Michel Aoun: Lebanon 'paralyzed' by Syria war

Article Summary
In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of Lebanon’s Free Patriotic Movement, blames Saudi Arabia for the deadlock in Lebanese politics.

RABIEH, Lebanon — Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the second largest bloc in Lebanon’s parliament, blames the Lebanese government for not closing its borders early on to terrorists and weapons from Syria.

“Lebanon is paralyzed right now because of the Syrian problem,” Aoun said in an exclusive interview at his home in Rabieh.

“The problem of Tripoli, of the northern borders, of Arsal, before in Saida — it was a mistake that our government — the prime minister — didn’t take any decision about them. He said to get far away from the Syrian war. We said OK, that’s right. But he left the borders of Lebanon open for the trafficking of weapons, for sending — well, not militias, the terrorists — from the port of Tripoli to the north of Syria as to install a line of logistics to Arsal, and then to the Qalamoun region.

“So this situation generated the conflict right now with Hezbollah, with the others,” he said. “It was a big mistake.”

Also read

Aoun, who was forced to leave Lebanon in 1990 after leading the unsuccessful “liberation war” against Syrian occupation forces and could not return until after the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, has since allied the FPM with Hezbollah in the “March 8” political alliance.

Aoun explained Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syria war as the consequential spillover of the conflict because of Lebanon’s fractious politics and porous borders.

“It was a response, you know, to the activities of the people, of the Future Movement. And I think you know, militarily, [Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah] has done a good thing. He pushed the battle to the Syrian territory. It was about to start in the Lebanon territory between Arsal and Hermil, and those are Sunni and the others are Shiite, and so it will be … extended to the Bekaa Valley,” he said.

Aoun predicted that the Syrian army and Hezbollah will soon defeat rebel forces.

He said: “Right now, he is fighting with the Syrian army to finish with the east side of the mountain between Lebanon and Syria. And they have maybe one week, two weeks, and they will finish with them,” especially with winter and snow approaching.

Aoun blamed Saudi Arabia for Lebanon’s political stalemate, saying, “We don’t have a government right now because [director-general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency Prince] Bandar [Bin Sultan] doesn’t want it.”

Aoun dismissed the capabilities of jihadist forces fighting in Syria as fully dependent on foreign support. He said, “The jihadists are not true forces, you know, by themselves. They are helped by money, by weapons, by many things. They have everything from outside. Without being helped by others, they will not be very strong.”

Aoun welcomed the “joint plan of action” signed Nov. 24 between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany as potentially affecting Iran-Hezbollah-Israel relations in Lebanon.

“It’s much better,” Aoun said. “We need less nuclear weapons, and I think the problem will be also discussed with Israel in the future, when they have more confidence in both sides.”

“I think Iran was using Hezbollah to make pressure on Israel. When the problem is settled up, the Iranians don’t need Hezbollah anymore. Certainly they will have good relations — it doesn't harm us. We would like to have good relations with everybody. But as a normal choice, Iran — I don’t think they will spend enough money to maintain this force, because it is very expensive.”

Aoun said peace between Lebanon and Israel will follow peace between Israel and Syria, adding, “When Israel has to leave the Golan Heights so this Shebaa Farms will be transferred to Lebanon. “I always said, it’s not a problem with Israel. The problem must be regulated with Syria.”

Asked about the US role in Lebanon, Aoun said, “The situations have changed, the political situation has changed and the persons changed, too, and the political view of the US, maybe, changed now.”

“Everybody has to evolve,” he said. “We have to adapt ourselves to a new situation. All politics, all the time is dynamic. It’s not something rigid, fixed, static.”

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:

  • The award-winning Middle East Lobbying - The Influence Game
  • Archived articles
  • Exclusive events
  • The Week in Review
  • Lobbying newsletter delivered weekly
Found in: syrian civil war, saudi arabia, politics, parliament, lebanon-syria border, lebanese-syrian relations, internationalization of the syrian conflict

Andrew Parasiliti is president and chief content officer of Al-Monitor. He previously served as director of RAND’s Center for Global Risk and Security and international marketing manager of RAND’s National Security Research Division; editor of Al-Monitor; executive director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies-US and corresponding director, IISS-Middle East; a principal at the BGR Group; foreign policy advisor to US Senator Chuck Hagel; director of the Middle East Initiative at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and director of programs at the Middle East Institute.  He received his Ph.D. from the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; an M.A. from the University of Virginia; and a B.A., cum laude, from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He is an adjunct political scientist at RAND and a member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and the Virginia Club of New York. 

Next for you

The website uses cookies and similar technologies to track browsing behavior for adapting the website to the user, for delivering our services, for market research, and for advertising. Detailed information, including the right to withdraw consent, can be found in our Privacy Policy. To view our Privacy Policy in full, click here. By using our site, you agree to these terms.