Hariri – Hezbollah Gap Widening; Lebanon in the Eye of the Storm

gapinsyedheraiMohamad Shmaysani

The gap between Hezbollah and PM Saad Hariri’s Future Movement continues to deepen at this very delicate stage in Lebanon.

Formally announcing a deadlock could have to wait until the end of September, when the Saudi-Syrian-French effort to stop the country from sliding into the abyss, is expected to end.

Until now, there are no indications that point to progress in this regard.

The French Ambassador to Lebanon, Denis Pietton, was quoted Thursday by An-Nahar newspaper that “it’s not the end of the world if  some members of Hezbollah were indicted and that France would still deal with the party as a political entity represented in the government.”

Pietton indirectly declared the end to the French effort and that the indictment will eventually target Hezbollah.

“Pietton’s statement is not reassuring. It raises Hezbollah’s concerns and ours on the STL indictment,” Speaker Nabih Berri told As-Safir newspaper in remarks published Friday.

Although the tone of the political rhetoric has gone lower; most politicians agree that this is only the calm before the storm.

Warnings that an indictment by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) against Hezbollah in the Rafiq Hariri assassination case would mean war in the country, point that the chances of avoiding a clash – in whatever form – are very slim.

“The international decision of war in Lebanon has been taken, and this is what we all should understand,” Marada Party leader Sleiman Franjieh said during an interview on LBCI Thursday.

“If the STL brings sedition to the country why not abolish it?” he added.

In his interview, Franjieh found odd how Hariri can be convinced that the scenario that was schemed against Syria was not the same one plotted against Hezbollah.

He pointed that the STL had taken its information from Lebanese security apparatuses, “namely the Information Branch” adding that “the Branch’s chief Wissam el-Hasan told me once that he had information about the plotted scenario since 2006.”

Franjieh’s announcement implies that the STL is politicized, otherwise why were all accusations directed towards Syria – not Hezbollah – in the past five years?

“Hariri is a decent man and a victim of politics,” the Marada Party chief underlined.

In his most recent interview with the Saudi Sharq al-Awsat daily, Hariri acknowledged the existence of the false witnesses and said that accusing Syria [in the past five years] was wrong.

The PM however, stopped short of clearing Hezbollah’s name from the murder.

“Some of Hariri’s allies have harmed him through their statements on Syria and ties with Israel. Stances like these create tension and do not help in finding a solution,” Berri told As-Safir.

Hariri and Hezbollah have very limited, if no space at all left to maneuver. The prime minister says there is no compromise at the expense of the tribunal and Hezbollah will consider an indictment against it as a declaration of war. The party, however, has not announced its final stance on the STL, pending the end of September’s “grace period.”

“The report prepared by the Justice Minister [Ibrahim Najjar] on false witnesses is complete. Eventually, the Lebanese judiciary should start questioning those false witnesses,” Berri told An-Nahar daily in remarks published Friday.

Nevertheless, Hezbollah is prepared for the next level of its confrontation with the false witnesses’ issue, which the party regards as the key to the current solution and the fundamental element in redirecting the deluded STL investigation to uncover the truth behind martyr Hariri’s murder.


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