Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea’s endorsement of Michel Aoun’s candidacy for the presidency is significant, especially since it will reveal whether those obstructing the process of electing a president intend to alter their stance.
Perhaps the most important aspect is that during their joint press conference, Geagea read a statement that Aoun does not believe in, which includes the principles of the March 14 coalition regarding the restoration of Lebanon’s freedom, independence and sovereignty. We cannot but welcome any Christian-Christian rapprochement in Lebanon, especially if there are guarantees to it, and if it contributes to ending the 19-month presidential vacuum.
During his long political and military career, Aoun has worked to become president at any cost. Has the former army commander now become interested in the national charter, and in limiting the possession of arms to legitimate powers, meaning the army and internal security forces?
We cannot but welcome any Christian-Christian rapprochement in Lebanon, especially if there are guarantees to it, and if it contributes to ending the 19-month presidential vacuum.Khairallah Khairallah
Aoun clapped for Geagea without listening to a word the latter said during their press conference, and without comprehending his statements. Aoun’s attention was focused on listening to Geagea’s endorsement of his candidacy for the presidency.
Geagea wants to reshuffle the deck in Lebanon by endorsing Aoun. He wants to respond to Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, who reached an agreement with former minister and current MP Suleiman Franjieh, who also wants to become president, and is a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Unlike Aoun, Franjieh has always stayed in a clear and known political path. At some point, he went far in being biased toward the Syrian regime. He had to make such statements, which he knew were only useful for domestic consumption. Franjieh never assumed the role of hypocrite, as others did.
LF members are believed to have murdered Franjieh’s father, mother and sister in 1978. Eyewitnesses said Geagea - who was part of the group, headed by Elie Hobeika - was allegedly injured on the way to the mission and transferred to hospital. Despite that, Franjieh reconciled with Hobeika, but remained a fierce rival of Geagea because this is what the Syrian regime wanted.
Hobeika moved from the Israeli bosom to the Syrian one, while Geagea maintained his known stances, including supporting the 1989 Taif agreement that ended the civil war, and dissolving the LF militia.
Geagea reached a deal with Aoun shortly before Amin Gemayel’s presidential term ended in Sept. 1988. Aoun did not respect the deal, which made him interim prime minister until a president was elected.
He limited his aspiration to eliminating the LF, which was still an armed militia, in the hope that this would convince Syria to make him president. Battles erupted between Aoun and Geagea between 1988 and 1990. Most Christians who fled Lebanon at the time did so due to these battles.
It is impossible for Aoun to change. Proof of this is that Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, Aoun’s heir and son-in-law, in essence, I believe, represented Iran during the last Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo. The aim of the meeting was to voice solidarity with Saudi Arabia after the burning of its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad. Bassil’s stance adds to Arab suspicions regarding Aoun’s inability to be outside Hezbollah’s tutelage.
Is this the man Geagea wants as president? Can Aoun retract his description of martyr Gebran Tueni as a “hired man?” Can he retract his justification of Hezbollah’s assassination of pilot Samer Hanna just because he flew an army helicopter above a zone over which Hezbollah claims exclusive control? Many other questions can be asked of Aoun.
The LF benefits from endorsing Aoun by knowing whether Hezbollah will allow a parliament session in which Franjieh and Aoun compete over the presidency. This question will be persistently asked in the coming days. The LF endorsement will overshadow the scandal over the military court’s release of Michel Samaha, who was convicted of transferring explosives from Syria to Lebanon and attempting to kill Lebanese in order to incite sectarian strife.
This article was first published in Middle East online on Jan. 20, 2016.
Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar's foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat's managing editor (1988-1998).
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