Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Suleiman Struts Up

With the path to the Presidency blown wide open by the lacklustre performance of one Orange General, Lebanon’s Army Commander moved this week to secure his place as a leading candidate to becoming his Army predecessor’s Presidential successor.

Speaking on Monday, the country’s Army Commander, Michel Suleiman, exonerated Syrian intelligence agencies of any links to the Fatah al Islam terrorist group despite credible proof maintained by the government showing the contrary. The Commander also absolved the government of accusations of its own involvement with the group, brought on by sources and media reports traced back to figures with close ties to the Syrian regime. Suleiman’s speech was accompanied by a statement by a former Minister of Defence stating, on behalf of the Army Commander, that he would be willing to take on the reigns of a transitional government if the need arose and if that were in conjunction with the wishes of the various opposing political groups. The former Defence Minister’s statement was met, on Wednesday, with the current Defence Minister’s thinly veiled endorsement*.

A Patriarchal Pathway

While momentum for Suleiman's takeover continues to build, however, the question as to the possibility of a candidate sympathetic to the March 14th movement remains open.

By insisting that a Parliamentary session dedicated to the election of a new President take place only with a two-thirds quorum (as is constitutionally stipulated - correction, it actually isn't stipulated in the constitution), while also outlining the Maronite Church's reservations about the possibility of the post being taken up by a man with a "military background", the head of that church, Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, is in fact providing the March 14th movement with a pathway sufficient enough to ensure Christian consensus on the country’s top post (reserved for members of the Maronite sect).

Essentially, Sfeir’s position is one which allows Michel Aoun and his Christian FPM parliamentarians to force their positions onto the parliamentary majority (whose numbers alone are not enough to hold the required quorum) but also limit the Orange General to a negotiating position with a view onto wider cabinet representation, as opposed to the Presidential seat itself.

Indeed, through the recently concluded Metn by-elections and the announcements of support (and/or lack thereof) from the Orange General's pro-Syrian allies, developments on the ground should have the effect of finally convincing Aoun to put aside his presidential ambitions and accept the political bearings assigned to him by both the voting general public and the overbearing political characteristics of the country . The question remains however, did the General get the message?

A Beirut Barter

Most likely not (yet), as excerpts from a recent interview seem to show. But the excerpts also highlight one other important element of the presidential race, that none of the candidates can afford to overlook the regional and international circumstances to which these elections must acquiesce.

Through that lens, the Army Commander’s heavy criticism of what he described as a shortfall in U.S. military aide in the battle against Fatah al-Islam could be viewed as an attempt at securing a higher price for the country’s extrication from the Iranian military sphere – as represented by Hizballah’s weapons. In short, the statements could have been a message for the U.S. to pay up - by providing the military with advanced weapons and machinery capable of allowing it to secure hostile borders to the north, east, and south - or shut up.

It is a price, Iran’s chief representative in Lebanon once again declared yesterday, the fundamentalist state is itself more than willing to pay to keep us in that sphere.

Oh Captain, my captain

Whatever the case may be, if Suleiman or any other presidential hopeful is to stand a chance at achieving any sort of consensus on his suitability for the country’s top post, then he must clearly delineate his willingness to accept the irreversibility of the country's projection over the past 2 and half years, and his ability to safeguard the integrity of the state and its institutions while navigating the country through the regional storm everyone knows is coming.

A navigation which must have the disarmament of Hizballah, through international resolutions as well as an internally-reached compromise bounded by the Taif Accord, at its core.

*Reported on the LBCI News Flash website as a statement attributed to the “Minister of Defense” declaring that through their blood and sacrifice, the Army’s command, officers and soldiers could not be denied an involvement in politics. (my own loose translation)


  1. Does no one seem to care that General Suleiman is not eligible for the presidency under the constitution?

    No offense, but you haven't even mentioned that in the post, BJ!

    How can that not be part of any salient analysis? How has this kind of thing even become acceptable while we still pretend to call ourselves a civilized country?

    It's a sad day that it's now taken for granted that Suleiman is a viable candidate. I see blog after blog delving into analysis about him, with nary a mention of the unconstitutionality of it all. How easily lead the Lebanese sheeple are...Where's the outrage? Where's the spirit that brought people together on March 14 2005, demanding their sovereignty and independence? What the hell is the point of talking about our own country (sovereign and independent) if we simply ignore all rules, laws and constitutions? If we can't even respect this part of the constitution, why should anyone respect our 10,452 km2? That can be ignored too. I guess.

  2. I think his jab at US weapons was just a flower to Syria and Hezbo, not much more.

    He was commander for 9 years, he just woke up to the equipment situation?

  3. None taken B (Angry) V.

    You're absolutely right in your criticism. The "interim gov't" play which Mansour brought up (Mansour being the former Minister of Defense mentioned in the post) is a completely unconstitutional one and that should be rejected outright.

    But when you live in a country where MP's such as Michel el Murr brag that "if everyone agrees, the constitution can be amended in 15 mins", outrage only gets you so far.

    If March 14th is going to confront yet another completely illegal and unconstitutional threat brought on by Syria's allies in the country, and if they are going to do it within the framework of the constitution, then the "Patriarchal Pathway" seems to be the most obvious way of doing it. So thats what I highlighted.

    As for the "Beirut Barter", I'm admittedly giving Suleiman the benefit of the doubt. Its equally probable (if not more) that he is simply issuing a statement which continues to provide Hizballah with the space it needs to operate its militia. Something Nasrallah's last speech implicitly acknowledges.

    So yeah, this analysis was soft on Suleiman but whether we like it or not, and whether it is constitutional or not, he is a candidate. Our only hope might rest in the Orange Idiot snapping out of his Baabda-lust...

    ...a pretty bleak prospect if you ask me.

    PS - Don't worry, I've been hard on Suleiman in the past and I will be in the future.

  4. Understood.

    I still think that this whole constitution thing is something we shouldn't give in to lightly (Michel El Murr be damned!)

    As long as Murr's attitude of "we can amend it in 15 minutes" is the norm, without causing any outrage, we simply have no hope of a country.

    After all, 3 years ago, it was extending Lahoud, now it's a 15 minute amendement for Suleiman. What next? Will anyone complain if, say, I don't know, Hassan Nassrallah decides to ignore the constitution and name himself "Supreme ruler of Lebanon"?
    Or what if Bashar Assad decides to name himself President of Lebanon? I mean, why not? Since we don't care about the rules saying that the president should be a Lebanese citizen.
    Or maybe Syria and Israel will decide to occupy parts of Lebanon and completely ignore the UN delineated border, because, you know, it's just another worthless piece of paper...Oh wait. they're already doing that.

    My point is, why would any neighboring country respect our sovereignty (which is based on a piece of paper too) if we can't respect our own pieces of paper?

    In fact, I think I'm going to proclaim myself "King of Lebanon" next week :) I'm sure no one will mind.

  5. Jimmy5:41 AM

    M14 has been very quiet about all this. Why?

    Future covered their ass on the FaI-link and Jumblatt went off on some weird rant about traitors within M14?

    Meanwhile the orangatan is crying about how the Americans don't love him.

    Something very weird is going on...

    ...answers?? Maybe they are trying to humour Silly Suleiy.

  6. BV I reckon you will make a great King of Lebanon!

  7. Look at the beauty of the Suleiman plan. There would have to be a Constitutional Amendment for him to be Pres, no one wants to do that and he can't 'force' it because M14 has the votes to stop it.

    Proposal is for him to be PM of Lebanon with a Military rule to avoid the coming Civil War - he will lead the "transitional military government' .... M14 doesn't want THAT and after all, Suleiman is a Maronite. Let's change the Constitution so that he can't 'grab' this power.

    It's a great plan. Blackmail seems to be working, fear seems to be working, and there can be no doubt about who Syria's choice for leader of Lebanon is. The new "national hero" -- Suleiman, who NOW everyone is actually considering as a viable and reasonable candidate. Brilliant, I say. The only humorous part of this is Aoun, Suleiman stole his plan.

  8. Jimmy5:38 PM

    The Murr statement u quoted is true, the dailystar confirmed it today.

    Patriarch Sfeir also gave the green light for Suleiman!!!!

    What is going on here!?


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