Lebanese Druze Leaders Divided on Syria

Article Summary
Druze leaders on each side of the Syrian conflict have met with top officials in Riyadh and Damascus to affirm support for their respective sides, writes Claire Chakar.

As soon as Walid Jumblatt’s procession entered the residence of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in Riyadh, [Druze politician] Talal Arslan’s car arrived at the Syrian presidential palace. This image of the meeting that was theoretically supposed to be held between King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and his Lebanese guest went missing in Riyadh. Instead, it was replaced by a Damascene version — one that joined together Emir Arslan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — even though the Syrian news agency Sana bizarrely decided not to publish the photos.   

This controversial scene doesn't shock to those who are familiar with the Syrian mentality — an eye for an eye. In fact, [Druze politician] Wiam Wahhab from Baakline was to address Jabal al-Druze in Syria and offered his assistance, even militarily, to its inhabitants. Wahhab’s words were the second response Jumblatt received regarding the Syrian crisis.

The Druze leader, however, chose Al-Arabiya TV to launch his soft campaign against the March 14 forces, before heading to the Saudi capital, where he was welcomed warmly. What follows is truly bizarre.

Many Future MPs searched in vain for reasons that might have pushed Jumblatt to precede his visit with a violent verbal attack against them. The modest program of the visit wasn't at all surprising to them. They thought it was natural for such a visit to begin and end in a way that went below Jumblatt’s expectations.

Elsewhere, the situation in Suwayda exploded. Wahhab continued his “mission” through refusing “Jumblatt’s approaches” to the revolution of the monotheistic Druze. Consequently, a crisis has broken out among the Druze in Lebanon after a period of peace. The point of debate related to the consensus on the unity of the Lebanese Jabal al-Druze.

Jumblatt said that, during his meeting with Prince Faisal and head of Saudi Intelligence Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, he felt “their deep concern for Lebanon and its stability.” He also sensed the kingdom’s “unwavering support for the Syrian people in their righteous battle to build a free and independent Syria.”

President of the Lebanese Democratic Party Arslan told As-Safir that “the Syrian president’s attitude reflected the comfort of Syria’s leaders at the situation having transpired in the way it has, both politically and otherwise. The Syrian army has settled the situation in most Syrian regions and has made remarkable advances. President Assad confirmed that the problems in Syria cannot be resolved except through dialogue. The political process has shown progress, and he is optimistic and hopes for the best, in spite of everything.”

Arslan added, “We have reaffirmed to President Assad the support of the Druze people for the unity of Syria’s people and lands and our national, Arab and patriotic values to protect this unity against all conspiracies. It is natural for us to defend the unity of Syria, of which the Druze constitute an integral part.”

Following Jumblatt’s visit to Saudi Arabia, he praised the Syrian revolution and “its legendary and epic bravery.” He specifically saluted the Druze province of Suwayda that reiterated its loyalty to its origins through the statement of its sheikhs, noting that “it does not need anyone from Lebanon or abroad to defend it or to publicly brag about imaginary acts of heroism.” Jumblatt’s words came as an indirect response to the Baakline meeting and to Wahhab’s speech, in which he expressed his readiness to fight alongside Suwayda’s citizens.

Wahhab was compelled to reply to Jumblatt’s stand, and he said that Suwayda “does not need anyone to defend it. Yet, it would have been better off without the accusations against its youths of being Shabiha — an accusation that harmed it and its inhabitants equally. The town did not need to praise a criminal who was preparing to kill its inhabitants and bomb public institutions. It did not need the wave of provocations directed against it and its prominent sheikhs. Briefly, Suwayda did not need to be traded. For all these reasons, we have taken the decision to support its inhabitants since the beginning. They decide their fate, and we support them. Others wanted to take the decision on behalf of the town’s inhabitants but were faced with strong rejection. Since the beginning, we have refused to involve Suwayda in our own interests.”

Jumblatt reiterated his criticism for the stance of Hezbollah and Iran regarding the Syrian crisis. He said that “the Baabda declaration and the principles set by President Michel Suleiman are the right way to redirect the arms. This will protect the arms from getting lost in Syria's al-Qusayr region or elsewhere and will prevent erasing the memory of the resistance’s honorable sacrifices.” He added that “the purpose of arms in Lebanon has become clear, and they should only be used for Lebanese goals, mainly to defend the country.” Jumblatt also called on Iran to “change its biased politics in supporting a regime that is bound to fall, sooner or later."

Found in: syrian revolution, syrian crisis, syrian, druze

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