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Aoun, a Bridge for Whom? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It is not strange for Lebanon to have disagreements as it is the country of 17 state-acknowledged sects. The influence of this relatively small country is much larger than its size, given that its area is half of that of Kuwait, which explains the continuous regional competition on its territory and institutions since its declared independence after World War II.

Yet another chapter has been added to its difficult history, with General Michel Aoun getting closer to the presidency in the oldest republic of the Arab world. And like other states in the area, Lebanon maintains its formalities like elections, parliament and exchange of power. But ruling in Lebanon is closer to a power of the elite. Even the reign of the traditional political elite of sects has diminished when balances were formed.

Currently, the situation in Lebanon is dominated by one large party, Hezbollah, and it finally has what it has always wanted with the opposition succumbing to its will by getting Aoun to presidency after it was considered an unthinkable step.

Most Lebanese people, and others, are not satisfied with Aoun becoming a president either because of him personally or because of the domination of Hezbollah on the presidential decision. According to Taif agreement, choosing the president is limited to the Christian Maronite.

Yet, and despite all the anger and opposition, the question is: will the position of president change in the Lebanese reality and its foreign relations regardless of who resides in Baabda Palace? Is it worth objecting, or causing strife or even keeping the president’s position vacant?

The president is constrained to many limits where militias and warring political powers marginalized the state and its three presidencies.

I believe that President Aoun is the one who will need his opponents more than they need him. He is the one who should fear them after they feared him when he was in the opposition. Aoun alone won’t be able to find solutions, maintain civil peace, and rule for four comfortable years without reconciling disputes with others.

Lebanon is a grand arena for the Arab world and the region in general. It has always played the host of different regional powers.

Many fought on Lebanese soil including: Nasserites, Melkites, Arabs, Isolationists, Syrians, Palestinians, Christians, Muslims, Sunnis, Shiites, Iranians, people from the Gulf, and people from Gulf among themselves. This is the reason for its destruction and everyone’s interest in it.

Many questions will be raised through which we can predict the current situation and near future about sects and relations between opposing parties in Syria, Iran, Gulf, France, Russia, and others.

Will the president return the favor to Hezbollah for getting him to the position by enabling it to control the presidency? What can President Aoun do amid local and regional conflicts reaching their worst stages? He can do very little.

We exaggerate in our expectations from the role of the president because of all the power other Arab leaders have. In Lebanon, the capacities of the president and prime minister are limited as per the constitution and the Taif Agreement.

It is best we begin optimistic. President Aoun can suggest a reconciliation program that brings all parties closer and end the struggle that he was part of, thus becoming the best president the republic had since President Bechara el-Khoury. This is being overoptimistic. Or he could be worse than President Emile Lahoud by spurring more divisions and causing even more discord.

If Aoun wants reconciliation, he can achieve it. While if he wants to fortify Hezbollah’s position, he will be faced by the cruel Lebanese reality of the different parties that will not concede for him at the expense of their existence.

Aoun became a president for Lebanon and all Lebanese based on the “democratic” Lebanese way of doing things.

Everyone should deal with him and encourage him to be a bridge for reconciliation in spite of their opinions and reservations.

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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