Lately, Suleiman Frangieh has been floated as a potential presidential candidate, and sources close to him believe that it's not far-fetched.
Although this talk is flattering and not offensive to the politician, Frangieh responded in line with his official stance on the presidential elections: “We are committed to our support to Gen. Michel Aoun. As long as he's a candidate, we support him. If his candidacy is withdrawn, all other choices and possibilities would be studies and we would then act accordingly.”
The attempts to raise the political stakes for Frangieh remained limited to mere media rhetoric and gossip fodder for political actors. Nothing tangible for Frangieh ever came of the talk.
Some believe that such talk will cause tension in the relationship between Aoun and Frangieh and plant seeds of mistrust. Frangieh, however, has unshakable principles: “We approach any talk with positivity. We cannot prohibit people from approaching us with positivity. However, we do not put this kind of talk under the category of attempting to jeopardize my relationship with Aoun because no one is able to shake this relationship.”
Away from fictional presidential stories that are crafted by those in the political backstage, Frangieh does not believe an imminent change to the presidential stalemate is likely. “Perhaps what it is required now is a large-scale settlement. The internal situation is facing an impasse, and external powers have no available initiatives. The Americans monitor the situation and give advice, but they did not show that they have any initiatives [of their own]. The French take steps occasionally, hoping to find a way out that would produce a president, but are faced with difficulties.”
According to Frangieh, this does not mean that the Lebanese should give up, especially the Christians. The latter must be aware of the potential to change the rules of the game and elect a strong president. Through this leader, according to Frangieh, Christians can restore their role, presence and existence as a main component in the country, and enhance their partnership in decision-making. Therefore, to accept the election of a moderate president is to let Christians down again, he argued.
The Christians should learn from the threat imposed by the Islamic State (IS) on some Christian and Muslim border villages. According to Frangieh, “The situation is worrying and dangerous, and not as easy [to fix] as some believe. We should look into the issue with objectivity and pragmatism.”
“Some are undermining the scale of the threat [of IS] and this is in itself dangerous. Some are dealing with it in a shallow way, as though it is happening on another planet and is only limited to Hezbollah. Maybe these people have not heard of the expression, 'Today I ate the food of the white bull.' We believe this threat is imminent. Caution and vigilance is advised. We should support the army. We trust the army and the resistance. If this organization sets foot in Lebanon, all the Lebanese will go into demise.”
Frangieh believes that all “minorities in Lebanon are threatened. The IS threat is significant and imminent and can quickly exacerbate. At any moment, the organization could plan incursions and adventures. The goal is to put Lebanon in jeopardy and deliver a blow to its diversity and its role in the Levant. Examples of this are numerous in Iraq and Syria. This is why we believe that the threat will affect not only Christians but other sects: Shiites and Sunnis. The latter may be the most affected.”
Frangieh is very optimistic about the dialogue between Aoun and Samir Geagea. “The dialogue in principle is welcomed and needed. We encourage it because it diffuses the internal tension. We have no other choice but to sit at the dialogue table and break down the tension that the affected parties may be trying to ignite. We support any dialogue that may bring comfort to the Christian community. When it comes to results, it is important not to rush. We should first see how far the dialogue can go, knowing that the placating of tension between the two parties is a positive step.”
Frangieh has the same optimism toward the dialogue between Hezbollah and the Future Movement, “because it gives a breather to the political environment, puts an end to the inflammatory sectarian rhetoric and creates a new dynamic in the country’s political life.”
Frangieh does not agree with those who say that Christians should be worried about the dialogue between Sunnis and Shiites because they decide on the Christian president. “I do not believe we should be concerned, or have doubts. We trust Hezbollah. The party is honest in its political dealings and Hezbollah would not agree on a president away from its Christian allies, not in public or behind closed doors. Saad Hariri will also not agree on a president away from his Christian allies.”
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