Lebanon News

Hariri will do what’s best for Lebanon

BEIRUT: Political sources were asked about the speeches by several lawmakers during this week’s Parliament sessions that reported the Sunni community in the country was feeling frustrated, especially given that Prime Minister Saad Hariri – himself a Sunni leader – heads the largest parliamentary bloc. The sources said that Hariri has not and will not go back on his political stances and values, and that the prime minister would not endear himself to Hezbollah. “He will not change his stance on Syria nor will he change his rhetoric on Iran, and he will not hesitate in the least to defend his relationship with Saudi Arabia, which never delayed its support for [Lebanon],” one source told The Daily Star.

The source added that Hariri has been playing the role of “true statesman” since he assumed the role of prime minister after President Michel Aoun was elected on Oct. 31, 2016.

“He is the head of a unified Cabinet [that puts aside] political differences at a time when the region is in a dangerous and poor state. Hariri is trying to turn corners ... without any losses,” the source said.

Sources also pointed out that Hezbollah and Hariri were on the same page in this regard, because they both knew the dangers of the deterioration of the Lebanese situation and the difficult and complex circumstances surrounding the country.

In this context, sources said that there was no value to the claims made by some MPs and former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi. The former head of the Internal Security Forces was a longtime ally of the Hariri family but has launched attacks on the Future Movement under the leadership of Hariri and what he claims is “subordination” to Hezbollah and the Iranian regime.

The sources said that these speeches were being made for the sake of the upcoming elections but they do not produce stability or security nor do they protect the economy. An example of the stability can be seen on the streets of the capital of the north, Tripoli.

After the 21 bloody rounds in recent years of fighting that some of those making populist speeches were involved in instigating, the city is now enjoying a prolonged period of calm and stability.

The same sources said they consider the ongoing calm as being due, in large part, to Hariri’s realistic stances as well as the positive positions of Hezbollah and the role of Speaker Nabih Berri.

Meanwhile, sources close to Hariri have said that those who are making claims that Hariri’s Sunni sect is frustrated have already let go of their values in order to reach power, while others use the excuse that Hariri steered away from the values of his slain father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Playing down fears that the current “political understanding” between the president and the prime minister will fizzle out due to Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil’s recent vocal stances, sources said Hariri would not allow it.

“Despite Bassil’s ambitions, which are now publically known to be very big, Hariri will continue to absorb Bassil’s actions because if he doesn’t Lebanon could return to its days of instability as witnessed from 2005 to 2016,” a source said.

“This will negatively impact Lebanon and the entire region.”

Hariri assumed the role of prime minister following the assassination of his father, before his government was toppled while he was walking into a meeting with then U.S.-President Barrack Obama in 2011.

Following sharp divides in the now-defunct March 8 and March 14 movements, in 2011 Hariri went into self-imposed exile, between France and Saudi Arabia, due to security concerns.

He returned shortly before assuming the role of prime minister last year.

Many saw his endorsement of Aoun for the presidency as an about-face and a move to align himself with a very outspoken critic of the Future Movement.

Regarding the rhetoric against Hariri by some supporters in predominantly Sunni communities such as Sidon and Tripoli, Rifi was one of the first to distance himself from the premier.

Saudi Arabia also noticeably distanced itself from Hariri and the Lebanese state at the time, despite various reports to the contrary, including the freezing of a $4 billion grant to the Lebanese Army and security apparatuses.

However, the kingdom and other Gulf states have been quick to show their renewed support for Lebanon under Hariri’s government since the start of the year, as seen with Saudi Arabia filling the yearlong vacancy of ambassador in Beirut.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 20, 2017, on page 2.

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