Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Ides of March 2007: Aoun's Labyrinth

As the Berriri negotiation marathon continues, with the aim of allowing Syria to dodge a diplomatic bullet while at the same time opening up the political field to further crises, there is a sense that despite the temporary respite from the ongoing political deadlock that these talks will surely yield, the coming year will prove to be a difficult one, wrought with sectarian attacks that will seek to finally isolate the drive for an International Tribunal as one cooked up by “Zionist collaborators” and those who would seek alter the sectarian balance of the country to their own benefit. As far as purpose is concerned, these moves will have the aim of driving a wedge between those Christians in the March 14th alliance, the general Christian public, and the Sunni-led Future Movement and Druze-led PSP, with the final hope that such a divide could allow a return of a pro-Syrian majority to Parliament, via early elections.

Particularly sensitive to these moves will be Michel Aoun. The General (as he is widely known) can already attribute both his past election successes (1) and his past election failures (namely his loss in the Aaley electoral district to the quadripartite alliance) to reactionary Christian sentiments in relation to a perceived political isolation. Indeed it has been this reactionary feeling among those moderate Christians that support Aoun, that has been the primary driver behind the somewhat large Christian participation in the pro-Syrian camp’s efforts to topple the Seniora government throughout December 2006, and most of January 2007.

As the winds have turned on the actions that permeated those months, now agreed by many to have constituted an attempted coup d’etat, there is hope that Aoun and his FPM may now be ready to re-engage the political scene on the basis of the sovereignty agenda that formerly united the group with its allies within the March 14th movement. Of course, highlighting a possible Aoun switch as being based on a sovereignty agenda seems rather contradictory when viewed against his visit to Saudi Arabia. Indeed, if the General gets his way, it might be Aoun’s dialogue with the kingdom that may prove the most fruitful of all the discussions undertaken over the past several weeks.

Having reached an agreement with the Iranians over a compromise resolution of the crisis in Lebanon in early January, the Saudi kingdom has witnessed a marked reluctance by Iran – through its subordinate Hizballah and in respect of its ally, Syria’s wishes – to implement the compromise resolution. The reason behind the lack of implementation, and behind the Berriri meeting of course, has been Syria’s resolute rejection of any compromise on the International Tribunal. One of the excuses given by Hizballah (a group not unmoved by Syria’s whims and desires) for the lack of implementation, however, has been Aoun. More precisely, in private negotiations with the majority anti-Syrian alliance, Hizballah has used its pledged support for Aoun’s presidential aspirations (in return for his help in toppling the Seniora government) (2) as a major reason for their rejection of the compromise deal. In reaching out to Aoun, the Saudis may now be trying to remove any further obstacles (or excuses for obstacles) that could complicate the pursuit of a temporary domestic settlement leading to the establishment of the International Tribunal. Whether or not the Saudis will actually use this meeting to forge a relationship with Aoun is still unclear.

Despite the recent moderation of the General’s party’s rhetoric (again as a direct consequence of the popular backlash felt by the group for its role in the Black Tuesday riots and road closures) the Saudis might not be so inclined to reward the General for the political cover he has provided Hizballah following the July War (3). In addition, the Saudis (and many Lebanese including this blogger) may have second thoughts about trusting a man who has proven himself to be unstable in the most dramatic of fashions!

Aoun will also have to contend with the resurrection of Samir Geagea, and his Lebanese Forces (LF), to the Christian political scene and the popularity that the group seems to be gaining as a result of the General’s blunders and what many perceive as the LF’s resilience. It is telling that after his latest meeting with Berri, Hariri was reported to have met directly with Geagea and fully briefed him on the meeting. It would seems that the young Hariri may have picked up on the perception of isolation that has begun to creep back into the general psyche of the Christian community, and moved to counter it adequately.

If a deal could be reached with the General, however, it could prove useful in offsetting any future plans Syria might have to using him as a primary vehicle to draw out a wider Christian-Sunni divide (4). To that end, the regime in Damascus will most likely continue their pursuit of Aoun with continued promises of Christian "Za3eem" status, an offer the General has previously demonstrated he cannot refuse, no matter the cost. Most likely, these offers will include support for his Presidential candidacy, an attempt to bestow "hero" status on the General by allowing him to negotiate the release of hundreds of Lebanese nationals (5) held in Syrian jails, and an election sweep of predominantly Christian districts.

Unfortunately for the General, these rewards will very likely prove to be lemons. A release of prisoners by the Syrians, no matter who takes credit for it, will undoubtedly bring to light the detrimental conditions under which some of these prisoners were held (and in which some of whom did not survive), an event that will only heighten criticism of the 'sisterly state' and those with whom it cooperates. As far as Aoun's presidential aspirations are concerned, I have no doubt that if Aoun does, miraculously, make it to the presidential chair in Baabda, he will not survive long enough to enjoy it. Indeed, the General would most likely face the fate of the last President of the Republic the Syrians agreed to compromise over, Rene Mouawad.

No matter what the case, it remains painfully clear that Berriri talks or not, the Syrians will be desperately pursuing a strategy of prohibiting the advancement of the International Tribunal to the international political scene. So long as they can keep it mired in a political pool in which they themselves can wade, they will be free to continue to pursue their policy of tainting that pool with the blood of those who stand to oppose them. As for Aoun, more likely than not his chance at the Presidency by Lebanese acclaim has come and gone. By entrenching himself with Hizballah, Amal, the SSNP, and the Syrian Baath Party in Lebanon, he has allowed the blood of the community which he so avidly desires to represent (er…rule over) to be used as ink in the messages sent from our 'sisterly state' to the rest of our 'Arab brothers' in the region (6).


  1. Anonymous2:55 AM

    Hi are you still writing about Aoun? He is obsolete!!!

  2. get who5:04 AM

    At least he isn't corrupt like your leader in March 14th!!

    Happy Anniversary you cancers.

  3. The developments this month were an opportunity for Aoun to establish himself and his movement anew and to rebuild the trust he had thrown away at the beginning of the year.

    But the man and his clique are political amateurs, idiots. His community is best served by his withdrawl from politics!!

  4. I am of course refering to this:
    Click Me!

  5. Anonymous1:11 AM

    aounick is over, we should no longer talk about this orangina


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