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Lebanon: Army Commander and President! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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So long as the controversy between all Lebanese parties surrounding the presidential post remains centered on the necessity of electing a president who is unanimously agreed upon, and since the constitutional deadline has passed without any results, perhaps it would be in the best interest now to vote for Lebanese army chief General Michel Suleiman as president.

General Michel Suleiman is Christian, patriotic and there is no doubting his position in the eyes of the Lebanese parties, since he was able to restore the army’s authority and standing as the protector of security by maintaining equal distance from all the Lebanese factions.

Likewise, he distanced the army from what he dubbed the “political bazaar”, particularly since Lebanon is a state where politics is an unavoidable part of daily life. The Lebanese army endured the crisis of the summer 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel and managed to preserve its image unshaken despite the one-upmanship practices committed by former Lebanese president Emile Lahoud through his adulatory statements towards Hezbollah at the expense of the national army.

After that, the army experienced the Nahr al Bared crisis, which began and ended without there being a convincing reason apart from an attempt to drag Lebanon into the grips of civil war that aims to target the state and its structural makeup. There were no positions taken by the army that went against public opinion; in fact, the army remained regulated and emerged as the protector of the state and of its structural composition.

Even today, the army’s regulation and self-discipline have prevailed through the crisis of the opposition taking to the streets and its laying siege to Lebanese President Fouad Siniora’s government over the past long months. Moreover, the army has managed to avoid slipping into the political arena.

Credit is due to General Suleiman for his firmness when he addressed the army officers a few days ago and said, “Do not listen to what is being said about the controversies in interpreting and amending the constitution that could divide the state into fragmented parts. Listen to the call of duty and the nation’s call. Safeguard your pledges and protect your nation’s flag.”

A few weeks ago there was talk circulating about the selection of General Suleiman as president, which created a clamor under the pretext that it flouts the constitution. The reality is that the constitution may be amended once again like the time when the Lebanese MPs voted to extend former president Emile Lahoud’s term three years ago  which is what has brought ruin unto Lebanon. Amending the constitution today would not be to appease Syria, but rather to break out of the bottleneck and deliver Lebanon to safety.

Selecting Army Commander General Michel Suleiman as the president of Lebanon will deny the opportunity of extending this presidential vacuum to those who have interests in keeping it so  that is what is most dangerous to the structure of Lebanon. Also, thus far, the personality and positions of the commander of the national army, even now, and hopefully politics will not substantially change them, are agreed upon by all and the Lebanese parties. Moreover, they are incapable of topping him since he is a man who is not embroiled in any political positions in Lebanon and is not far from the national stance, in addition to being cautious to preserve the unity of Lebanon.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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