The media dispute that broke out within the Future Movement against the backdrop of Islamist detainees in Roumieh prison has become the focal point of attention for the [rival] March 8 camp. The dispute took central stage at the level of media and political circles and is closely correlated to internal affairs. The dispute represents a manifestation of a new phase of the Future Movement, [centering around getting] rid of a political-military heritage that dates back more than three years.
These circles know now that the Future Movement — since its leadership agreed to participate in the government with Hezbollah and sit at the dialogue table with the party — had to get rid of a long phase in its past, during which the movement opened secretive channels with groups in Tripoli and the north and used them for two purposes:
- Face Najib Miqati, who chose a delicate time to challenge the political equations that the Future Movement considered permanent, and to entrench a culture that would exclude the Future Movement from the rule.
- Use the issue of burgeoning extremists to threaten the rivals of the Future Movement, mainly amid the raging Syrian scene. As such, the Future Movement leadership took it upon themselves to manage the complicated and secretive game with extremist movements in Tripoli, until they became the face of this game and bore its consequences.
This is why the Future Movement leadership found itself in a very delicate and confused position when [it needed to dissociate] from extremist groups, especially after the waves of violence in Tripoli ended and the army started to carry out orders to cordon off terrorist cells and eradicate their current and potential risks.
The new dispute is the price that the Future Movement must pay. [It must] forcibly turn the leaf of the Tripoli phase and its relations with extremist groups, which the movement has always denied and considered any talk of it as besmirching its reputation. [The Future Movement must] adapt to the requirements of this phase after the new government was formed under the premiership of Tammam Salam. This phase imposed a new political behavior on the Future Movement. This dramatic development in the movement's behavior ushered in two political results:
- Opening the door for dialogue with Hezbollah. This issue has remained divisive among the movement, although it has been six months since the dialogue kicked off under the sponsorship of Nabih Berri.
- Opening the door for talks about a new rule equation in the country in the coming phase, which involves the return of Saad Hariri as prime minister, a position he only enjoyed for less than a year and was rife with challenges.
Sources close to the movement talk of a new team that will accompany Hariri's new rule, opening the door for competition among the leading members of the movement. This dispute may be one of its manifestations. March 8 sources reveal that Hariri has already dismissed two MPs, namely Khaled Daher and Mouin Merhabi, for their inability to adapt to the new phase, and because the former insisted on attacking the military institution and providing a cover for Salafist and extremist groups. These sources expect more [dismissals] since transitional periods require getting rid of figures from the previous phase, especially when they are not accepting the new situation.
These sources believe that the Future Movement leadership's rush to provide cover for the decisions of Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk and the measures he took against Islamist prisoners in Roumieh — and criticizing his attackers, especially Mohammad Abdel Latif Kabbara — have three dimensions:
- First, the leadership intends to overcome the Tripoli phase at any cost, regardless of the repercussions on the members of the Future Movement.
- Second, the leadership is not reluctant to adapt to the requirements of the new phase after the formation of the new government.
- Third, the defending of Machnouk is about defending the movement's behavior [and integrating it] with the dialogue with Hezbollah, especially since Machnouk was among the figures who paved the road for this dialogue.
It is only normal for March 8 to secretly celebrate this dispute, considering it to be an expression of an internal conflict within the movement. However, some March 8 figures look at it from a different perspective, believing the dispute to be a desire of the movement to move forward with its bets until the last breath, regardless of the sacrifices needed, and this is promising.
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