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Michel Aoun, a Postponed Saad Hariri

Michel Aoun, a Postponed Saad Hariri

Wednesday, 26 January, 2022 - 11:00

Despite the tragic state of Lebanon, a farcical movement can be seen by conjuring up a past that still exists and is expanding: Since its founding, the Free Patriotic Movement has demanded the “reclamation of Christians’ rights” and going back to the pre-Taif Agreement (1989) days. That means that the powers granted to the Sunni prime minister by the Agreement must be given back to the Christian president of the republic. Because these demands coincided with the meteoric rise of Rafik Hariri, he seemed the perfect embodiment and symbol of the mandate taken away from the Christians who, in the view of Aoun’s supporters, must reclaim it.


This premise allowed the Aounists to reach a simple conclusion: the Taif Agreement is the enemy. It has granted Sunnis power that neither Lebanese coexistence nor the National Pact can withstand - power that has reached such alarming proportions as to amount to an assault against Lebanon’s other sects.


However, the excessively powerful soon lost that very leader in a horrible crime in 2005. Only with immense effort and great sacrifices was the Special Tribunal for Lebanon enabled to investigate this crime, though it could not arrest those who had been charged. Since then, the Lebanese Sunnis’ political power has been receding: neither could the Taif stop this process, nor could the electoral victories that came one after the other prevent it.


This decline reached new lows in recent days: Saad Hariri withdrew from political life, vowing only to keep his home’s doors open! The home has become the last line of defense. Other leading Sunni political figures, brought together in the so-called Prime Minister’s Club, may similarly abstain from running for the elections that might (?) be held next May.


The decline of the Lebanese Sunnis’ power, then, has turned into political shrinkage and marginalization, leaving observers comparing it to the Christians’ marginalization between the late 1980s and 2005.


This experience leads us to a more accurate conceptualization of Aounism, a pure exercise in futility: It is a waging, a raging, unending battle against a foe that has already been killed or has given up. This futility is compounded by its alliance with Hezbollah, which, alone, has all the “pejoratives” that had not been stipulated by the Taif Agreement. On top of that, it managed to accumulate power in clear violation of the Taif Agreement, severely undermining its implementation. Those demanding that the Taif be implemented properly were depicted as “conspiring against the resistance,” and neither they nor their demands were paid any mind.


Amid all of this, Aounists focused on this miserable document rather than the reality of politics and power relations in Lebanon. This is how we arrived at a situation in which all parties are weak and marginalized with the exception of the only power at the core of all power relations, Hezbollah. The latest disruption of the Council of Ministers’ session, at a time when the country’s economy is in dire need of cabinet sessions, is only the latest in a series of incriminating pieces of evidence, if anyone is still looking.


However, the Sunni leaders’ bluntness in revealing their weakness does not make those who are better at concealing their weakness any more powerful. That is, unless, perhaps, we were to believe, with all the gullibility that exists in the world, that the “strong ruler” is in fact strong.


In fact, the weakness of the Sunni leadership is undoubtedly self-inflicted to a degree, as they are responsible for their weak and staggered resistance to Hezbollah and the expansion of its influence. As for the Free Patriotic Movement leaders, their responsibility for their weakness is far greater. It stems from their alliance with Hezbollah, which has ensured its longevity while shortening the political lives of its allies, who have been so proud of their ignorance.


This degradation of Aounist political awareness is, again, rooted in prioritizing the text over reality and the obvious over substance. The threat Hezbollah poses does not stem from powers the Taif Agreement grants it or deprived it of, nor is the party dangerous because it is “Shiite” or, as some like to say, “Persian.” It is dangerous primarily because it is an ideological party, a one-party project that has nothing to offer Lebanese political life and its diversity but death, while it offers the political forces in Lebanon either subordination or defeat. Only then can we discuss the other dangerous factors, like Hezbollah being an armed party and a close affiliate of Iran, raising generations of children on values that diverge with that of other Lebanese children, in addition to the party amalgamating a modern organizational structure with a religious sectarian project.


Because Hezbollah is a one-party project, political life in Lebanon invariably becomes impossible. Even a well-established, highly advanced democracy, it would be facing a grave ordeal if a party like Hezbollah were to receive a fourth of a third of the popular vote.


Here, Saad Hariri and his latest announcement seems like an omen to all of Lebanon’s politicians, including the president of the republic and the parliamentary speaker. Each of them is a postponed Saad Hariri, and there are ways to deal with those who do not choose to do things the easy way and disregard the offer that cannot be refused. This is how we can make sense of the occasional “finger” raised in our faces, the occasional raising of the voice, and the statements and speeches advising political rivals to watch their step. We thus understand such behaviors as more than personal bad habits that should be overcome.


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