The Late Rise Of Michel Sleiman – Part II

Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman during his visit to Uruguay. ANDRES STAPFF / Reuters

Lebanon’s President Michel Sleiman during his visit to Uruguay.
ANDRES STAPFF / Reuters

I highly recommend that you take a look at part I

“President Michel Suleiman has said that the army-people-resistance formula can no longer be used for the new cabinet’s policy statement over Hizbullah’s involvement in the war in Syria, al-Liwaa newspaper reported on Wednesday.” (Link)

Not even 6 days passed since the first of August’s speech, and the president sent another political bomb against Hezbollah, in a week of show of force.

Perfect Regional Environment
One should never forget the President’s background. He’s the officer that became a general, the general that became president, and the president that was sworn into office after a Saudi-Iranian truce happened under Qatar’s Doha agreement in 2008 with Syria’s blessing. To ignore the timing of the president’s controversial speech would be a heresy. Iran changed a president last week,  Syria’s in pieces, while Egypt’s new revolution-coup is no more than a Saudi/Sisi/Army-Qatari/Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood competition. Not only are the regional allies fighting with their traditional rivals, they’re now also competing with each others or fighting a civil war on their own territories.
What kind of president thanks Qatar and foreign countries in his inaugural speech? (True story – check it out).
The one that depends on foreign countries for his rule. Once Syria is busy with its bloody conflict, Israel and the Palestinians are starting a new wave of negotiations for the first time since years, Qatar and Saudi eyes are on the 100 Million people Egypt rather than that small state the world calls Lebanon, and a new moderate president rises in Iran, it means that Sleiman is not only more independent and free than ever, it also means that this new status is desired by the regional leaders. Sleiman is no longer the result of an agreement between them, but rather the man who can put them on one table, the same way Chamoun was the link between Egypt and Iraq in the 1950s. Notice Sleiman’s meeting with the new Iranian president two days ago.
Bashar Al-Assad Who?
Approximately 1 year ago, Sleiman understood – after the Mikdad kidnappings events and their aftermath – that he was no longer in a position where he should ask the Syrians, but rather the opposite. It is Bashar Al-Assad who is in need, not Sleiman. You cannot deny that Lebanon is in Syria’s sphere of influence, provided that there is a Syria to speak of. Another similarity with the rule of Camille Chamoun: Chamoun took power in a decade where Syrian rulers were more interested in watching out for possible coups than in looking on the other side of the border. With no foreign intervention, and no direct Syrian tutelage, Sleiman might be the first president since decades who named a prime minister with no Syrian intervention.
Lebanon Doesn’t Fit Two Michels
In 1824, just before Emir Bachir II Chehab sent Bachir Jumblatt to be hanged, he told him a sentence that applies to the current situation: “الجبل ما بيحمل بشيرين” (The Mountain doesn’t fit two Bachirs). The March 8 alliance had better days, and Michel Aoun is more abandoned than ever. If there is someone who will be left out from a possible government, it might be him. The two generals are known to be rivals since the beginning of time, and now that one is sitting on a seat the other was eager to sit on, things only got worse. Wherever you find a General Michel, the other General Michel is on the opposite side. The times are rare when both of them stand together (The parliament’s extension was a very rare event), and now that one is deep down, it is far easier for the other to rise. You can add to that the fact that Samy Gemayel is very young, and Samir Geagea lost a part of his supporters after he turned against the Orthodox Gathering Law. The Christian population is getting more reluctant to its current traditional leaders, and Michel Sleiman is out there, gaining support of the daily defectors from the FPM and the LF.
Legitimacy Acquired
When Michel Sleiman was sworn-in, the Lebanese Forces refused to vote for him because he was elected in the aftermath of a special constitutional amendment that made it possible for the commander of the army to become president. Every time Sleiman wanted to do something, the FPM always accused him of not being legitimate because he was elected against one of the articles of the constitution. It’s not easy for a president to discuss controversial issues – let alone take decisions – if his legitimacy is questioned, but what if he became the most legitimate authority available? On the 20th of June 2013, Lebanon’s parliament terms expired. Even though the mandate was extended for 17 months, the president serving his normal mandate became by far more legitimate than the parliament, its members, and any government that will take their vote of confidence. The president can now speak more freely than ever, unafraid to be questioned in his legitimacy.
The Supreme Commander?
In Al-Akhbar’s Jean Aziz critique to the president’s speech, there is something very important to be noted: the commander of the army’s presence on the head of the armed forces is now depending on a ministerial decree than governmental approval . That makes the position of the commander very vulnerable with one result: The president, as a former commander of the army – and as the supreme commander of the armed forces – becomes a key player, especially that the army constitutionally answers to the government, that by the way does not exist anymore. Michel Sleiman suddenly has rather important military powers,  clearly having an impact on his political stances and speeches.
Also, look at the timing: Michel Sleiman becomes president on the 25th of May, the Liberation day, and his controversial speech comes on army day, one day after the weak ministerial extension of the army commander’s term. Tout est calculé.
Speak as you want of rocket-messages falling on Baabda and of the fact that the president moved against Hezbollah because of the EU ban, but all of that is details. The president is stronger because it’s the right time and the right place to show strength. While everyone was confused and taking one foot back, the president was the only one moving forward. That’s how and why he made that speech on the first of August, and confirmed it in today’s statement.
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2 comments

  1. No matter how much he exhibits power, an exiting President is of no value. A president that was not strong at the start of his term will never become the hero of the end of term. Extending his term will mar his image further than the stories of his family members did, their stinking stories kept as state secrets will soon be the stones and jars (not to mention tools like that of Montazar al Zeaidi and spitting) that will be thrown in the Presidents memory. It is a loud downfall because he did not preserve the “State” by keeping the “republic” filled with proper civil servants and allowed all executive and parliamentary offices working properly. He betrayed his military oath to preserve the flag and the republic for which its stands. What a shame! What a shame! what an unspoken of high treason!!!

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