Lebanon’s Youngest Presidential Candidate and a Prison Feud

Meet the latest president of the Kataeb

Meet the latest president of the Kataeb

This is the 13th post in a series of monthly posts covering the presidential elections. This post is about the month of June 2015.

It’s been a weird month: Three important events happened in the thirteenth month of presidential vacancy, but they’re not really related to one another, so let’s check them anyway.

Lebanon’s youngest presidential candidate?

Perhaps the main event of this month was the election of Samy Gemayel as the new leader of the Kataeb party. While last month’s post focused mainly on the succession war that is about to happen in the FPM and on the importance of naming Shamel Roukoz commander of the army for M8’s largest Christian party, the transfer of power in the Kataeb was already underway: Gemayel officially declared his candidacy for the Kataeb presidency on the third of June, and was officially elected to succeed his father on the 15th of June. I could act shocked that such a young leader was elected president of such an old party, but then again, it was always too obvious that the presidency of the Kataeb would eventually be given – even if by elections – to the eldest heir of the eldest heir of Pierre Gemayel. What is shocking here is Gemayel’s speech on the third of June. While announcing his nomination for the top Kataeb post, Gemayel said, among other cliché sentences most Lebanese politicians use (Like ending corruption and seeking dialogue), the following sentence:

“And because it is a Lebanese project, then it is not sectarian, and should be open to all Lebanese sects.”

Actually, there’s more:

“The MP said he would exercise all efforts to show Muslims that the Kataeb, which was once seen as one of the most sectarian collectives in Lebanon, is open to their membership, noting that he was seeking to reform the Christian party into a pluralistic entity.”

A day may come when Lebanese political parties will lose their sectarianism, unite together in secular coalitions, and laugh on the years they fought one another in brutal religious civil wars, but that day was not the 3rd of June 2015. (And yes, I just quoted Aragorn from The Lord of the  Rings)

Samy Gemayel’s speech/press conference was not a call for Muslims to join his party as much as it was his way of saying that he would serve both Muslim and Christian interests if elected president. And when I say president, I mean president of the Lebanese republic, and not the president of the Kataeb party. It is said that when his grandfather Pierre Gemayel wanted to become Lebanese president, he was told that he couldn’t be at the same time the leader of Lebanon’s Christians and the head of state: It would have seemed as if Christians were solely in power. Gemayel’s speech was beautifully written, and it was beautifully written for a reason: He might be the youngest Christian leader among the Maronite four (if he is to replace his father), but he now heads Lebanon’s oldest, most organized (and arguably third biggest) Christian party. His father’s chances were relatively high after Samir Geagea suffered the humilation of losing the first round of the presidential elections to no one in April 2015, but one year after the presidential vacancy, his father is likely to remain a former president. His father’s candidacy is likely to be transferred to him and it seems he’s not playing it like Aoun and Geagea, who are showing themselves as consensual candidates because they ally themselves to Muslim parties. He is playing a much more advanced consensual card: He wants to show that he comes from a party that would gladly accept – and even encourage – Muslim membership, and that not only is he one of the Maronite four, but a truly centrist and non-sectarian politician.

The right last name

Sometimes in Lebanese politics, all you need is the last right name.  The right last name is what Sleiman Frangieh and Kamal Jumblatt used to undermine Saeb Salam in the early 70s, by naming Takieddine Al-Solh in 1973 and Rachid Al-Solh in 1974 as Prime Ministers in order to curb the Salam/Karami influence. And ironically, the right last name is what gave Tammam Salam the upper hand in 2014. Salam had other worthy centrist competitors – even billionaire ones –  yet it is him who currently presides over the cabinet.

Like Salam, Samy Gemayel has the right last name. Like Salam, Samy Gemayel is a member of a coalition, but at the same time leads a faction of the coalition that arguably has the most ties with the other side. The only thing he does not have is a “consensual advantage” over his opponents. We all know that the likelihood of the Kataeb becoming secular is equal to the possibility of aliens forming sectarian parties and colonizing the Sun. And even if he insists on enforcing the decision of making the party wide open to Muslim membership, his authority as a young a leader of the Kataeb will be challenged. So until proven otherwise, Gemayel’s call for the Lebanese Muslims is nothing but a political maneuver he’s using to prove his centrism and become an accepted candidate to the presidency.

The month of leaks: WikiLeaks and TortureLeaks

It has been a tough month on M14. WikiLeaks leaked its Saudi Cables, and while the leaks weren’t very kind to both camps, they were naturally harsher on M14 (since its leaders naturally tend to talk more with the Saudi officials). But the much bigger problem for the Future Movement this month was the leak of torture videos from Roumieh prison. Here’s a brief summary of everything that is politically relevant about that issue:

“I accuse Hezbollah of leaking the videos,” Rifi told a joint news conference with Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk. “The people have seen two videos. There are about four videos, and only Hezbollah had access to some of them.”

Machnouk did not seem to support Rifi’s allegations, saying he had “no accurate information” regarding the source of the leak.

[…]

Rifi visited Machnouk at the Interior Ministry in an apparent move to defuse tensions following media reports that accused the justice minister of leaking the footage and orchestrating the ensuing street protests in Beirut, the northern city of Tripoli and other areas in a bid to undermine the interior minister’s reputation.

Rifi dismissed rumors of a feud with Machnouk, saying he enjoyed a “fraternal” relationship with the interior minister.

Machnouk also denied reports of a power struggle with Rifi. “There is no disagreement in the broad lines of main politics or in personal ties. Our friendship has been going on for a long time,” Machnouk said. “We are in agreement that what is happening served only extremism and would lead only to undermining moderation. No one has an interest in undermining moderation.”

The FM has always had very different ways of doing politics, depending on its electorate. In the North and in the rural regions, where the electorate tends to be more Islamist-friendly and more religiously homogeneous – Sunnis are 85% in Donniyeh, 80% in Tripoli, and 66% in Akkar – the FM’s politicians tend to use a more sectarian discourse  (Rifi is a perfect example since it is well-known by now that he intends to lead the FM’s Northern parliamentary fight in the next elections). In Beirut, where the Sunni electorate is less than 50%, more moderate, and actually shrinking, and where a large number of Christian MPs are affiliated with the movement, the Sunni Beiruti FM politicians are by far the most moderates among the Sunnis of their party. The smart double standards of the FM have permitted them to keep their electorate in check for more than ten years now – even Hariri often switches from one side to another depending on the context – but the clash between the two wings of the party was bound happen eventually. Do not be fooled by both politicians’ denial of the power struggle. The power struggle is there and it’s real. And the very fact that, in a joint press conference, Mashnouk refused to accuse Hezbollah while Rifi took pride in blaming M8’s leading party tells us that a mini-war is underway in the Future Movement, and that the relation with Hezbollah will be a key element in this rivalry.

Turns out it was a smart move from Hezbollah to give the FM both the justice and interior ministries after all.

Roumieh and Baabda

So as the FPM tries to make Roukoz commander of the LAF without giving in too much to M14’s demands, and as Geagea tries to disrupt those plans with the declaration of intentions, and as Hezbollah continues its fight in Syria, and as an internal mini-struggle for power starts to unravel in the Future Movement, only one thing is constant: We still don’t have a president, and no politician has ever cared less about that fact.

 399 days since the 25th of May. 262 days since the 5th of November.

Lebanon’s Saudi Cables – Part III: Hariri, the Kataeb, Amal, Hezbollah, Siniora, and Sleiman

In case you still haven’t known by now, WikiLeaks began publishing on Friday The Saudi Cables: More than half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications from various Saudi Embassies around the world.

This post is the third of a series of leaks I found worth sharing here on the blog.

So, what do we know by now?

We know that, according to the cables (and among other minor things), the Saudis asked for the release of members from Fatah Al-Islam, that the Saudi Government paid MTV (doc83763), that MP Boutros Harb requested money from Saudi Arabia in order to create a political party (doc32628), and that the Lebanese Forces asked for funding from Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday there was a huge debate on whether some of the cables are legit or no (since a number of them share a same code on the upper left). It could be photoshopped, or it could be for filing purposes. We’re a free democratic independent country so you can make what you want of it (I wisely suggest, like I said yesterday, that you all stick to the propaganda of your parties because you’ll feel safe, warm and cosy). The only purpose here is to find anything interesting related to Lebanon among the Saudi cables and put it on the blog.

Anyway, here are some new/other cables that are worthy of sharing. According to them, the CIA infiltrated Hezbollah via Ali Bazzi of Amal, there’s a plan (around 2012) to pressure Sleiman into becoming more M14-ish, the Kataeb, Geagea and Siniora are praised,  and the Saudi Foreign Minister said that he wanted Hariri’s Saudi critics to be censored.

Voila:

Ali Bazzi Saudi Cables

According to this cable, a source close to Hezbollah told the embassy that Hezbollah is currently in a bad shape because they got infiltrated by the CIA via Amal’s MP Ali Bazzi. (Original Link on WikiLeaks)

 

Kataeb Geagea Saudi Cables

According to this cable, the Saudi ambassador is praising Samir Geagea and a Kataeb politician (Joseph Hashem) for not heavily criticizing Saudi Arabia and a mufti. (Original Link on WikiLeaks)

 

Siniora Saudi Cables

According to this cable, Siniora wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia and meet the King, and the ambassador roots for him saying that he is the most important Sunni politician outside the cabinet, especially that (a Prime Minister, most likely) Hariri is absent.

 

Sleiman Saudi  Cables

This cable discusses how Michel Sleiman is going to convince M8 and M14 to attend the dialogue he’s hosting. The importance of this document is towards the end, where the Cable mentions that there might be a plan to pressure the President to side “with the right coalition” and that he’ll be invited to visit the Kingdom if things work out.

And last but not least, according to this cable (It’s a word file), Hariri gave the ambassador some articles in Saudi media criticizing him and the Saudi foreign minister subsequently asked for censoring the writers of those articles. Yay for freedom of speech?

Here’s the document in arabic:

صاحب السمو الملكي وزير الدولة عضو مجلس الوزراء

رئيس ديوان رئاسة مجلس الوزراء

صورة / لمعالي وزير الثقافة والإعلام

        إلحاقاً لبرقيتي رقم 92/16/61393وتاريخ 25/2/1432هـ    التي تشرفت برفعها للمقام الكريم بشأن مقابلة سفير المقام السامي في بيروت لفخامة رئيس الجمهورية اللبنانية ميشال سليمان .

        أفادت سفارة المقام السامي في بيروت بأن سعادة السفير تسلم من دولة الرئيس سعد الحريري خلال الزيارة التي قام بها لدولته نسخ من مقالات لكتاب سعوديين ولآخرين نشرتها بعض الصحف السعودية تناولت بصورة سلبية دولته وتيار المستقبل وضد المحكمة الدولية (مرفقة طيه) ، وقد عبر للسفير عن إستيائه خاصة وأنها نشرت في أوج الأزمة الحالية إضافة الى ما يتعرض له من حملات في وسائل إعلام (8) آذار التي أبرزت تلك المقالات خاصة تلفزيون المنار وإذاعة النور التابعة لحزب الله . أشارت السفارة أنه بالنظر الى بعض تلك المقالات لكتاب بارزين كعبدالرحمن الراشد (صحيفة الشرق الأوسط) وداوود الشريان (صحيفة الحياة) فقد فسرها البعض على أنها تعبر عن وجهة نظر في المملكة تنتقد أداء سعد الحريري وتدعوا إلى التخلي عنه ، وقد لاحظت بعد استقالة حكومة الرئيس سعد الحريري صدور مقالات كثيرة تنتقد تيار المستقبل والرئيس سعد الحريري ، وبعضها ينتقد التزام المملكة بلبنان، وبنت وسائل إعلام حزب الله وحلفائه على تلك  المقالات استنتاجات بأن المملكة لم تعد ترعى الرئيس الحريري وتوجهاته حول معالجة الأوضاع في لبنان، وأن هناك فريقين سعوديين أحدهما يرغب بالتعاون مع سوريا والآخر متأثر بوجهات النظر الأمريكية ، وهذا هو أحد الأسباب التي أدت إلى تأخر ظهور موقف سعودي واضح مما يجري ، نتج عنه ارتباك داخل الصف السني نتيجة لتلك الآراء والتي قد يكون لها انعكاسات سلبية على وحدة صفه وهذا بطبيعة الحال ما تأمله قوى (8) آذار.

        ترى السفارة أنه قد يكون من المناسب وقف مثل هذه الكتابات التي لاتخدم الأهداف المنشودة للمملكة.

        آمل العرض عن ذلك على النظر الكريم للتفضل بالإطلاع والتوجيه. مع أطيب تحياتي.،،،،

سعود الفيصل

وزير الخارجية

Lebanon’s Saudi Cables – Part II: The Diplomatic Proof That Saudi Arabia Funded The Lebanese Forces

UPDATE: The cable in this post has the same ID as this cable, so until further notice, this cable could be a fake one.

UPDATE II: As one of the blog’s readers argues, many documents share the same ID code which means that maybe it’s not a unique code but some label for filing purpose with the Saudi ministry. Anyway, you can make what you want of it (I wisely suggest that you all stick to the propaganda of your party because you’ll feel safe and cosy). The only purpose here is to find anything interesting related to Lebanon among the Saudi cables and put it on the blog.

In case you still haven’t known by now, WikiLeaks began publishing on Friday The Saudi Cables: More than half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications from various Saudi Embassies around the world.

This post is the second of a series of leaks I found worth sharing here on the blog.

This cable is the diplomatic proof that Saudi Arabia helped the Lebanese Forces in their finances. In it, the Saudi foreign minister Saoud Al Faisal tells us that Samir Geagea’s man Elie Abou Assi met the Saudi ambassador and told him that the LF are struggling financially especially that they are countering two pro-Syrian foes (the Maronite patriarch and Aoun) and that Geagea is ready to travel to the KSA in order to solve the financial issues. The ambassador also said that the LF were ready to do as the Kingdom says. The wise Foreign minister also suggested that Sunni politicians be invited too (probably so that it doesn’t look fishy).

I think I just broke a record here by publishing two posts in less than an hour, but this is huge. There’s finally proof that Lebanese politicians (presidential candidates even!) are funded by the embassies.

In case you read Arabic, enjoy it:
Saudi Arabia Funding Samir Geagea

يرقبن صادرة البرفبة :………………………………………………………….. رف٢٠ اللف : …………………….. التاديخ ; ٧٠٠٠٨٧٣٨٧٢ للرففات: خادم اكرمين ١كريغين رسس جس الوزراء حفظه الله اتشرف بالرفع للنظر الكريم ان السفير في بيروت الئش ايلي ابو عاصي موفد الدكتور سمير جعجع أرنيس حزب القوات اللبنانية” الذي تحدث عن صعوبة الأوضاع المالية التي يمرون بها في القوات وعجزهم عن تأمين رواتب العاملين لديهم والوفاء بتكاليف حماية رئيسهم الدكتور جعجع لاسيما في ظروف المواجهة الحالية ٠ع بعضى الزعامات المسيحية المتعاطغة مع النظام السوري مثل ميشال عون والبطريريك الماروني ٠ مشيرا الى ان الدكتور جعجع جاهز للسفر للمملكة لعرضن وضعهم المالي المتدهور على قيادتها ٠ ونقل السفير ان القوات اللبنانية تعد القوة الحقيقية التي تقف امام مخططات حزب الله وموقف قائدها ثابت ضد النظام السوري ويبدي استعداذ للعمل بتوجيهات المملكة . وارى اذا استحسن المقام الكريم انه اذا كان هناك رغبة لدى المملكة لدعوة زعامات مسيحية ان يتم ايضا دعوة زعاماتا سنية . أرجوإنضل بالتوجيه اطال الله عمركم وادام عزكم . If1″ V سعود الفيصل وزير الخارجية

(Link to the original cable on WikiLeaks)

Lebanon’s Saudi Cables – Part I: Asking for the Release of Fatah Al-Islam’s Members

In case you still haven’t known by now, WikiLeaks began publishing on Friday The Saudi Cables: More than half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that contain secret communications from various Saudi Embassies around the world.

The cables are horrible OCR-ed versions of the original document making them a bit difficult to read (which is why I’ll always be posting the original images along with the text). But they’re full of interesting information, this is why I’ll be sharing here on the blog anything I’ll find worthy of looking at. Expect plenty of other posts about the leaked documents.

In this post, the Saudis are saying that they asked for the release of the Fatah El-Islam members (including the Saudi nationals among them): “السفارة تتابع الموقوف الببشي وطلبت إخلاءات سبيل لجميع الموقوفين المتهعين بالانتماء إلى فتح الإسلام”

 The Saudi Cables - Part I Asking for the Release of Fatah Al-Islam's Members

And here’s the horrible OCR-ed version :

– , ٠ اوقوف البيشي بتاريخ 2007/2/15 م في الأراضي اللبنانية بتهمة الانتماء الى جماعة فتح الإسلام والتي قاتلت الجيش اللبناني . 2 ٠ اوقف البيشي قبل بداء المعارك التي شهدها نهر البارد ٠ القضاء اللبناني لم ينظر بعد في قضية المواطن البيشي ومحاكمة الموقوف ستهلول ألى امد طويل لاسيما ان عدد اعضاء منظمة فتح الاسلام يزيد عن ٠٠! شخص وهم من جنسيات مختلغة. ثم’ ٠ للموقوفا البيشي ا محامية سابقء هي ا مها فتحة وهي توكلت للدفاع عنه بلبن مقابل. ;ء ٠ اصيح محامي السفارة مكتب ا محمد علي التل هوالمحامي ١لمسئول عن الموقوفا البيشي . ) ٠ صدر حكم قضائي بحقة بعسجن لعدة 5 سنوات بتهمة حيازة اسلحة لكن لم يتم إخلاء سبيلة بسبب الادعاء علية بالاتما۶ الى فتح الاسلام والتي لم ينظر القضاء اللبنعي بقضيتهم. ٠ تابع سعادة السغبذ اوضاع الموقوفين السعوديين هع العدعي العام التمييزي ا سعيد ميرزا – وهواعلى سلطة قضائية بالنيابات العامة في لبنان. ٠ السفارة تتابع الموقوف الببشي وطلبت إخلاءات سبيل لجميع العوقوفين المتهعين بالانتماء إلى فتح الإسلام . ١ >’ ٠ لم تتم الهوافقة على طلب المحامين بإخلاءات السبيل . ٠ السفارة ترى ان الحل يكمن في حل سياسي بطلب عفو عام عن العوقوفين السعوديين . ٠ السفارة تقوم بزيارة الموقوف كل شهر تقريبأ لتلمس احتياجاتهم والاطلاع على اوضاعهم . ٠ لتم هدسلدمهم كعسوة صلف وشتاء سنوية ٠ تتلمس السفارة احتياجات الموقوفين وتمكن ذويهم من زيارتهم خلف القعشبان، إلا ان ظروف الأسرة المادية للمواطن البيشي تمنعهم من زيارنه في لبنان.

(Link)

:And here are some other cables where the Saudis also ask about their jailed nationals

The Saudi Cables - Part I Asking for the Release of Fatah Al-Islam's Members 2

In this cable, the Saudis thank Lebanon’s state prosecutor for “taking care and looking after the Saudi Fatah Al Islam prisoners” (Link)

In this cable,  the possibility of a presidential pardon for the Fatah Al Islam is mentioned since it should speed up the process of freeing them

In this cable, the possibility of a presidential pardon for the Fatah Al Islam members is seen as the fastest way to free them. (Link)

Aoun-Geagea: Is It Truly a Declaration of Intent?

FPM leader Michel Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea speak during a joint press conference in Rabieh, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

FPM leader Michel Aoun and LF leader Samir Geagea speak during a joint press conference in Rabieh, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. (The Daily Star/Stringer)

“A declaration of intent” (اعلان النوايا), they called it. Because you know, as the Lebanese say, “المهم النية”.

Surprise. For the first time since 2005, Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea met. Live. Face to face. Without having to shoot at one another like the good old days of the late eighties.

But if you have been following Lebanese politics for the past 9 months, the meeting between the leaders of the two main Christian parties shouldn’t be surprising. Both parties were having talks since Hezbollah and Mustaqbal started their dialogue earlier this year (Aoun even tasted Geagea’s truffles in January!), the talks were making good progess in April, and the declaration of intent was actually finished a month ago. In fact, if you remember correctly, the fear of an FPM-LF rapprochement led the Kataeb, Michel Sleiman, and other minor Christian politicians to unite under one front in March. So no, it should not be that surprising to see Kanaan and Riachi telling us that the FPM and the LF are intending to continue the dialogue and work within the constitution in order to protect their interests.

What is weird here is the timing of the declaration. When they finished it last month without directly announcing it, it was assumed that both parties were waiting for M8 and M14 to agree on the major issues such as the presidential elections. It’s still too soon to be sure why that specific timing was chosen, but it seems right now that Geagea was trying to sabotage a potential rumored Aoun-Hariri deal on the way: letting Aoun name the commander of the army in exchange of conceding to some of Mustaqbal’s terms such as M8 lifting its veto on some centrist presidential candidates. Only yesterday, I was talking about how important it is for Aoun and the FPM that Roukoz becomes commander of the army.  If you read the declaration, you’ll find out  that it revolves around one main idea: protecting the Christian interests, and at their core, the election of a strong president (look for the sentence in bold in the original text). And in case you still don’t know what a “strong president” means after 12 months of presidential vacancy, let me enlighten you: Strong = Aoun and /or Geagea.

Aoun looked like the bigger party yesterday, since it was Geagea the one who visited him in Rabieh, but don’t be fooled by the formalities, since in the end, the leader of the Lebanese Forces succeeded in bringing back the “strong president” rhetoric to life, thus pushing Aoun away from the idea of a consensual president and a Roukouz deal with the Mustaqbal and the PSP. Yesterday, it wasn’t a new alliance between the LF and the FPM that was starting. It was the consensual candidate – Roukoz deal that was being put off the table, At least for now.

Anyway, here’s the original text of the declaration (directly from the source), if you would like to waste five minutes of your times on a text that could be summed up with the sentence “We agree to find an agreement”

لما كان الحوار هو الوسيلة الفضلى لتبادل الآراء وتفاعلها من اجل صياغة رؤية مشتركة حول القضايا والمواضيع ذات الاهتمام المتبادل على جميع الصعد السياسية والاقتصادية والادارية والاجتماعية،

ولما كان التيار الوطني الحر والقوات اللبنانية قد عقدا أكثر من لقاء وبحثا أسس التفاهم في ما بينهما، فوجدا أن التنافس السياسي أمر مشروع وواجب لارساء قواعد الديمقراطية وبلورتها في نظام للحكم.

ولما كان حزبا التيار الوطني الحر والقوات اللبنانية قد أجريا مراجعة للعلاقة التي سادت بينهما خلال أكثر من ربع قرن وذلك من أجل تنقية الذاكرة من مناخات الخصومة السياسية التي طبعت تلك العلاقة، والتطلع بالتالي نحو مستقبل يسوده التنافس السياسي الشريف و/أو التعاون السياسي.
–  التزام نهج الحوار والتخاطب السياسي البناء والسعي الدائم للتوافق على ثوابت وقواسم مشتركة
– تأكيد الايمان بلبنان كوطن نهائي سيد حر مستقل وبصيغة العيش المشترك وبضرورة التمسك بالمبادئ الواردة في مقدمة الدستور بصفتها مبادئ تأسيسية ثابتة
– اعتماد المبادئ السيادية في مقاربة المواضيع التي هي على ارتباط وثيق بالقضايا الاقليمية والدولية على أن تؤخذ في الاعتبار امكانات الدولة اللبنانية والمعادلات الاقليمية والدولية
– الالتزام بمرتكزات وثيقة الوفاق الوطني التي اقرّت في الطائف والتعهد باحترام أحكام الدستور كافة دون انتقائية وبعيداً عن الاعتبارات السياسية والابتعاد عن كل ما من شأنه التلاعب بأحكام الدستور أو اساءة تفسيره
– التأكيد على أن وثيقة الوفاق الوطني قد طبقت منذ اقرارها وخلال عهد الوصاية وحتى اليوم بشكل معتور مما يوجب تصويب المسار من خلال العودة إلى مرتكزات الميثاق الوطني واحكام الدستور المتعلقة بالمناصفة الفعلية وصحة التمثيل النيابي الفعال والشراكة الصحيحة بين مكونات المجتمع اللبناني كافة بما يحفظ قواعد العيش المشترك وترجمة ذلك في قانون انتخاب يؤمن القواعد المشار اليها اعلاه وفي انتخاب رئيس للجمهورية قوي ومقبول في بيئته وقادر على طمأنة المكونات الأخرى والايفاء بقسمه

وبالتزامات الرئاسة بما يؤمن الشراكة الفعلية الميثاقية والمصلحة الوطنية العليا
– العمل على تعزيز مؤسسات الدولة وتشجيع ثقافة الاحتكام الى القانون والمؤسسات الشرعية لحلّ أي خلاف أو اشكال طارئ وعدم اللجوء إلى السلاح والعنف مهما تكن الهواجس والاحتقانات
– دعم الجيش على الصعيدين المعنوي والمادي بصفته المؤسسة الضامنة للسيادة والأمن القومي وتكريس الجهد اللازم لتمكينه وسائر القوى الأمنية الشرعية من التعامل مع كل الحالات الأمنية على الأراضي اللبنانية كافة بهدف بسط سلطة الدولة وحدها على كامل الأراضي اللبنانية
– ضرورة التزام سياسة خارجية مستقلة بما يضمن مصلحة لبنان ويحترم القانون الدولي وذلك بنسج علاقات تعاون وصداقة مع جميع الدول ولا سيما العربية منها مما يحصن الوضع الداخلي اللبناني سياسياً وأمنياً ويساعد على استقرار الأوضاع وكذلك اعتبار اسرائيل دولة عدوة والتمسك بحق الفلسطينيين بالعودة إلى أرضهم ورفض التوطين واعتماد حل الدولتين ومبادرة بيروت 2002
– الحرص على ضبط الأوضاع على طول الحدود اللبنانية السورية بالاتجاهين وعدم السماح باقامة منطقة عازلة في لبنان وباستعمال لبنان مقرا او منطلقا لتهريب السلاح والمسلحين ويبقى الحق في التضامن الانساني والتعبير السياسي والاعلامي مكفولا تحت سقف الدستور والقانون والمصلحة الوطنية العليا
– احترام قرارات الشرعية الدولية كافة والالتزام بمواثيق الامم المتحدة وجامعة الدول العربية
– العمل على تنفيذ القرارات السابقة التي تم الاتفاق عليها في طاولة الحوار الوطني
– ايجاد حل لمشكلة النزوح السوري والمتعاظمة والتي أصبحت بمثابة قنبلة موقوتة أمنيا واقتصاديا وسياسيا واجتماعيا لا سيما مع تفاقمها مع مشكلة اللاجئين الفلسطينيين وذلك عن طريق تأمين عودة النازحين إلى المناطق الآمنة داخل الأراضي السورية
– ضرورة اقرار قانون جديد للانتخابات يراعي المناصفة الفعلية وصحة التمثيل بما يحفظ قواعد العيش المشترك ويشكل المدخل الأساسي لاعادة التوازن إلى مءسسات الدولة
– الالتزام بوثيقة الوفاق الوطني لجهة اعتماد اللامركزية الإدارية والمالية الموسعة ونقل قسم كبير من صلاحيات الادارة المركزية ولا سيما الانمائية منها إلى سلطات لامركزية منتخبة وفقاً للأصول وتأمين الايرادات الذاتية اللازمة لذلك
– الالتزام بأحكام الدستور المتعلقة بالمالية العامة وبأحكام قانون المحاسبة العمومية التي تحدد موازنة الدولة وشموليتها وأصول ومهل اعدادها وتقديمها إلى المجلس النيابي وكذلك اعداد الحسابات المالية وتدقيقها وتصديقها وفقاً للأصول وكذلك الالتزام بضرورة تحديد سقف للاقتراض لا يمكن تجاوزه الا باجازة جديدة من المجلس النيابي وبضرورة ترشيد الانفاق والحد من الهدر والانفاق غير المجدي ومحاربة الفساد المستشري وإعمال قانون الاثراء غير المشروع وانشاء المحكمة الخاصة بالجرائم المالية
– التأكيد على التمسك بالمبادئ الكيانية المؤسسة للوطن اللبناني والتي هي سبب وجوده وجوهر رسالته في التسامح والتنوع والتعايش الفريد القائم على المشاركة الكاملة في الحكم والعمل المشترك من اجل اقرار القوانين المحققة لذلك وفي طليعتها قانون استعادة الجنسية وقانون تملك الأجانب كما العمل من أجل الحؤول دون القيام بأي اجراءات تخالف المبادئ المنبثقة من الصيغة اللبنانية ومن الميثاق الوطني.

وإذ يعتبر الطرفان أن اعلان النوايا هذا، يهدف إلى وضع المبادء الديمقراطية ومعاييرها كأساس لتنظيم علاقتهما، يؤكدان على ابقاء المبادئ الدستورية والميثاقية فوق سقف التنافس السياسي، كما يؤكدان على ارادتهما ورغبتهما بالعمل المشترك والتواصل في جميع المجالات والمواقع الممكنة لتنفيذ التزاماتهما المنوه عنها اعلاه ويعتزمان العمل على تفعيل انتاجية اتفاقاتهما حيث يتفقان، والتنافس من دون خصام حيث يختلفان، كما يتعهدان بالتواصل الدائم والتباحث المستمر للتفاهم على كافة المواضيع ذات الشأن العام والوطني.

375 days since the 25th of May. 211 days since the 5th of November.

The War for Shamel Roukoz

Lebanon's next commander of the army?

Lebanon’s next commander of the army?

This is the 12th post in a series of monthly posts covering the presidential elections. This post is about the month of May 2015.

It has been a busy month in Lebanese politics. Last time I wrote something, Lebanese politicians were still arguing about Yemen. In May however, it was the name of the next commander of the army that kept everyone busy.

Moukhtasar Moufid

In the very first days, the remnants of the Mustaqbal-Hezbollah April political clash were still there: Hezbollah’s bloc accused the Future Movement of violating Taef. At the same time, the FPM and the LF were finishing up their declaration of intent, and were agreeing to boycott the legislative session until some of their demands were met, like prioritizing the election of the president, and working on the electoral law (Here’s a reminder of the irony here, since the FPM are the ones who are boycotting the presidential elections). But as things were finally calming down on the Muslim front between Hezbollah and the FM, signs of a major battle between Hezbollah and Syrian militants near the northeastern border were looming. And to make things even more complicated, the debate on the security appointments started: The ISF chief retires on the 5th of June, and the army commander on the 23rd of September.

In case you wondered, that’s what the post will be mainly about – since I believe we’ve all had enough of the routine weekly fights between M8 and M14.

Deal or No Deal

As I said in November, the presidential elections are not about the president. In fact, no one cares about the president. Not even Lebanon cares. The proof? we have been without a president for more than a year. And for more than a year, the country has perfectly adapted to a life with no head of state. The cabinet meets regularly, the parliament doesn’t meet regularly and life goes on. So basically, nothing changed. The presidential elections are more about a deal than about a glorified chair. The presidential elections are about the electoral law, the security appointments, the formation of the next cabinet, the position vis-à-vis the Syrian war, and many more details. And to be more precise here, the president is not even part of the presidential elections deal. In fact, he’s the guy who is supposed to oversee its enforcement.

And for 12 months, there has been no sight of any attempt of  a deal. However, the terms of the security officials are due to end soon, and this could be an occasion for our politicians to start drafting a package they could agree on.

This could also be the moment where we become without a president, a commander of the army, elections, and plunge into chaos, emptiness and darkness.

*plays classical music*

Anyway, there’s an opportunity to move forward here, and of course, the maneuvering has already begun.

The War for Shamel Roukoz

One of the most important parts of the deal is the name of the next commander of the army. Lebanon is overwhelmed by refugees, the Islamic State is at our gates and the Syrian spillover is not likely to stop anytime soon. That makes the commander of the army a key player in the next couple of years. The country’s stability is depending on the army, now more than ever. For Michel Aoun, March 8’s presidential candidate, the name of the next of the next General in charge of the LAF matters even more: His son-in-law, Shamel Roukoz,  currently heads the army’s special forces (The Maghawir) and could fit well as a commander of the army. Michel Aoun is likely to retire really soon (Here’s a reminder that Aoun is currently 80 years old), and unless them FPM has someone with influence in a top post, the future of the party will be in Jeopardy when the transition comes. The FPM needs someone to follow like Aoun, and Roukoz seems the man to fulfill the legacy. Once Roukoz becomes commander, he will likely be the FPM’s potential candidate for the presidency – while maintaining a consensual image. That would mean that if the FPM plays its cards well in the next general elections and Roukoz succeeds as commander, the FPM could be looking in 2021 at a party whose Roukoz is leading its men in the executive power as president, and whose Bassil is leading its MPs in parliament, while Aoun would remain the “Godfather of the party”. Last week, Michel Aoun was asking for the election of the president via direct elections (That wasn’t the first time he proposed the idea) while at the same time promising that he will not allow that the same officers (in other words, Kahwagi) stay in charge. This aggressive maneuvering is not because Aoun wants to weaken his main presidential rival, but rather because he knows – like probably everyone else in the FPM – that the future of the FPM depends on Roukoz’s appointment as commander. Once he becomes commander of the army and gets the right political backing, he would be in a position to be as influent as his father-in-law and ultimately succeed him as the party’s leader and idol. Let’s face it, he’s far, far more popular than Bassil.

The FM and the PSP realize how badly their Christian rivals want the post, and are playing it smart. Instead of vetoing the appointment, they’re outmaneuvering Aoun by accepting the nomination (Here’s a link of Hariri saying yes to Roukoz, and another link of Jumblatt saying yes to Roukoz), before probably requiring some concessions from the FPM: (1) Someone not named Michel Aoun as president, (2) a gentler electoral law towards the FM and PSP’s interests, and (3) Hezbollah agreeing to some of their terms.

Le Piège

But that’s not all of it. Giving Roukoz the green light comes at a price: The FM insist on naming Roukoz commander after the presidential elections, making it a difficult task for Aoun to accept that deal: What if the next president doesn’t want Roukoz to lead the army? (after all, the president is according to the Constitution the “Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces” and should have a say in the nomination of the commander). What if things don’t work out, and the FPM ends up losing both the presidency and the army? It’s a risky prospect for Aoun. Yet the main problem for the FPM isn’t about naming the new commander before or after the presidential elections. It’s about the context of the nomination. There is something big about to start in Arsal, we just don’t know when it will happen. March 14 are calling for the army to exclusively take charge of things in the northeastern regions , and it’s not only because they want Hezbollah out of the equation. In case you have noticed, the army – although having clashed with the militants there last August – is slowly dissociating itself from the upcoming battle and the outgoing skirmishes and tensions. And that’s for three main reasons: (1) It would probably lead to the death of all the military hostages, only making things worse for the army and its command, (2) it would put the Lebanese army at the heart of the Syrian conflict, and most importantly, (3) it would be the political deathbed of any commander of the army aspiring to become president. One should read the FM’s statements in depth: They accept Roukoz as a commander of the army, while at the same time asking for the army to exclusively be in charge of defending Arsal’s jroud. For the FPM, that means two things: That Kahwagi, who will no longer be commander of the army, will slowly lose momentum as a presidential candidate *Michel Aoun smiles*, while at the the same time Shamel Roukoz will have to  (1) clash with the militants in Arsal – bringing him in direct confrontation with the Sunnis – and (2) contain Hezbollah a couple of Kilometers next to one of their core centers of influence (Baalbak). Not to mention how much the population will be angry when 30 hostages from all over the republic get slaughtered by the militants once the army tries to take control of the situation near Arsal.

For the FPM, appointing Roukoz as commander seems like one of the two steps needed to secure the presidential elections of 2021 (since the commander of the army is usually the candidat-favori). For the FM however, appointing Roukoz seems like the easiest way to try to sow discontent between the FPM and Hezbollah, and between a possibly consensual candidate and the Sunni electorate.

*Michel Aoun stops smiling*

374 days since the 25th of May. 210 days since the 5th of November.

The WikiLebanon Files (Part V): Mikati Called Hezbollah a Tumor Needing Removal in 2008

Nasrallah and Mikati

In the past month, there has been a lot of talk in Lebanon about what Hezbollah calls “The Shias of the U.S. Embassy” (شيعة السفارة), an expression taken from an Al-Akhbar article that exposed some WikiLeaks cables where anti-Hezbollah Shia were quoted cooperating with the embassy in order to undermine the main Shia party. Anyway, and since it’s apparently that time of the year when people start mentioning anti-Hezbollah officials chatting with the ambassador, here’s an anti-Hezbollah Najib Mikati calling Hezbollah a tumor needing removal, 7 months after the 7th of May events, 7 months before the 2009 general elections, and 3 years before Hezbollah chose him to replace Hariri as a Prime Minister.

Enjoy the irony of Lebanese politics.

LEBANON: WITH DAS HALE, MIKATI CALLS HIZBALLAH A “TUMOR” NEEDING REMOVAL
2008 December 19, 15:08 (Friday)
08BEIRUT1773_a
CONFIDENTIAL
CONFIDENTIAL
— Not Assigned —
(b) and (d). SUMMARY
——-
1. (C) Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati told visiting NEA DAS Hale and the Ambassador that Sunni leader Saad Hariri, with whom Mikati acknowledged seeking an electoral alliance, would win the Tripoli district in Lebanon’s 2009 parliamentary elections. Mikati said he would refuse the position of prime minister absent backing of the Sunni population and acknowledged that Hariri would likely be Lebanon’s next prime minister. On President Sleiman, Mikati expressed concern that the LAF and the Maronite Patriarch — traditional stalwarts of support for the president — were not 100 percent behind Sleiman. DAS Hale emphasized the need to support Sleiman — who has proven himself independent-minded and supportive of UNSCR 1701 and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon — despite imperfect conditions.
2. (C) Describing Hizballah several times during the December 18 meeting as a “tumor,” Mikati said the group’s mini-state must be removed in order to preserve Lebanon. He noted that diplomatic relations with Syria were purely “cosmetic” but argued better relations with Lebanon’s neighbor provided the GOL space to counter Hizballah. Hale agreed that relations between the two sovereign neighbors was important, but must be based on mutual respect and non-interference. Mikati opined that Hizballah’s ultimate goal in Lebanon was to create an Iranian military base on the Mediterranean from which Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution could be carried to the west. Mikati called Russia’s recently-announced gift of MIG-29 fighter planes “strange.” End summary.
“BLOOD OF HARIRI” STILL IN TRIPOLI
———————–
3. (C) In a December 18 meeting with visiting NEA DAS David Hale and the Ambassador, accompanied by NEA/ELA Desk Officer Matthew Irwin and Econoff, former Prime Minister Najib Mikati said he expected the 2009 parliamentary elections to be tough only in certain areas, specifically the Metn, west Bekaa, and Zahle. Akkar and Mina would go entirely to Hariri, Mikati assessed. He acknowledged that “because I exist,” there will be a fight in Tripoli. However, Mikati — who described himself as not a “man of fighting” — said “the blood of (assassinated former Prime Minister Rafiq) Hariri still exists” in Tripoli and Saad Hariri would take the electoral district. DAS Hale noted that Lebanon’s independence was a priority for the U.S.
4. (C) Mikati expected 70 percent of the Tripoli population would back Hariri; the other 30 percent Mikati described as those whose votes are for sale. While admitting he had no desire for a slot for himself on the Hariri list, Mikati said he was trying to join forces with Hariri. Mikati said he could not go against the popular sentiment in the north favoring Hariri. On northern Lebanon’s other major Sunni politicians, Mikati said he had heard Minister of Economy and Trade Mohammed Safadi was trying to build bridges to former Prime Minister Omar Karami.
NO PM POST WITHOUT SUNNI BACKING
———————————
5. (C) On post-election cabinet scenarios, Mikati assessed that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was “expired.” Describing Siniora as a friend whom he respects, Mikati, nonetheless, said Siniora should take a break from the position. Mikati tallied a checklist to determine Hariri’s potential as prime minister. He assessed Hariri wanted the slot but wondered whether Saudi Arabia wanted Hariri in the post. Mikati offered a hesitant yes to his own rhetorical question on Hariri’s capabilities for the position. The job was challenging; the person chosen would need to build the state
BEIRUT 00001773 002 OF 003
again, Mikati said. According to Mikati, Hariri is the most likely candidate for prime minister after the 2009 elections.
6. (C) Responding to a question about the prime minister post in the event of a March 8 victory, Mikati said he would refuse the position under the circumstances because he would not be representing the Sunni population. Citing the unsuccessful governments of Salim Hoss and Omar Karami, Mikati said becoming prime minister without the full support of the Sunni community would always result in failure. Mikati said he was “not ready to fail.” He mentioned former Prime Minister Abdul-Rahim Mrad as a potential PM in a March 8-dominated government. DAS Hale acknowledged the need for Sunni backing of any prime minister — who is the highest Sunni representative in government — and stressed the importance of avoiding candidates such as Mrad in the post.
HESITATION ON SLEIMAN
———————
7. (C) Describing President Michel Sleiman as quiet and unchallenging, Mikati said he had not yet seen in Lebanon the results of Sleiman’s efforts, domestically or from his many trips abroad. However, Mikati assessed Sleiman was trying to demonstrate his wisdom and judgment before serving as arbitrator, the traditional role of Lebanon’s presidents. According to Mikati, once Sleiman is arbitrator, he can govern. Nonetheless, Mikati described as “worrisome” a December 17 conversation with Sleiman in which the President said his job was easier than what he had expected. Mikati told DAS Hale and the Ambassador he had counseled Sleiman to create strong state institutions to counter Hizballah’s mini-state.
8. (C) The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Maronite Patriarch, traditional strongholds of presidential support, are not stalwartly pro-Sleiman, according to Mikati. He described the LAF as polarized toward March 8 with most officers supporting Hizballah and opposition Christian leader Michel Aoun. Mikati described Sleiman as unsure he had the LAF’s full support. Fear of fracturing the army had probably also prevented then LAF Commander Sleiman from taking any drastic decision between 2005 and 2008, Mikati said.
9. (C) On the traditional buttress of support for the president from the Patriarch, Mikati ceded that Sfeir was “not in love with Sleiman.” DAS Hale opined, however, that despite these concerns President Sleiman seemed to recognize he had more room for maneuvering than his predecessor. Sleiman had demonstrated support for Lebanon’s independence, adherence to UNSCR 1701, and progress on the Hariri tribunal, DAS Hale said. Despite his operating in an imperfect situation, President Sleiman still deserved support.
HIZBALLAH: A “TUMOR” IN THE STATE ———————–
10. (C) Mikati, speaking as a “statesman,” argued Lebanon could not survive with a Hizballah mini-state. Regardless of his personal views on the group, Mikati said he was expecting Hizballah to bring Lebanon to a “sad ending.” He assessed that Hizballah was just like a tumor that, whether benign or malignant, must be removed. While acknowledging weakening the group would take time, DAS Hale agreed that a non-state entity with the power of creating war and peace in Lebanon was tremendously dangerous. He supported enacting multiple policies and employing multiple tools to confront the group and to make Hizballah’s backers see more liabilities in their support than assets. Continuation of the National Dialogue would also help counter Hizballah.
11. (C) On Hizballah’s goals in Lebanon, Mikati assessed Iran was using the group to create a military base on the Mediterranean. Ayatollah Khomeini’s goal to export the Islamic revolution to the west required a launching point, which, according to Mikati, is Lebanon. This goal will take time but Hizballah is patient, he said. DAS Hale told Mikati that peace with Israel was the most direct way to counter
BEIRUT 00001773 003 OF 003
such intentions. Mikati agreed that peace with Israel would be a “happy ending,” but questioned whether Syria would make an agreement without Iranian permission.
12. (C) Mikati expressed doubt that upcoming parliamentary elections, regardless of a March 14 or opposition victory, would change Lebanon’s tumorous “reality.” DAS Hale stressed, however, that a Hizballah-dominated government would significantly change the country’s internal situation and potentially the U.S. stance toward the GOL. DAS Hale emphasized preservation of a pro-independence cabinet, even if not all the ministers are March 14.
“NEUTRALIZE” SYRIA THROUGH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
—————————
13. (C) Mikati called diplomatic relations with Syria “cosmetic,” but important. He emphasized the need to keep Lebanon’s interests a priority, but assessed that “neutralizing” the Syrian track made completing work simpler in Lebanon. While acknowledging the need for good state-to-state relations between the neighbors, DAS Hale said Syria’s faction-based support of Lebanese politicians was unacceptable. Noting the visits of Lebanon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior, and LAF Commander, and the upcoming visit of Minister of Defense Elias Murr, Mikati assessed the Syrians had chosen the particular “island” of coordination they sought in Lebanon. Mikati argued that neutralizing Syria would enable the GOL to “gain time” on Hizballah.
CONCERNED ABOUT GOL DEBT
————————-
14. (C) Responding to DAS Hale’s inquiry about the state of the Lebanese economy, Mikati said that, looking at loans from commercial banks, the Lebanese economy was doing well. However, Mikati expressed concern about government debt –projected to reach $9.5 billion next year — held in commercial banks. He argued some of the short-term government loans should be negotiated to long-term loans. Additionally, a shortage of transfers from abroad could cause liquidity problems in Lebanon. The transfer of dollars into Lebanese pounds — which yield much higher interest rates — would also reduce bank liquidity. However, Mikati expressed confidence in Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and his handling of the issues.
A “STRANGE” GIFT FROM THE RUSSIANS
———————————–
15. (C) Talking with the Ambassador before DAS Hale’s arrival, Mikati described the Russian gift of MIG-29 fighter planes — which received extensive local media coverage in recent days — as “strange.” He questioned whether Defense Minister Murr asked specifically for the planes or if the Russians had chosen independently to offer them. Mikati said the planes would be “impossible” to maintain and small helicopters would have been more useful for the LAF.
16. (C) Comment: Mikati clearly was presenting himself for our benefit as a foe of Hizballah, as he is looking forward to potential opportunities to return to the Prime Ministry. End comment.
17. (U) DAS Hale has cleared this cable.
SISON