Hariri’s return: A settlement or an aggravation of the situation?

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Former prime ministers Fouad Siniora (L) and Saad Hariri (R) meet at the Grand Serail after Hariri's return to Lebanon. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Monday, August 11, 2014

Saad Hariri is back, and people are already betting on a number of opportunities.

Why did he return? Who asked him to return? Is he staying for good, or just to complete the mission of spending the one billion dollars Saudi Arabia granted to the Lebanese army? Does his return imply an imminent political settlement? What about his concerns about the increasing powers of Salafi movements close to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS)? Does he worry about his position as a leader of the Future Movement being usurped by people within his party? Does the status of March 14 now depend on his presence? What about his wishes to retrieve his post as prime minister? Will he be bringing up controversial issues against a certain party in March 8? Is he assigned to launch an explosive campaign against Hezbollah internally? There are many questions that are a reflection of the country’s status-quo on multiple levels.

Up until this moment, it seems rather possible to answer some of these questions.

Saudi Arabia is once again establishing Saad Hariri as its representative in Lebanon, its sole candidate to lead its supporters within the Sunni community, and as a focal point for its relations with all stakeholders in Lebanon. Prime Minister Tammam Salam and the Future Movement’s representatives inside the government cannot deal with sensitive issues, including the security and military situation, by themselves. Therefore, as long as Saudi’s support has a political agenda that involves the presidency as well as security and military leverage, Saad Hariri will remain the only man for the job.

The Future Movement is ecstatic over its leader’s return. The party was paralyzed and threatened to break down [internally]. There were no committees to activate the Future Movement’s work, while the family depended on Saad’s decisions, even from Paris. No doubt, the party has been wracked by so many problems, especially in Saida, Tripoli and central Bekaa. Also the Future Movement is having financial troubles that hindered all of Hariri’s projects, and the month of Ramadan was scandalous for a party that was actually founded on the principle of “charity."

Putting these obvious answers aside, the situation as a whole is now up to speculation. Until this moment, Hariri has not been quoted as saying anything surprising, whether it is political or non-political. On the contrary, it seems that the legislative elections will not be taking place as scheduled, while the salaries and ranks scale is still being contested and the presidency is up for grabs.

Meanwhile, issues related to the repercussions of the Syrian crisis will not be treated outside the bigger picture, meaning that there will be no Lebanese solution for any problem linked to the crisis in Syria, which has been proven by the repeated rhetoric of holding Hezbollah responsible for what is happening.

It is not expected from Hariri, Saudi Arabia, and others to make revisions that would lead to substantial amendments in their positions, like what Walid Jumblatt did. Maybe the latter has his own calculations that give him a certain margin to say what he said about the roles of ISIS and Hezbollah in Syria.

Hariri, however, now comes to realize that in light of the confrontations that took place in Ersal between the army and Salafi militants, a segment of the population very close to the Future Movement, often described as “independent,” has asked something they would have never asked before, a question that also carries a demand, i.e. “why doesn’t Hezbollah support the army in Ersal?”

Of course, this matter remains debatable. The army command announced that it does not need any support from Hezbollah, although some field officers did just that in the first few hours of the fights.

While Hezbollah does not interfere in such matters because it already knows what it has to do, it was in fact present to prevent the Lebanese army from collapsing under the attacks of militants.

Hezbollah is also aware that assisting the army in Ersal is not very desirable, since people would depict it as if Sunnis were being attacked by Shia.

However, like in Syria, we do have to admit, without belittling the role played by the LAF and security forces, that Hezbollah actually plays a central and decisive role in the fight against ISIS and its affiliated groups. This is no exaggeration and anyone aware of the reality on the ground is well aware of this fact.

Because this issue is currently the most prominent on the Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi, Egyptian, Libyan, and even Pan-Arab levels, the real questions that should be asked about Hariri’s visit to Lebanon are: Has the Future Movement become ready to assume its responsibilities in this battle? Has it decided to engage in the face of this devastating current (ISIS) that would ruin it before anyone else? Or is it that the Future Movement, and whoever is behind it, is still a prisoner of trivial interests, such as those mentioned by its spokesmen, or in the texts of its writers, or which appear in the conduct of its media, where time has stopped in the middle of March 2011?

If what is reported by Arab and Western diplomats is true, i.e. that panic prevails in the oppressive palaces, kingdoms and emirates in the Arabian Peninsula, and that their cry is deafening the ears of their allies in the region, including the Future Movement, then what should be monitored is the way all of this will be accommodated by the Future Movement in Lebanon; and whether it would apply to the media, politicians and clerics allied with it.

However, past experiences, and what is happening in Iraq, Palestine and Egypt, pose a need to act with great caution. The possibility that Hariri would be willing to aggravate the situation in Lebanon, with the Syrian crisis as a backdrop, and offer steps that lead to political suicide accompanied by the blood of many, is something to be taken very seriously. This is what we should be worried about!

Ibrahim al-Amin is the Editor-in-Chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


Saudi Arabia has shown all along that its is a politically powerless country. It only has money and it uses proxies to try to reach itsr military and political goals. The problem is that the proxies are uncontrollable and the goals are shifting everyday.
- They want to oppose Iran and the Shia's influence in the region. So they fight against Hezbollah.
- They want to take revenge on Bashar al Assad who has been repeatedly humiliating them, so they finance Al Qaeda
- They want to get rid of the Moslem Brotherhood in the region as it threatens their position. They jail them in Egypt.
-They want to counter Qatar and Turkey that have been trying to take a leading political and religious role in the region.
- They want to preserve their role in Lebanon and in Egypt as they have lost it in Syria.
- Lastly they now want to curb ISIS that they have stupidly encouraged and financed in Syria and Iraq

In my view, looking at their political achievements in the last decades, they are not up to these tasks, and whatever they do is bound to fail as they have been failing everywhere they intervened.
Therefore the return of Saad Hariri is more a source of anxiety as he is not at the level of the tasks ahead. Unless he makes a U-turn toward Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, my hunch is that he will go back home ( Paris and Ryad) within a year

Dear Mr Amin, Sir, you have too much expectations from Saad Harriri, he is nothing but a stooge and a puppet..Harriri was never in self imposed exile..he was being "Ordered" to leave Lebanon and was being "ordered" to stay away from Lebanon like a little dog..he is a spineless coward and traitor..if his father could come back he would strangle him to death

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