Attempts to Eliminate Resistance from Lebanon’s Political Scene
Based on a report by the Egyptian newspaper, el-Yom el-Sabe, Michel Suleiman, the President of Lebanon, has made a speech in Ruh al-Quds University, calling the “army, people, and resistance” equation a useless equation. These statements are made at a time when Lebanon is finally in the process of establishing a coalition government with the agreement of all groups. Why has the Lebanese President made such statements under these conditions?
At the present time, the positions of Lebanon’s President have become closer to the March 14th coalition and he may have made these statements within a political framework. The Lebanese government will be established when it has performed its first task which is the declaration of the cabinet statement and the definition of the main political and ideological lines. What Hezbollah and the March 8th coalition look to achieve is to write the ‘army, people and resistance’ equation in the cabinet statement. It must be noted that what has protected Lebanon in the past is the resistance. The resistance succeeded in expelling Israeli from Lebanon. In the 33 day war, it was also the resistance which forced Israel to retreat. Therefore, the equation of resistance is obvious for everybody. If someone within Lebanon’s political system does not believe this issue, this would not change any part of the reality. This is an obvious reality. Even the recent attack by Israel against the eastern part of Lebanon showed that the government and army of Lebanon cannot provide the security of the country by themselves. Even Michel Suleiman could not do much. But Hezbollah threatened Israel, saying that it would respond at a proper time. This shows that the only group which has high sensitivity with regard to the security of Lebanon and has executive power is Hezbollah. This is a reality, whether it is mentioned in the government’s statement or not. Nevertheless, Hezbollah insists that it should be mentioned in this statement as an existing reality by its name.
The equation of ‘army, people and resistance’ is one of the principles which Hezbollah has always stressed and considers this equation as a guarantee for the establishment of the security and independence of Lebanon. Do the recent positions indicate that there is tension between Hezbollah and Michel Suleiman?
Right now, there is tension between Hezbollah and Suleiman. Hezbollah and some of the March 8th groups believe that Mr. Suleiman has been influenced by Saudi Arabia after his many visits to this country and somehow supports the positions of the March 14th coalition which is an ally of Saudi Arabia. But I suppose that Mr. Suleiman does not have a high status, because only two months remain in his presidential term and it is obvious that it will not be renewed. There are now talks of his replacement and some people, including the army commander, Mr. Kahveci, have been mentioned as his successor. Thus, Mr. Suleiman is a political figure who will soon leave his position while Hezbollah will remain as one of the fixed pillars of Lebanon’s political scene.
Will Mr. Suleiman’s statements challenge the issue of the establishment of the government of national unity?
The cabinet in Lebanon is divided on the basis of political weight and the present cabinet has 24 ministers; 8 ministers are from the March 8th alliance, 8 ministers from the March 14th and the remaining 8 are divided between the president, Walid Jumblatt and independents. This indicates that the president has limited power compared with the power of the March 8th and his weight is not comparable with this group’s weight.
Could the March 14th and March 8th groups reach an understanding with regard to the equation and the statement?
Yes. Right now some groups, particularly that of Mr. Jumblatt who is a moderate, attempt to create a combination of both. Efforts have begun in this regard and I assume such an understanding could be achieved. Meanwhile, some of the moderate forces like Walid Jumblatt have stated that if an agreement is not reached, they will not vote and under such circumstances, the cabinet will not become official without an official statement.