Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lebanon is heading for a junta?

After much denial and vague comments, Suleiman has stated yesterday that he is available to lead Lebanon in case the current MPs cannot agree on a new president. Strangely enough, it seems that both sides are somewhat pleased with the prospect of yet another general ruling the country.

It’s understandable that the Opposition is glad to have Suleiman in charge of a transitional government. After all, he has made most of his career when Lebanon was under Syrian tutelage and it’s hard to believe one can rise to the highest military post without being loyal to the hand that feeds you. Obviously, the situation has changed now that Syria has left Lebanon, but can anyone be blamed to think that a 30 year relationship is not destroyed overnight?

Also, it’s easy to see that a transitional government is the upbeat to a national government whereby the Opposition would have a veto right.

In addition, Suleiman’s comments yesterday as to who is behind Fatah al-Islam must have appeased the Opposition: according to Suleiman, Fatah al-Islam is only linked to Al Qaeda and Syria has nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, he doesn’t provide any evidence and he seems to ignore the origin of the huge amount of heavy weaponry in the camp, which many believe was delivered via Syrian soil. Still, by removing Syria from the equation, he is freer to come down hard on Fatah al-Islam without upsetting the Syrian allies too much.

Finally, it is noteworthy that the tents in Downtown are still there, even though the Christian side is empty except for one tent. This one tent is still no reason to remove the road blocks in front on Virgin. You can not possibly hold Suleiman responsible for not cleaning out the tents, but still…how much did the army really do to remove the tents?

Or what about the violent demonstration earlier this year when the road were blocked with burning tires for a long time, much longer than necessary. By not intervening, the army allowed the demonstrators to paralyze Beirut quite a bit longer than would have been the case had the army acted. It was a disturbing sight to see only a handful of kids being able to block the airport road, e.g., for the whole day with the army standing by and doing nothing.

Photo 1: Posters of Suleiman are popping up

Then again, the March 14 forces also have reason to be pleased with Suleiman: he ignored orders from president Lahoud during the huge demonstrations after the murder of Hariri, which in turn led to the fall of the cabinet of Omar Karami. Other than that, Suleiman has not done much for March 14 per se, but getting rid of a hated pro-Syrian government was already plenty in their eyes.

A paranoid mind would now perhaps suggest that Suleiman’s announcement of yesterday fits perfectly well in the Opposition’s plan. First, Suleiman distances himself from the Opposition by allowing the March 14 forces to demonstrate and by letting them even remove the government. Any hardcore conspiracist would see this as a strategic offer to win the trust of March 14.

Subsequently, lots of bombs started to go off which left the average Lebanese scared and unprotected. Then, just in time, for the upcoming presidential election, fighting broke out in Nahr al-Bared which allowed Suleiman to rise as a strong man who was restoring order. By crushing the Fatah al-Islam fighters, he could shine and was able to increase the prestige of army and him even more. The Nahr al-Bared unrest has boosted his image and has defined him as a true savior of the country.

Photo 2: A banner in honor of the army: "The blood of the army's martyrs should be in the conscience of every Lebanese. So it's time to give them our support..."

As a bonus, the government was brainless enough to organize elections in the heartland of the Maronites, which were won by Aoun, thereby increasing the uncertainty as to who should succeed Lahoud.

All these events lead to but one outcome: Suleiman should become the next leader of a unified Lebanon. Hey, the Lebanese might even be so fed up with the political mess that they wouldn’t mind if he brought along some of his army buddies. People might say: “Let’s get rid of those wishy-washy politicians altogether and get some real men™ in power!”.

It would leave the paranoid mind to conclude that Lebanon is heading for a junta and that most Lebanese are accepting this with their eyes wide shut.

Update: See The Ouwet blog for his post which expresses similar concerns

Update 2: See also here for additional information on Suleiman's ties to Syria


R said...

This could be no less than a complete disaster. The complete disregard for even the spirit of democracy in appointing(!) a general to the post of prime minister... The complete disregard to the letter of the constitution...
In any case, March 14 has proven to be visionless, gutless, incompetent, and/or corrupt enough to make me believe that they are almost as bad for the country as a religious fanatic militia allied with a psychopath who bears a strange resemblance to inspector Dreyfus (from the pink panther movies) both in appearance and behaviour.
I guess the bottom line is that with a politically bankrupt leadership on either side of the divide, and with an unimaginative people unwilling to produce new leadership and incapable of producing even the (civil) mechanism for creation of new political elites, it should be no surprise when things come to where they have come. I am not saying that the specific events were forseeable, just their farcical nature...

Nicolien said...

The Lebanese eyes are not even widely shut, they are widely open - I haven't met one Lebanese this year who did not, at some point in time, sigh deeply and say: 'I don't care WHO wins, as long as SOMEONE takes a decision'. Welcome Army General (embodiment of decision-making).
I just wonder who is paying for all the army-advertisement, as they really need to sell themselves to win support - the support is not automatic, even when they are fighting against Fatah el-Islam. Would it be Suleiman himself, expenses written off as 'presidential campaigning'? Or the government (who, after all, supposedly provides the army's paychecks which would make it the army's boss)?