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Hariri’s Exit… his Return to Politics

Hariri’s Exit… his Return to Politics

Tuesday, 23 November, 2021 - 11:30

Will the former prime minister and leader of Al Mustaqbal Movement, Saad Hariri, abandon the political life?

This question has preoccupied Lebanese politicians and the media for weeks, as such news, if confirmed, will be the most major political transformation in the history of the Second Republic, which was named after the Saudi city of Taef.

Despite all the crises that afflicted Hariri as a person, and the Hariri current as a political proposal that drew part of Lebanon’s contemporary history, the name remains among the main political equations, as many calculations are built in light of its continuity or end.

Some people believe that Hariri is maneuvering to kill two birds with one stone. It is not a matter of conspiracy theory: First, to lure financial prospects to fund his electoral battle, and second, to take advantage of the concern about his alleged intention to retire, in order to convey messages about his centrality in the life of Lebanon and the Lebanese.

However, what I think is closer to reality is that Hariri is in the process of retiring, and perhaps totally abandoning the political life. He has many compelling reasons for this.

I will put aside some of the “babble of the foolish”, who will see in the following lines a “malicious urge” for Hariri to retire – a step that I know he studies carefully, and that he is closer than many imagine to the moment of his decision.

On a personal level, the prices paid by Rafik Hariri’s son are unconceivable. The man was not always the victim which his fans liked to portray, but it is certain that in many cases, he was indeed the prey.

He was a victim of the injustice of politics in Lebanon, and the cruelty of the structure that does not resemble him, although he acquired towards the end of his experience, especially after the presidential settlement, some of its features, either directly or through an intermediary.

In any case, the Hariri current was surrounded by a multi-layered tragedy that began with the assassination of the founder, Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and ended with the collapse of the financial empire inherited by Saad Hariri, and the subsequent downfall of the image and the international, regional, national and Sunni political “brand”. The father was a legendary rise story.

He can rest and take a distance from things, individuals, files and issues, looking for ways to reproduce himself in a personal and private sense, before the general, political and national meanings.

He can rest and give himself a chance, and provide the country the choice to find a way of life outside the glow of the legend of Rafik Hariri - the greatest political experience in Lebanon’s contemporary history.

It is unfair for Hariri to remain captive to those longing for Rafik Hariri’s return, or for the country to remain hostage to the son’s pursuit of his father’s resurrection.

Rafik Hariri has been much honored for having ruled Lebanon as a martyr longer than he governed the country as a prime minister.

As for the broader political meanings, Hariri’s reluctance to run in the elections and perhaps withdrawal from the political life is a long-delayed option, after the man was pushed into compromises that squandered much of his political balance and his national, regional and international immunity.

The settlements did not stop at the process of forming governments and managing the Council of Ministers, as well as the deadly improvisation game of renewing the blood of Al Mustaqbal Movement, or dispatching Aoun to the presidency of the Republic. Rather, they went up to “reaching a settlement” on the outcome of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which looked into Hariri’s assassination, without achieving any national gain that would compensate for a grain of the losses that resulted from the assassination.

To be fair, the changes that affected the strategic environment embracing Hariri and his current should not be overlooked, since the beginning of the lifting of the siege on Bashar al-Assad in France in 2007, to the deterioration of Hariri’s relationship with Riyadh, passing through the episodes of the Syrian hell, the exorbitant results of which constituted the greatest political shocks for Hariri and placed him under the fear that Lebanon’s Sunni community would face the fate of Syria’s Sunnis.

In the political sense as well, Hariri’s reluctance to run in the elections and perhaps his decision to withdraw from the political life would constitute a necessary condemnation of the illusion of Lebanese democracy, which is hijacked by the force of Hezbollah’s weapons.

What’s the point of running in the elections? The political coalition led by Hariri has won the elections twice since 2005; nonetheless, the man was prevented from ruling through a government that allows him and the Lebanese to test his political and economic plan.

When the Hezbollah alliance took over, and Qassem Soleimani said on that day that there was a government of resistance in Lebanon, Hariri was brought in to be the permanent scapegoat and the appropriate cover for the ‘Wilayat al-Faqih’ republic.

I am reminded here that the main difference between Saad Hariri’s governments and the cabinets of his father, which were also not completely his own, is that Rafik Hariri was hinging on appropriate regional balances, especially during the first five years during which Lebanese politics was governed by a settlement between Damascus and Riyadh, until the death of Hafez al-Assad.

In this sense, Hariri’s exit or suspension of his participation in political life could trigger the fiercest protest against the reality of the militia’s occupation of the political and national decision in the country, and pave way for the birth of a pressing political moment to amend the rules of political partnership and contribute to its liberation from Iranian hegemony.

Saad Hariri would be right to announce his political exit, but he should do so in a well-calculated and organized political manner, not with intimidation, anger or frustration. In this sense, by not participating in politics, he will have the opportunity to be more efficient than his presence as a lion in Hezbollah’s cage.

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