BEIRUT Lebanon’s political crisis has taken a dramatic turn with the possibility that a pal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could grow to be president in a power-sharing deal aimed at breathing life back into the paralyzed state.
The notion of Suleiman Franjieh, a childhood buddy of Assad, becoming head of state has taken aback a lot of Lebanese, not least because of who tabled it: Saad al-Hariri, a Sunni politician who leads an alliance forged from opposition to Syrian influence in Lebanon. He would turn out to be prime minister below the deal.
It is no less startling simply because of the backing it would need from Saudi Arabia and Iran, rival states that wield decisive influence more than Lebanon’s competing factions and which are in conflict elsewhere in the area, which includes in Syria.
As the war escalates in Syria, with Iran and Saudi Arabia growing their support for Assad and his enemies, a new deal for Lebanon seems unlikely to signal any broader understanding to settle regional conflicts.
But it would point to a want to preserve a minimal degree of stability in Lebanon. Whilst badly impacted by the Syrian war that has triggered militant attacks, driven a million refugees over the border, and fueled a political crisis, Lebanon has avoided the sort of civil strife some had feared.
However the nation has been with no a president for 18 months and a unity government led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam is barely functioning. The Hariri proposal is the most critical effort however to resolve that political stalemate.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader who was on a go to to Beirut on Monday stated soon after meeting Salam that hopes for the election of a president had improved.
“We hope to witness in the instant future the selection and election of a president of the republic,” a statement from Salam’s workplace quoted Velayati as saying.
But the appointment of Franjieh faces huge challenges such as resistance from politicians who campaigned against Syrian influence in Lebanon, and winning over other leaders who also covet the post reserved for a Maronite Christian, notably Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea.
If it fails, analysts think the chances of a settlement will be even a lot more remote, which means no imminent finish to a crisis of government that has in current months left trash to pile up in the streets and the army without salaries.
Though the proposal has not been created public by Hariri, it has been reported in Lebanon and confirmed by political sources. Franjieh has said the proposal for him to become president is severe, but not official. The deal is anticipated to incorporate an agreement on arrangements for new parliamentary elections.
Any energy-sharing deal demands to reconcile Lebanon’s two major camps: the March eight alliance dominated by the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, and the Hariri-led March 14 alliance.
The toughest portion is winning more than other Christians on each sides. Geagea and Aoun are the official candidates of the rival alliances, and a Franjieh presidency risks exacerbating historic rivalries amongst the Christians.
Hezbollah has repeatedly stated its help for the candidacy of Aoun, 80, its ally given that 2006 and head of the most significant Christian bloc in parliament. But Franjieh, whose ties to the group are significantly older, may be a preferable decision for the group as Hezbollah wages war in Syria in assistance of Assad.
By backing Franjieh, Hariri meanwhile risks fracturing the March 14 alliance which was forged a decade ago out of opposition to Syria in the wake of the assassination of his father, Rafik al-Hariri.
“The ones with a constructive view of this settlement argue that a Franjieh presidency will reassure March 8 and Hezbollah, although the presence of Hariri in the palace as prime minister will reassure the other camp. This is what is being marketed behind the scenes,” said Nabil Boumonsef, a political commentator.
“There has currently been wonderful harm, particularly in the March 14 camp – far more than in March eight – simply because Franjieh is the clearest ally of the Syrian regime and the Assad loved ones in Lebanon,” Boumonsef mentioned. Hezbollah was meanwhile like “a father being asked to decide on amongst two sons”, he added.
HUNTING WITH BASIL AL-ASSAD
Franjieh’s ties to the Assad loved ones date to his childhood when his grandfather, the late President Suleiman Franjieh, took him on trips to Damascus to go to his pal, the late President Hafez al-Assad. Franjieh utilized to hunt with Bashar al-Assad’s older brother, Basil, who died in a 1994 auto crash.
He was orphaned in 1978 when a Christian militia attacked his household house in northern Lebanon, killing his father, mother and sister. Geagea has been accused of duty for that civil war time attack, though he has denied participating.
Franjieh, 50, featured prominently in the period of Syrian domination of Lebanon that followed the 1975-90 war, serving as a government minister several times. That era ended with the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2005 following an international outcry at the Rafik al-Hariri assassination.
Franjieh was serving as interior minister at the time.
Hariri, 45, assumed the mantle of Lebanon’s most influential Sunni politician following his father’s death. He left Lebanon in 2011 following his government was toppled by the March 8 coalition. He has created only two, brief trips to Lebanon because then.
Boutros Harb, a March 14 politician with presidential ambitions, said he had no personal issue with Franjieh. “But will he bring Bashar al-Assad with him to Baabda Palace, or will he be president for all Lebanese?” he asked on Twitter.
Baabda is the location of the presidential palace.
Speaking last week, a senior figure in Hariri’s Future Movement, his cousin Ahmad al-Hariri, mentioned the only option for Lebanese was a “brave settlement” to end the repercussions of political “obstruction” which he mentioned had turned into a time bomb, the Hariri-owned al-Mustaqbal newspaper reported.
Franjieh’s candidacy would undoubtedly be welcomed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a strong Hezbollah ally who heads the Shi’ite Amal Movement and whose fractious connection with Aoun is no secret.
Franjieh was in search of to win the help of other Maronite politicians, a senior March eight politician mentioned. “Saad al-Hariri has turned every little thing upside down by announcing his support for the candidate closest to President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, and has thrown the ball into the others’ court.”
Franjieh held a “friendly meeting” with Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, on Sunday evening, a statement from Franjieh’s Marada celebration mentioned.
Franjieh told Bassil he nonetheless supported Aoun’s candidacy “if there was a true desire to agree on Common Aoun”. “But if (Aoun’s) nomination continues basically to obstruct Franjieh’s nomination, this is an additional matter.”
(Writing by Tom Perry editing by Janet McBride)
Agen Sabung Ayam