limit the damage to mitigate the consequences of defeat. With the change of balance of power on the ground in Syria in favor of the axis of the resistance, the Americans do not hide the facts. Feltman plan has became a chimera.
Developments on the battlefield, show more and more clearly that the bet to destroy the Resistance is an illusion. The Syrian state and its armed forces record successive wins, and it is he who now holds the military and political initiative, although men, money and weapons continue to flow to terrorist groups.
Changes on the Syrian ground will naturally benefit the Lebanese resistance and its allies. This means that the Lebanese leaders, including Christians, who supported the Resistance and relied on the strength of the Syrian state will benefit politically from the new realities. Therefore, Samir Geagea, author of the slogan "let the Muslim Brotherhood prevail," will once again lose all his bets. The Lebanese Forces leader knows that the chances of his election to the presidency of the Republic in Lebanon are almost zero.
Third: The candidacy of Samir Geagea comes at the very last quarter of the Syrian conflict, at a time when Saad Hariri was forced to backtrack and withdraw its political cover for terrorist groups-Takfirists he brooded for three years in Tripoli, Ersal and elsewhere in Lebanon, at the express request of the Americans.
Samir Geagea ’s main objective is to block the way for the election of General Michel Aoun to the presidency. His candidacy would serve to neutralize the Leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and favor the election of a "consensus" personality, whose main task would be to manage the current situation, without being able to propose radical solutions to the crises in Lebanon.
In the current circumstances, all evidence that the void at the Presidency, for a relatively long period, remains the most likely scenario. The only solution is the adoption of a new electoral law based on proportional representation, which would allow the election of a truly representative Parliament, which will elect a new president, able to embody the aspirations of future generations.

Statements

Beshara Raï, Maronite Patriarch
«Lebanon is in need of a president with strong morals who will provide a good example by his past performance. The presidential elections are the foundation of all the institutions. Ensuring the correct amount of votes for election of the president is a national and moral duty. Talk of a presidential void and aiming to cause one are a humiliation of the people and parliamentarians’ dignity, and a sign of weakness. As soon as the legislative sessions finish, Speaker Nabih Berri should call on the parliament to convene for electoral sessions.»

Naïm Qassem, deputy secretary general of Hezbollah
«Through dialogue we can prove the role of the resistance in serving Lebanon and in serving its liberation in cooperation with the Lebanese army. Hezbollah was the first to respond to dialogue calls and we know that the defense strategy is about the resistance, and that is okay. Do you think that we are afraid of a discussing this issue because the resistance possesses arms? Of course, dialogue has conditions. Any bilateral relation must have the proper introductions and goals.»

Raymond Arayji, Culture Minister, Marada Movement member
«Speaker Nabih Berri intends to call for a session on April 15 to elect a president, and Michel Aoun is the candidate of choice for the Marada Movement. In the event that Aoun does not run for presidency, we will negotiate with him to make the right decision

Hani Qobeissy, Amal Movement MP
«We hope that Lebanon will be able to meet the next deadline, and that is the presidential election. Lebanon’s strength should not be exhausted in internal struggles. We stand for preservation of this homeland with our allies and brothers, and all dignified people, against conspiracy and sedition. Hopefully, we will be able, over the next two months, to elect a president who brings the Lebanese together - a president who endeavors to establish the language of dialogue, preserve the resistance, and honor the sacrifices of its martyrs. The president should protect Lebanon including the steadfast resistance of the South, which has won victories over the Zionist foe Israel

Rashid Derbas, Social Affairs Minister
«The general position on the flow of Syrian refugees into Lebanon is lacking. Lebanon cannot deal with aid providing countries, the international community, or the United Nations, if it does not define clear procedures for dealing with refugees, as Jordan and Turkey have done. Syrian entry into Lebanon must be organized and we should have a clear policy - agreed upon by the Lebanese government - towards this matter as well as a clear policy on centers for receiving refugees.»

Events

• The Lebanese Forces announced on Friday that the Christian party’s leader, Samir Geagea, would seek the office of presidency as the country gears up for the upcoming elections to replace Michel Suleiman. “Based on the national principles and the values of the Lebanese Forces and the March 14 [coalition]… and in order to preserve these principles through a [real] state… the Lebanese Forces’ executive committee unanimously decided to nominate the party’s leader, Samir Geagea, for the presidency,” LF deputy leader MP George Adwan said in a press conference. In response to the reporters’ questions, Adwan said that Geagea’s candidacy would put an end to “the habit of choosing neutral candidates who have no political stance.” “It is about time we had a president [chosen] by the Lebanese,” he added following a meeting of the party’s executive committee. When asked if the March 14 alliance’s other parties, including the Future Movement, would support Geagea, Adwan said only that “it is normal for Geagea to be March 14’s candidate.”

• Lebanon’s Alawite Mufti Sheikh Assad Assi called on the state to revive a reconciliation agreement signed in 2008 by notables from the northern city of Tripoli’s warring Bab al-Tebanneh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods. “The [2008] reconciliation [agreement] should be re-examined, so that it will be [effective] from the top of the pyramid to the base [among] the people,” Assi said in a press conference on Thursday. “[That way] it [can] last and continue.” “Who will guarantee that no one from [Bab] al-Tebanneh will attack anybody from Jabal Mohsen and the other way round?” the Alawite sheikh asked. Assi also mentioned “the presence of [Future Movement leader] Saad Hariri and [Arab Democratic Party Secretary General] Ali Eid” when the reconciliation was signed and confirmed the Alawite Islamic Council’s support for re-establishment of the agreement. “All members of the Alawite Islamic Council call the revival of that document.” On September 8, 2008, Alawite and Sunni leaders signed a reconciliation agreement, meant to end clashes that had plagued the northern city since the end of the civil war.

• Government commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr pressed charges against twelve Lebanese citizens, including Arab Democratic Party leader Rifaat Eid for belonging to an armed terrorist organization. The charges also included illegal possession of arms and instigating sectarian strife, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. The report added that Saqr referred the case to First Military Investigative Judge Riyad Abou Ghida.

• Government Commissioner to the Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr charged two detained Lebanese men and six other fugitives for belonging to the Al-Nusra Front, the National News Agency reported. They were also charged with conducting terror acts in Lebanon and shooting gunfire at army soldiers in Tripoli’s Jabal Mohsen, the report added. The case was transferred to First Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghaida.

Press review

As Safir (Lebanese Daily close to March-8 coalition)
(April 4, 2014)
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that strong measures are needed to deal with Hezbollah’s weapons.
“Aspirin pills will not deal with Hezbollah’s weapons, nor will theorizing about security plans until men like Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi and Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq assume [security posts],” Geagea’s visitors quoted him as saying.
Geagea said that the March 14 coalition can only deal with Hezbollah’s arsenal by taking over the reins of state power. “I have two choices, either taking over the reins of power seriously or build an illegitimate military force to counter Hezbollah, and I prefer the first choice,” he added.
Geagea also denied that international and regional countries preferred a consensual president. “The international atmosphere will [yield to] what the domestic [parties] agree on. And domestic [parties] want a strong president,” Geagea said. “We need a proper president and a proper government.”
Geagea also said that a consensual president would be under Hezbollah’s control. “Christians want a strong president, not a weak one, because he would definitely become Hezbollah’s puppet.”

An Nahar (Lebanese Daily close to March-14 coalition)
Rosanna Bou Mounsef (April 4, 2014)
Some attribute the success of the security plan Tripoli to the surprise factor which was to remove the political coverage enjoyed by the fighters involved on both sides. This measure suggests a possibility, even a willingness to isolate Lebanon from the impact of the Syrian crisis. Others throw the ball in the 14 March camp who waited to be part of the government to remove its political coverage. Adherents to this hypothesis therefore say that the March 14 forces have not made enough effort to put an end to the violence in Tripoli.
Further analysis linking the rigor of the army in the implementation of the security plan to the presidential elections. According to these analyzes, the situation would have been deliberately kept out of control so that Tripoli becomes a playing card to access the presidency. Some finally bind developments in Tripoli with those of Latakia and the passage of the battle towards the zones of influence of the regime, just before the implementation of the plan in Tripoli.

Al Liwaa (Lebanese Daily close to March-14 coalition)
(April 5, 2014)
Change and Reform bloc MP Alain Aoun said that his bloc leader, MP Michel Aoun, would make Future Movement leader MP Saad Hariri the premier of the next cabinet if he was elected as president. “It is in the Future Movement’s interest to elect Aoun as president, because he can provide stability, establish a national reconciliation and fix the ties between Sunnis and Shiites. He can also bring Hariri as a premier to the cabinet,” Aoun said in remarks that will be published Monday by Al-Liwaa.
“Aoun will work on reconciling the Future Movement with Hezbollah. Loud voices will not change the reality of Hezbollah’s weapons, the solution would be to bring a president who would build a strong state and change the status quo,” he said.
Aoun also said that his bloc leader was not the March 8 coalition’s candidate for presidency.
“Aoun is not the candidate of a [certain] political side. He will be a strong and important president and the right man for the current situation,” Alain Aoun added.
“Unlike [Lebanese Forces leader] Samir Geagea, Aoun is not a belligerent candidate. Geagea is the candidate of the March 14 coalition, while Aoun is the candidate of the Change and Reform bloc, and not the March 8 coalition,” Aoun said.
Alain Aoun also said that his bloc leader managed to fix his relationship with Lebanon’s Sunnis after he met with Hariri in Paris, which would increase his chances of winning the presidential election against his Christian rival Samir Geagea. “Aoun could [improve] his relations with the Sunnis, but Geagea could not improve his relations with Shiites.”

Al Akhbar (Lebanese Daily close to the Lebanese Resistance)
Suhaib Anjarini (April 4, 2014)
Turkey is not alone in supporting jihadis in the battles in Latakia’s northern countryside. Recent information revealed the existence of an airbridge between Jordan and Turkey, transporting jihadis after they are trained on Jordan soil.
Syria’s southern battlefront front has been moved to the north. Al-Akhbarreceived information suggesting an active and growing Jordanian role in the fight for Kasab and its surrounding territory. The information referred to an airbridge carrying hundreds of fighters from Marka airport in Amman to Antakya in the Iskenderun province in Turkey.
According to a Syrian opposition source, more than a thousand jihadis were transported in the past three days and they immediately joined the fierce battles in Latakia’s northern countryside. The information "was confirmed by accurate Jordanian sources," the Syrian opposition source maintained.
The jihadis belong to various nationalities, including Saudi, Jordanian, and Syrian. "Some of the airlifted jihadis had undergone extensive training in camps in the al-Rasifa region north of Amman," the source added.
According to the source, training and transport are coordinated with the Jordanian intelligence services and with direct US supervision. He explained it could be an alternative plan to opening a southern battlefront from Jordan, which has been speculated about for a long time.
The alternative plan, which could have been the primary plan to begin with, could save Jordan from the repercussions of opening the front from its own territory.
Jihadis trained in Jordan will be joining their counterparts based in Turkey, most of whom are Chechens with prior fighting experience. They will then be organized into groups to enter Syria from the Turkish borders in the form of uninterrupted reinforcements.
This fact could explain the quick and successive changes in the battle scene, which has not yet witnessed an effective and stable control of strategic areas. Authority on the ground is changing around the clock and control has been exchanged several times in various locations, especially the strategic "position 45."
The Syrian army’s delay in effectively resolving the situation in the first 24 hours of the battle seems to have led to an open front. This is only added to the jihadis’ continuous
attempts to expand the geographical area of confrontations, including entering the towns of al-Badrousieh and Ras al-Basit.
In light of this information, recurring news about reinforcements of jihadis arriving from Idlib seem to be attempts at spreading false information concerning the source and nature of the human reinforcements. This is supported by a jihadi source who told Al-Akhbar that "many jihadi brothers from various nationalities have been mobilized to support our fighters in the battle of Anfal. It was their first blessed battle on Syrian territory."
Concerning movement on the ground, the source maintained that "Qastal Maaf and al-Badrousieh battlefronts are currently the most important ones to protect the gains achieved. The first is the real route to Kasab and the second is the only way to reach al-Samra and Tashalma."
"Jihadis should continue to shell the rear lines with Grad missiles in order to halt the Syrian army’s reinforcements, which are on their way," the jihadi source explained. The jihadi maneuvers seem to be drawn according to actual tactical plans, which primarily aim to gain simultaneous control of strategic peaks and some coastal positions.
On the ground, battles continued in the vicinity of position 45. They led to the killing of the military commander of the Sham al-Islam movement, an Egyptian citizen Ahmed Mazyan, who goes by the alias Abu Safiyyah al-Masry. On Thursday night, fighters continued their attempts to regain control over the strategic position and battles were raging in Jabal al-Nisr, al-Sawda, Bayt al-Shorouk, and al-Khodra.

Al Akhbar (April 3, 2014)
Hyam Kosseify
For the last three years the army has remained Lebanon’s only functioning institution. To some extent, it managed to withstand all the political campaigns and armed attacks that targeted it, including the recent spate of suicide bombings. And unlike 1975’s events, the regional and interior strife stemming from the crisis in Syria hasn’t segmented the Lebanese military institution.
Though the situation today is far more critical than the events that triggered the 1975 civil war, and despite some alarming rhetoric within the Sunni sect, the military institution has so far managed to continue its work with minimum damage. It even gained Sunni support, asserted by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri who has stood by the army, but unfortunately couldn’t curb some of his parliamentary bloc’s northern deputies from constantly insulting the military institution.
In any case, the army is not infallible so it is normal to politically criticize some aspects of its performance. However, it enjoys widespread public support and concerned politicians realize the importance of this support, which has remained almost stable. It was accompanied by international and regional conferences in France and Italy, as well as US assistance and a Saudi grant, all claiming to seek stability in Lebanon. Yesterday, US Ambassador David Hale praised the army’s’ strategy and its role in fighting terrorism.
In a new development that comes only two months before the end of the presidential mandate and despite a critical security situation, mainly in North Lebanon where the army has been playing a leading role, head of the Change and Reform bloc, MP Michel Aoun launched a new battle over the military institution.
Sources in March 8 informed Al-Akhbar that Aoun has overtly called to replace the army commander Jean Kahwaji. According to these sources, Aoun who had previously opposed the extension of Kahwaji’s mandate in the Najib Mikati government sent a letter to President Michel Suleiman calling upon him to replace the army commander before the end of the presidential mandate, suggesting General Chamel Roukoz as a successor.
Suleiman categorically refused Aoun’s suggestion for security reasons and because he didn’t want his successor (assuming it won’t be Aoun) to be forced to coexist with the new commander for years to come. Following Aoun’s letter, Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil put the nominations for security posts on the table during the ministerial council meeting on Monday.
According to informed sources, Bassil’s proposal to fill vacant positions in the military council didn’t aim to oppose nominees suggested by the Future Movemen. He actually pushed the issue further during a meeting with the President and Prime Minister Tammam Salam, overtly proposing replacing Kahwaji with Roukoz.
Suleiman’s clearly refused and Salam found the timing odd, even though both understood the need to nominate new members to the military council.
Furthermore, diplomatic circles are also reportedly astonished about the call to replace the army commander, while Italy has been coordinating with the current leadership in preparation for an international conference about the army amid international calls to support it against terrorism.
In the past, Aoun stressed that he was calling to replace Kahwaji out of his respect for succession of power, though he had suggested his son-in-law, General Roukoz as a successor. However, political circles are seeing his proposal today not only as an early nomination for his son-in-law but also as an attempt to sideline Kahwaji before the end of the constitutional deadline to elect a new president.
For Aoun, the 2014 presidential elections is the de facto last chance for him to return to Baabda Palace. He is also aware that these elections might not take place within the remaining one month and half deadline, which lead the country to inevitable vacuum before reaching an inclusive settlement that is currently being discussed on regional and international levels.
In case of a presidential vacuum, Kahwaji would become the favored candidate; a repeat of the Doha settlement which brought former army commander Michel Suleiman to power. According to sources, Aoun is now more worried about Kahwaji reaching the presidency than he is from his traditional foe, head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea.
But here we should ask, how can a presidential candidate - even if he is a former army commander- risk making any changes within the army leadership at this critical time, only to be elected?
However, sources assert that the army has a political cover. Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri was surprised about the timing of this proposal because it is not the right time to make any changes within the military institution regardless of the individuals concerned, and the security situation doesn’t allow any modifications before the presidential elections. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has yet to comment about Aoun’s proposal.

Al Akhbar (April 3, 2014)
Firas Choufi and Abdel Kafi Samad
Perhaps it is wrong to call what is happening these days in Tripoli a security plan. Figures from March 14 and March 8, as well as people from former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s team, prefer to call it a political settlement that led to a calm security situation.
In principle, the actions of militant groups in the neighborhoods of Tripoli have ceased. Fighters hid in their traditional neighborhoods, some fled to other neighborhoods where the army did not enter, and others went north to Akkar, Dannieh or the town of Kalamoun. As for the head of the Arab Democratic Party (ADP), Ali Eid, and his son Rifaat Eid, it is rumored that they fled to Syria even though ADP sources confirm that Rifaat is in Jabal Mohsen.
After leaking the dates of the raids, security forces have not arrested one high-profile militant. On the contrary, some wanted men are still moving in and around the city using security clearances that were obtained before the plan. Security forces have not raided one arms depot either. Some of them were emptied while the forces turned a blind eye to others. All they did is collect guns.
But security sources in March 8 argue: “We cannot consider the plan a negative development. It has at least deterred militants for a while. But their real structural background - and some of them are connected to al-Qaeda - is still intact. What is to prevent them from becoming active again if the political settlement is disrupted in the future? If the Future Movement held some sway over some of them in the past, how can it exercise any influence over the militants in the future having lost their trust?”
What has transpired in Tripoli in the past four days is nothing more than measures taken to control the security situation in the city. These measures are the result of a political settlement pretending to be a security plan, which has yet to, and may never, appear.
On April 1, from sunset until midnight, all security efforts focused on convincing militants and their commanders, who were still opposed to the army and the internal security forces’ entry into Bab al-Tabbaneh, not to confront them. They were informed that they will not find any party that will provide them with political cover or defend them this time because a major decision was taken to implement the security plan and rejecting it is futile.
These efforts led to a compromise as the majority of militants announced their acceptance of the plan as a delegation of prominent figures and sheikhs asked the men wanted by the justice system to hide for the time being.
Nevertheless, militants in two locations in Bab al-Tabbaneh refused to evacuate their positions. One of the locations is the center for militia commander Osama Mansour, whose group is known for its hard-line positions and intellectual proximity to al-Qaeda and is not controlled by any of Tripoli’s politicians. Negotiations kept going back and forth until after midnight on Tuesday when they were able to persuade the commanders of both sites to withdraw and not clash with the army.
A delegation of influential figures and sheikhs preceded the military units to Bab al-Tabbaneh to remove any obstacles they may face. After about two hours, the army entered the area with its vehicles and was not met with any objections to its efforts to dismantle makeshift bunkers and barricades.
Ziad Allouki, one of the militant commanders in Tripoli, said in a television interview that he is “still in Bab al-Tabbaneh in Tripoli.” He did not deny that “the army is looking for him all around Tripoli.” He said: “I will not turn myself in to the army until the political leader of the ADP Rifaat Eid and the head of the party Ali Eid are behind bars.”
Then something unexpected happened. A group of young men from Bab al-Tabbaneh rushed toward one of the neighborhoods in Jabal Mohsen to meet residents from there as they were chanting in support of and solidarity with the army. The residents of Jabal Mohsen met them by throwing flower petals and distributing coffee and sweets.
Young men from Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen kept walking together in several neighborhoods chanting in joy while the women in Jabal Mohsen went out onto their balconies, ululating and throwing rice on the approximately 200 people marching.
Even militants from Souk al-Qamh and Jabal Mohsen shook hands in the middle of the market and drank coffee together.
This scene, punctuated by a sense of both relief and bewilderment, spread to other neighborhoods where residents and militants from both sides gathered together and offered each other sweets as if nothing had happened in the past. At night, the army raided the houses of Ali Fadda, a member of the ADP’s political bureau and Abdel Latif Saleh, a media official in the party and detained both of them. Al-Akhbar learned that Fadda and Saleh were taken to the intelligence center where they were interrogated and soon released after it became evident that there were no judicial warrants against them.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi expressed his satisfaction with the implementation of the security plan in Tripoli. He said: “No one is bigger or more important than the city of Tripoli and the interest of the city takes precedence over everything else.” He declared before yesterday’s cabinet meeting: “Nothing prevents me from visiting Jabal Mohsen,” adding that he believes Rifaat Eid is in Syria.

Al Akhbar (April 1, 2014)
Wafiq Qanso
For the first time ever, the Resistance will be absent from the national dialogue table, which was invented solely to discuss Lebanon’s defense and resistance strategy. Its absence, however, is not meant to evade important discussions, but is rather temporary, pending the election of a new president.
President Michel Suleiman regretted the absence of some of the “main pillars” of the dialogue committee, hoping that they would join subsequent meetings. However, Suleiman will not necessarily chair “subsequent meetings,” as Hezbollah has now turned the page on his term forever.
More than ten days ago, Hezbollah ministers, MPs, and leaders were advised not to comment on President Michel Suleiman’s invitation to the national dialogue session on Monday. Everyone was waiting for Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s speech in Ainata on Saturday, March 30. But Nasrallah did not issue a final decision and only hinted that his party would not attend the dialogue session. Nasrallah closed the door but left MP Mohammed Raad to “lock it” in a statement he made on Sunday.
Nasrallah did not want to embarrass his allies. He knew that MP Michel Aoun has certain calculations related to the presidency, and that Nabih Berri, the man who is the "patented inventor” of the national dialogue sessions, cannot be absent from the session in his capacity as the speaker of parliament.
Nasrallah is not known for seeking or reigniting controversies, especially in internal Lebanese affairs. He is not known to be thin-skinned either. He himself had in his previous speech called on the Lebanese to “calm down and take a breath.” Yet Nasrallah, a month later, chose to criticize again Suleiman’s attack on the Resistance. So is there a contradiction in his positions?
Not at all; “veering toward calm and overcoming obstacles has always been Hezbollah’s concern,” sources close to Hezbollah say. To make their case, they point out Hezbollah’s designation of MP Tammam Salam as prime minister, its compromise on the 9-9-6 formula of distributing ministerial posts between Lebanon’s rival political parties, and its flexibility in relation to the wording of the cabinet’s policy statement.
But this time, the president went too far. His characterization of the “the people, the army, and the resistance” formula for national defense as a “wooden” – i.e. outdated – notion was not criticism as much as it was a deliberate insult that deeply offended the Resistance. Nasrallah expressed this clearly when he said, “Every stab at the Resistance or an abusive characterization of it, is offensive and insulting to everything and everyone that is the Resistance. There will be reactions to this insult that will emerge in the coming days.” And so they did.
After Nasrallah’s speech on March 1, in which he took a swipe at the president over his remarks, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri engaged in strenuous efforts to mend the growing rift. However, President Suleiman made matters worse when he made further controversial remarks, saying, “Intervention in Syria has undermined the Resistance’s place in the tripartite formula.”
During the negotiations to agree on the wording of the cabinet policy statement, all sides were looking for a de-escalation of tensions as the president championed the so-called Baabda Declaration, calling for Lebanon’s neutrality in the Syrian conflict. But Suleiman sent out the invitations to the dialogue session without preparing an appropriate climate first.
All this has aggravated the row between the president, who seemed like he was paying back debts to foreign entities, and Hezbollah, from its leadership all the way down to its popular base. It is no longer worthwhile for Suleiman, as had been his habit, to say something in public and then try to explain it in secret. So in light of all of the above, his call for dialogue appeared like an attempt to drag Hezbollah against its will to the table.
The national dialogue session would have certainly benefited the president. First, it would have been a good chance to mend the rift with Hezbollah. Second, it could have carried a glimmer of hope for the president to extend his term, although Suleiman understands that this is very difficult if not impossible.
Why, then, did the president come across as though telling Hezbollah: “Come but don’t bother showing up?” How can any dialogue discuss a national defense strategy in the absence of the main party concerned? And who has still not understood that Hezbollah is now a regional actor that no president can rule, let alone extend his term, while engaged in a dispute with simultaneously? Is there something we don’t know?
Perhaps the answer lies in the president’s quest for extending his own term. This is the heart of the problem between Baabda and Haret Hreik, home to Hezbollah’s headquarters. The man in the Baabda Palace has lost his reserve ever since he lost all hope of extending his term after Hezbollah’s secretary general stressed the need to hold the presidential election on time, a few months ago.
Hezbollah has not changed its position, and insists on nominating MP Michel Aoun for the presidency. Hezbollah will not give the president, in the last days of his tenure, any hope of a term extension.
On Saturday, Nasrallah called for presidential elections “as soon as possible,” so that Lebanon can begin a new stage. After that, he said, Hezbollah would continue the dialogue over the national defensive strategy, as well as joint efforts and cooperation to address the country’s crises. What this translates to is that Hezbollah has now closed the book on six bleak years of “former” President Michel Suleiman in office.

Source
New Orient News

Wassim Raad

New Orient Center for Strategic Policies

 
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