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After the Saudi – Syrian train came to a stop - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I do not believe that the collapse of Saad Hariri’s government came as a surprise, although many did believe that the Saudi Arabian and Syrian mediation would be enough to protect the government and resolve the issue of the international tribunal. However everything that has been said in this regard was nothing more than wishful thinking, and now that the Saudi side had withdrawn, what train will Lebanon board? It is highly likely that the Lebanese will board the Qatari train, or perhaps the French, because there are no volunteers prepared to follow the same track, for everybody is aware of how grave these problems are, and the consequences of failure.

However why are the Qatari or French trains a second or even last option? The reason for this is Doha’s good relations with the stubborn party, I mean the party that has extremely difficult demands, who is also the prime suspect in the assassination case [of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri]. I am, of course, talking about Hezbollah. Doha was also responsible for the previous agreement [between the Lebanese parties] which resulted in a two-dimensional government made up of a majority and a minority. As for the French, they are an acceptable Western party that can act as a witness to the pledges that will be made, and they will be a balanced mediator. The Turks may also step in [to mediate the Lebanese crisis] on the opposite side of the French, although I do not say that they will act as a counter-balance.

The best possible outcome is for the Qatari mediator to convince the Lebanese team that is refusing to deal with the facts with regards to the international tribunal to search for a more practical solution. This is something that was successfully achieved by Doha in the past when it put forward the idea of the [political] arranged marriage. Doha managed to convince the opposition that it was Saad Hariri’s legal right to be prime minister, whilst convincing Hariri that there would be no government unless he granted the opposition more power, which resulted in the formation of the [previous] government.

No mediator, whether Saudi Arabia or Qatar or any other country, can eliminate or deny firmly established facts and realities in this complex case; the tribunal exists, which is a fact, and charges will be leveled, which is also a fact. The mediator, no matter how enthusiastic and regardless of the support from the Lebanese or the Arabs, can by no means put an end to a tribunal which is linked to Article VII of the United Nations Chart. However, the mediator can search for solutions to alleviate the harm that may be caused by the tribunal. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said that it would be individuals, not groups, who will be held accountable [for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri], and this is a clear example of this. This represented the first clear indication that no accusation would be leveled at Hezbollah or any other organization, regardless of whether or not members of the organization are implicated. However for there not to be a tribunal, or charges, is impossible, at least in my opinion.

If there were parties that refused to accept the framework of the Saudi mediation by seeking to attain the impossible, they will find that the Qatari mediator is introducing the same initiatives. At this point, they will not refuse and will try to market this to their political allies. I do not believe that Saudi Arabia will be angered by this, so long as this will result in the protection of Lebanese national security, and rescue the country from a deteriorating political and security situation.

The parties who have announced their withdrawal from government have put themselves in a critical situation, for they pledged to put an end the tribunal, which did not happen. They could have pledged to tackle the consequences of the anticipated charges or even reject them. Whether Hariri manages to resurrect a government or whether these parties manage to old sway over Lebanon, either by force of arms or popularity, the tribunal will continue. Therefore, let us say that whoever mediates this is lucky because the stubborn party has now discovered how wrong it was.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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