Hariri gives green light to dialogue with Hezbollah

Article Summary
Saad Hariri has finally approved a dialogue with Hezbollah, based on several new developments on the internal and regional levels.

Finally, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has officially endowed legitimacy on the foreseen dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, in the sense that he has practically materialized what has been theoretically raised nearly a month and a half ago, and what has been considered probable since then.

So, it is the start of an event that will overshadow the others (given their monotonousness and modesty) on the Lebanese arena, and will steal the spotlight and analysis for quite some time, just as the conflict between these two parties was the bedrock and cornerstone of the Lebanese political life cycle over more than eight years.

It is true that it is not the first time that the two parties sit face-to-face at the dialogue table. There are those who believe that dialogue between them is somehow held in parliament committees or at the national dialogue table, before it was thrown away at the end of President Michel Suleiman’s term. Lately, they had also held a dialogue and a political and administrative action in the government led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam. Yet, the direct and imminent dialogue between representatives of the two parties is a distinguished experiment and a completely different milestone in the convergence, communication and dialogue contexts between them. This dialogue comes following a series of negative events, where the break-off and hostility between the two parties reached an unprecedented level that placed them in a high degree of antagonism, altercation and belligerency. Some viewed that the alienation is irreversible and the war between them may last generations and will only come to an end once one of the parties strikes a fatal blow to the other.

The most prominent data are the following:

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  • The work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has started in The Hague, where the first product of its work is pointing accusations at five of the party’s military and security cadres, charging them with direct involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
  • Hezbollah brought down the first government of Saad Hariri the moment he entered the White House to meet with US President Barack Obama in 2011.
  • The Future Movement replied to the resounding slap that was given to its prominent symbol, with Hariri declaring an explicit war on Hezbollah’s resistance weapons, stripping it of legitimacy, and thus considering it a weapon that stirs up strife, in addition to rejecting any settlement that would preserve this weapon or bring it out of the mutual media and political war between them.
  • Later on, the Future Movement added another element to its open war on Hezbollah, following the involvement of the latter’s elite military groups along the line of the Syrian regime forces in the inflamed Syrian arena, and has raised the slogan calling for its immediate withdrawal from there as a precondition for any dialogue or political participation and any work to reduce internal tension. The Future Movement has gone too far in employing this issue, as it turned it into the main reason behind any security problem that took place in this or that area.
  • Finally, the Future Movement added another controversial title to activate its clash with Hezbollah, namely “the resistance brigades” phenomenon, by calling for its resolution, particularly since these brigades were Hezbollah’s beachhead, in order for it to cross into areas affiliated with “the Future Movement.”

Based on all these data and facts, the Future Movement chose to back down on the rupture and fierce hostility it has started with Hezbollah, to justify and legitimize the anticipated dialogue. Because of all these reasons, it needed a long introduction on the one hand, and lately it needed the direct statement of its prominent symbol on the other, to justify this dialogue.

The introduction has practically begun since the Future Movement agreed on coexisting with Hezbollah in one government, abandoning the condition that deprived it from political participation with Hezbollah as long as it was present in the Syrian field. Then, it was completed through a security communication channel between Hezbollah’s leaders and Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk. Yet, the biggest and clearest practical culmination was represented by Hariri’s TV appearance on Nov. 27, blessing the direct and open dialogue, which will probably lead to practical results and conclusions that will place the country on the threshold of a new phase.

The monitoring circles within Hezbollah have awaited this moment for a while now and are closely watching Hariri’s statements and justifications for the participation in the dialogue-event. Their biggest question is: What are the fundamental justifications that prompted Hariri to opt for dialogue at this particular stage, and what are the real objectives he seeks from this dialogue?

Naturally, these circles were not convinced by Hariri’s two justifications, which he was eager to market nearly a hundred times during his televised statement. The first justification is the supreme national interest, and the second is the risk of a Sunni–Shiite strife, and his eagerness to avoid it. Both justifications were not convincing for these circles, based on several things. First, although the national interest has always been present and pressing at every moment, and in particular since 2005, the Future Movement did not show enthusiasm for a dialogue. As for the risks of a sectarian strife, they have declined to the lowest level in the last four months, given the several developments and transformations, especially after the global war on terrorism. When the risks of a sectarian strife were at the highest level, Hariri and his movement negatively dealt with the calls of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, MP Walid Jumblatt and others, for opening communication and dialogue channels between the Future Movement and Hezbollah, given the role of Hezbollah and the Future Movement in cooling the tensions in order to prevent sectarian strife.

So, some in these circles view that there are other implicit reasons that prompted Hariri to approve on what he previously opposed or considered useless.

The same circles considered that what prompted Hariri to adopt this option are the following:

  • The Future Movement is materializing the recent conviction that it has to reconsider its path, approach and behavior in the latest stage, and reconsider its alliances and animosities and its handling and approach methods.
  • There is an urgent need for the Future Movement to embrace a new stage, whose features have begun to manifest and impose themselves; a stage which calculations and bets about the formally desired changes, especially at the regional level, are collapsing.

In addition, the Future Movement is required to adopt a different internal political behavior, since it has announced its involvement in the international coalition against growing terrorism that seeks to violate borders and cross countries.

In any way, the same circles consider that Hariri’s recent statement whereby he agreed on an open dialogue without any conditions is what Hezbollah waits for and is ready to respond to.

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Found in: sunni-shiite conflict, saad hariri, politics, national dialogue, lebanon, lebanese actors, hezbollah
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