Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sarkozy, Hariri And Supporting Stability

By Randa Takieddine
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 1/12/2010

French President Nicolas Sarkozy repeated affirmations of his support for Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The luncheon invitation to Hariri at the Elysee Palace, as well as his invitation last summer to visit the French president at his summer home with his wife Carla Bruni in the south of France, was a special gesture to a friend, as well as to the prime minister of Lebanon.

The position of Sarkozy and France on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is clear: Daniel Bellmare must continue in his work, with no intervention by any party. Sarkozy has said several times that he is ready to meet with all sides, and did this when he received General Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri, who are both known to be close to Hezbollah. However, Sarkozy is determined to send messages to all sides that the STL is inevitable, and that the country’s stability is important to everyone. Slipping into the unknown, with an institutional vacuum or a security deterioration, is dangerous for all. Hariri’s reception at the Elysee will be followed by a visit by Syrian President Bashar Assad to France, which under Sarkozy has been keen to have a good relationship with Damascus, not only for Lebanon’s sake, but because Paris aspires to playing a role on the Syrian-Israeli track. High-level French circles believe that this is an opportunity to resume contacts via French envoy and Ambassador Jean-Claude Cousseran, despite the doubts about this issue amid Israeli policies. Indeed, France is trying to put out the fire of the STL indictment, which some groups in Lebanon are threatening to ignite if the indictment is issued.

For his part, Hariri is striving to have dialogue with all sides. His steadfastness, despite all of the threats, and his movements from east to west, from Iran to France and then Turkey, are taking place as he seeks a cooling- down period and stability, despite all of the attempts to isolate and oust him from the prime minister’s post. Opponents of the STL have used the pretext in the country and in the mind of the public, tiring everyone out. We often hear the Lebanese groan and say, “Let’s be done with this indictment, and see it issued,” as the people have become tired of a situation of paralysis due to disputes, to the degree that they have forgotten the importance of a court that makes political assassinations more difficult than in the past, and forces any group contemplating the assassination of a political official, for a given reason, to think twice before planning such a thing, despite everything that has been said. It is true that political assassinations ended in Lebanon because of a political settlement between the west and those planning the assassinations; however, the STL certainly figures into the calculations of the plotters.

Hariri wants stability for Lebanon, but he is also steadfast in his support for the tribunal. In any event, he cannot do away with it, and neither can anyone else.

As for directing accusations, no one knows, despite all of the rumors, who will be accused by the indictment. The campaigns of intimation about the repercussions and consequences of the STL are paralyzing the country, which requires reform and economic recovery in the first place. Since the beginning, Hariri sought after the elections to form a government in which everyone was represented, because he wanted stability for the country. He also demonstrated his desire to cooperate with all groups. This resulted in the opposition entering the government and paralyzing it over an issue that no one can handle except the international community.

Hariri’s determination to see stability in Lebanon is a priority for him. He has shown this in his various moves, the first of which was to break the ice with neighboring Syria. He went to Damascus despite everything that happened in the past, then visited Tehran and had meetings with officials who are pariahs in all western countries. He is looking forward to cooling things down in Lebanon and realizes that Iran’s influence on Hezbollah and its strategic alliance with Syria have fundamentally important repercussions for the security situation. Hariri is trying to have dialogue with everyone, so why is the opposition frightened about the results of the STL indictment?

Hariri does not want to destabilize his country. But the knowledge of who really killed the prime minister of Lebanon and his comrades, and all of those who fell afterward, is useful for the future of a country that has seen a series of assassinations of its officials and top politicians. Now, and after the STL, those who plan assassinations will think twice before carrying them out, and this achievement is certain. However, there is fear today that Lebanon will be once again used as an arena for the wars of others on its territory, led by Israel and Iran. There is great danger, but the repercussions will be dangerous for everyone in the region, including Iran’s allies. Sarkozy might point this out and warn of the possibility when he next receives Assad. France believes that a new war in Lebanon is not in the interest of Syria, but a danger to it.

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