Saudi Grounds Hariri: Back to the Screen
By: Maysam Rizk
Published Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is becoming weary of his Saudi hosts. If it was up to him, he would return on the next flight to Lebanon. But it is not the security threat that worries him or that his financial crisis limits his choices. The Saudis want him to stay where he is.
Hariri does not want to remain hosted by the Saudis any longer, realizing that running the Future Movement remotely is useless. However, the guest who chose Jeddah as a place to shun his opponent who removed him from power does not have a choice. His only choice is to return to Lebanon.
But the requests of the formerly spoiled son are are being ignored by the guardians. Members of the royal family, who are "concerned" about his life, recently raised the number of his personal guards. This was understood by Hariri to mean his "vacation" is not over yet.
The message was in reply to Hariri's wish to return to Lebanon as soon as possible. "He no longer believes that security justifications should bar him from returning to Wadi Abu-Jamil," said a source. But the Saudis were saying, "You will not return to Lebanon as long as Saudi is not there."
Some in the Future Movement are speaking about "the Saudis lifting its hands off Lebanon." Some of them say, "The country where Saudi does not pay, it does not rule." More clearly, "The country where Saudi removes its feeding hand is no longer on its political agenda."
"The Kingdom is busy elsewhere, in Syria, Egypt ... but not Lebanon. Not because it does not entice their tourists, but because the fruits of their politics can be grown somewhere else."
"How could a country as big as Saudi Arabia put Lebanon on its priority list, while it goes through a delicate period? It allowed its Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad al-Assiri to take a two-month vacation."
News about banning Hariri from returning to Lebanon deserves attention in the Future Movement. According to the sources, the news, "for those who do not know its magnitude, is not a simple thing. As indicated, it is based on a general report, whose main points reached Hariri before it was seen by those concerned in Lebanon."
Away from Saudi ears, Hariri managed to complain to the delegation visiting him in Jeddah recently about the thrust of the message. He had hoped the evaluation of his politics and that of his movement would take place in Beirut.
The irony, according to Future Movement partisans, is that "Hariri is no longer convinced of the security threats against him and does not consider the financial crisis in his company (Saudi Oger) … to be enough reason to remain alienated from his audience any further."
Only the Saudis want this. In his retreat with the MPs, Hariri did not hide his longing to return to directing the affairs of the Future Movement by himself, not Mouin Merhebi, Khaled al-Daher, or anyone else.
The song, "You Went Away but Your Soul Will Never Be Absent," chanted by his supporters in Martyr's square no longer soothes his heart, no matter how much it is repeated. He cannot be optimistic about "the promise that was made for him, vowing to continue with his path and that of his martyred father." However, the heir is aware that songs do not necessarily represent reality. His audience in Lebanon is dancing to another tune.
A while ago, questions were raised in the Future Movement about the absence of Ramadan iftar banquets this year, which used to be an opportunity to meet the “zaim,” or leader, since the days of Rafik Hariri, until they were neglected by his son two years ago.
Members of the Future Movement are not demanding banquets so they can eat. It is a desire to meet their "loved one," even from afar.
This time, Hariri quickly answered their request. On Friday, he will appear live on screen during six iftar banquets organized by the movement in Beirut, Tripoli, and Saida. He will be speaking about issues related to the Lebanese situation and the Arab region in general, including the government and the dialogue called by President Michel Suleiman. He will also be speaking about the EU decision to place Hezbollah on its terrorism list, in addition to the situation in Syria.
Despite the intensive meetings with Future Bloc MPs in Jeddah and the discussions that lasted for days, it not clear yet what Hariri will be saying. He is now listening to the "advice" of Hani Hammoud, Bassem al-Sabe, and Ghattas Khoury.
Regardless of the attitude conveyed by the delegation between Riyadh and Beirut, who refused participation in a government that includes Hezbollah and rejected dialogue before a government was even formed, prominent parliamentary sources maintained that "Hariri's discourse will be reconciliatory."
He does not have an initiative toward the other side. However, "he does not want to be confrontational when announcing his positions." He will use a soft voice when describing his feelings, as some people in his movement advise him.
The same sources also claim that "he did not use an exclusionary tone when speaking to the delegation." On the question of the government, for example, "he did not say he rejected the participation of Hezbollah in the government, he spoke about his objection to the participation of all political forces in the government."
The Future Movement's concerns about the government "are not about participation, but the 'blocking third' and the equation saying 'the people, the army, and the resistance.'"
As for the dialogue, Hariri and his movement are hiding behind the president. "It is true that Hezbollah is busy inside Syria, but this should not stop them from discussing the defense strategy, which is now more complicated but necessary."
What's important is that Hariri will not be able to fulfill his desire or his audience's wishes. They will enjoy iftar together next week through a satellite link. This is what the Saudi Kingdom wants.
Nevertheless, "his return is near, but there is no set date," he maintained to the delegation. However, it is certain that the rulers of his first home – Saudi Arabia – are weakening him more than any other internal or external party.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.