Thursday, November 29, 2007

Consensus is building up around Suleiman

Just two days after bloody riots in Tripoli between Sunnis and Shiites, the Future Movement has announced its readiness to change the Constitution in order to allow army commander Michel Suleiman to become president. It makes one wonder how spontaneous these demonstrations were, exactly.

What’s more, it were the Sunnis pressing for Suleiman, not the Christians. Using the threat of more clashes, it feels like Lebanon is pushed into accepting Suleiman.

Question is how acceptable would the army commander be? There are quite a few possible answers, depending on who you’d ask. Even then, every side might give conflicting answers.

Hezbollah, e.g., might like Suleiman for allowing them to occupy Downtown for already one year coming Saturday. In addition, Suleiman has made his career under the tutelage of Syria and can thus be assumed to be loyal to the Syrians.

Then again, they might distrust him for the Nahr al-Bared clash because he crossed one of Nasrallah’s famous red lines by entering the Palestinian camp. Furthermore, that fight was considered a proxy war with Syria/Iran and Suleiman had no problem fighting Hezbollah’s main sponsor. Sure, he might have made anti America statements throughout the conflict criticizing the USA for a perceived lack of support and he has said after the fighting was over that the rebels were not linked to Syria, but still, he did put up a hell of a fight and became a hero in the process.

Also, Suleiman was eager to extend the power of the army throughout the south of Lebanon and has made life so much harder on Hezbollah. All in all, Suleiman has restored the image and effectiveness of the army at the expense of Hezbollah. After all, why would you need the Resistance when you have Suleiman?

The March 14 forces could say the reverse of all of the above and explain it to their advantage. That makes it difficult to evaluate general Suleiman. He has shown so many faces that he can be considered a friend of anyone. Isn’t there this Arab expression saying that people who are anyone’s friend are everybody’s enemy?

If true, March 8 and March 14 have to decide whether they hate Suleiman less than the other party. It’s a rather dubious way of filling the highest position in the country and this might be the biggest problem yet with Michel Suleiman. March 14 has always insisted in electing a strong candidate for president to push forward their agenda. Now, however, they would settle for the compromise candidate pur sang. Perhaps that’s what Lebanon needs, but it would be a sell-out for March 14 and a clear victory for March 8.

Oh, and there this thing about changing the Constitution. Right now, Hezbollah’s politicians are making a lot of noise about it, but rest assured recent history has shown that no one really cares about it. Politicians usually play dress up with principles as long as it suits them and would have no problem stripping down naked if that’s what the situation calls for.