Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1181, (23 - 29 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Al-Hariri’s peace gamble

In a surprising move, Saad Al-Hariri reaches out to Hizbullah. Unclear is whether the gesture is genuine or transitory, writes Hassan Al-Qishawi in Beirut

Al-Ahram Weekly

Despite continuing tensions in Lebanon, prospects of reconciliation received an unexpected boost with the announcement by Saad Al-Hariri, former prime minister and leader of the Future Movement, that he was prepared to join with Hizbullah in a government of national unity.
What makes the announcement all the more surprising is that Al-Hariri made it right after attending a session of the trial over the assassination of his father, Rafik Al-Hariri, held by the International Criminal Court. The primary suspects in the assassination, being tried in absentia, are Hizbullah operatives.
Hizbullah, for its part, is not averse to the idea. The Shia group, largely criticised for its involvement in the Syrian civil war, has exercised restraint in its public statements of late. Its public reaction to the suicide bombing that targeted one of its strongholds, the town of Hermel, was astonishingly muted.
Other Lebanese politicians, included the hot-tempered General Michel Aoun, considered to be Hizbullah’s sworn enemy, gave their blessing to the move. Lavishing praise on Saad Al-Hariri for his peace offering to Hizbullah, Aoun said he was pleased to see obstacles to the formation of the new government removed.
The improvement on the political scene didn’t have an immediate impact on the worsening security situation, however. Rockets were lobbed at several cities in apparent acts of sectarian tit-for-tat. The Shia town of Hermel, the Christian town of Ras Baalbek, and the Sunni town of Arsal all suffered considerable damage in what seemed to be random shelling.
In Arsal, nine people, including seven children, died when a rocket hit their house. Arsal inhabitants, known to be staunch supporters of the Future Movement, blamed Hizbullah for the attack. Hezbollah denied the accusations.
Remarkably, the Future Movement refrained from pointing the finger at Hizbullah, now its potential partner in government.
Not everyone in the Sunni community is pleased with this new direction of reconciliation on which the Future Movement has embarked.
Saad Al-Hariri came under fierce criticism from Sunni military leaders in Tripoli, who accused him of conspiring against the Sunnis.
In recent days, sectarian violence, featuring clashes between Sunnis and Alawites, broke out in Tripoli, a northern city that is Sunni dominated.
Future Movement leaders hinted that the violence was instigated by current Sunni ministers who are loath to lose their seats in the current caretaker government should reconciliation be reached.
The Syrian regime, meanwhile, is reportedly opposed to reconciliation between Hizbullah and the Future Movement. But Iran is said to have given its blessing to the move, which may help it redeem itself as a force of peace rather than turbulence in the region.
The Saudis, who have no love lost for Hizbullah, are also said to be favouring reconciliation.
Recently, Saudi Arabia has offered $3 billion to the Lebanese army to buy weapons from France, a move that was widely interpreted as an attempt to counter Hizbullah’s growing influence in the multi-ethnic country.
Years ago, Rafik Al-Hariri brought peace to Lebanon with the help of both the Saudis and the Syrians. Now it seems his son is entertaining a similar feat, but with the help of the Saudis and Iranians this time.
Writers connected with the pro-Hizbullah 8 March alliance have commended Al-Hariri for his recent overture. But it is not clear whether Al-Hariri’s move is intended to bring about long-term reconciliation in the country, or is a temporary measure to dispel the nightmare of sectarian violence that hovered over Lebanon since Hizbullah went into action in neighbouring Syria.

Firefighters try to extinguish the fires from suicide bomb blasts in the Hizbullah stronghold of Haret Hreika in predominantly Shia southern Beirut. The death toll is five and still rising. The tragic incident is not the first but it has shocked Lebanon and Lebanese politicians denounced the atrocity. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman condemned the incident noting that “violence only leads to violence”. Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Miqati urged officials to confront the ordeal and cooperate more closely against terrorism  
(photo: Reuters)

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