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On Aoun’s most difficult task

Turki Aldakhil

Published: Updated:

In 1990, Lebanese General Michel Aoun escaped from Baabda with 20 of his aides in two armored vehicles as the shelling by Syrian warplanes intensified. These interesting details were narrated by former French ambassador to Lebanon Renee Ala. Aoun’s destination was the French embassy. After fleeing Baabda, Aoun announced through a radio broadcast that the soldiers must adhere to the orders of then army commander-in-chief Emile Lahoud. Afterwards, the French intelligence coordinated a complicated plan to get Aoun out of Lebanon following the bloody wars which were destined to go on although the general had wanted otherwise.

He spent 15 years in Paris. Those close to him say he’s fond of reading and a believer in secular principles as he’s drawn a dream for the state of Lebanon in his mind. He returned from exile in 2005 as part of a big settlement in Lebanon following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The return was met with thunderous applause. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said Aoun’s return to Lebanon was like a “tsunami.” However the transformation was in his visit to Syria and alliance with Hezbollah. Meanwhile, he continued to attack the Taif Agreement. Given all this, separating from the March 14 coalition was a must.

The biggest affair which Aoun must address is that of the struggle between the “state” and those who desire the state of “no state.”

Turki Aldakhil

He was elected president last week. His oath included a major shift in his path and he focused on the concept of the state. For the first time ever, he adopted the Taif Agreement and voiced the importance of its implementation while reminding of Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty and importance of distancing it from the crises in its surrounding countries. All these are essential and necessitated by any real and actual activity that aims to revive the hierarchy of the state in Lebanon and to restore whatever is left of its institutions.

With the end of the presidential vacuum, the Taif Agreement triumphed again. It’s as if the scene repeated itself when the members of parliament boarded a plane from the Kleiat Airport - as Beirut’s Airport was not safe at the time - to go to Saudi Arabia in the late 80’s. This is when they sealed the Taif Agreement, the first nucleus towards rebuilding the state. After signing it, Lebanon lived through its most prosperous phases on the economic and developmental levels since the independence.

The series of assassinations and obstructing the election of a president were attempts by the Syrian-Iranian axis to wipe out the Taif Agreement and establish a constituent assembly that leads Lebanon to become like Iran and so Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, becomes the supreme guide of the Islamic republic in Lebanon.

Aoun’s oath

Saudi Arab Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan’s recent visit to Lebanon had a distinctive mark on the history of relations with Lebanon, the country which Saudi kings since the days of King Faisal and up until the era of King Salman have looked after and which Saudi Arabia will not give up on. However, in exchange, the Saudi kingdom wants two major things: to maintain the Taif Agreement considering it’s a guarantee of Lebanese civil peace and confirming Lebanon’s Arabism. Both these points were noted in Aoun’s oath. The biggest difficulty in implementing this lies in the fact that the president does not have many executive powers and that some may put spoke in the wheel like we’ve previously seen with some governments which were toppled overnight.

The biggest affair which Aoun must address is that of the struggle between the “state” and those who desire the state of “no state.”

Perhaps Aoun, who is in his 80’s and whose supporters call “everyone’s father,” can confront all parties considering the necessity to resume building the state and can decide the fate of struggles which Hezbollah is part of in Syria, Yemen and Gulf countries.

If Aoun is truly like his students say, a lover of France and its secularism and institutions and an admirer of its human rights philosophies, justice theories and civil society foundations, then this is his historical opportunity to apply what he read. If he does not implement the theories which he proposed to his disciples, who visited him while he was in France, during his current term as president, then his experience in governance will be tantamount to the “second escape” as he’d be escaping from confronting the parties which operate outside the context of the principle of the state.

German Philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote: “The state is the actuality of the ethical idea. It is the ethical mind the substantial will manifest and revealed to itself, knowing and thinking itself, accomplishing what it knows and in so far as it knows it.”

Lebanon today is in a dire need for actuality which always comes after the ethical idea. This is a reality that’s decided in Beirut, like in Paris or Beirut’s southern suburb where the general was born more than 80 years ago and which is a Hezbollah stronghold today.

This article was first published Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 08, 2016.
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Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

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