Our airplane arrived at Beirut airport prior to the arrival of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosque’s private plane, and as soon as we landed we immediately travelled to [Baabda] palace which is located far from the airport. As soon as we entered the special hall in the palace which was allocated for receiving guests, we found ourselves face to face with the faces of the Lebanese political crisis. Everybody was present in the hall and awaiting the arrival of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Syrian President, and their host the Lebanese Prime Minister, with the exception of [Lebanese Forces leader] Samir Geagea, [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah, and [Phalange party leader] Amine Gemayel; as only Lebanese members of parliament and former prime ministers were invited to attend, sparking a major controversy in Lebanon.
This is my first visit to Lebanon since the assassination of Rafik Hariri. This is also the first time that I met with certain Lebanese political figures, even if I had had some limited contact with some of these figures over the phone. This was also an opportunity to meet with well-respected and appreciated Lebanese political figures, and of course there was also meetings and handshakes with parties that are considered to be hugely politically divergent, including [meetings] with some members of Hezbollah.
I wish that there was a camera that could broadcast live on air the meetings that took place on the sidelines and what was said there, and how many Lebanese politicians meet and joke with one another, and then easily and generously hit one another below the belt. For as you shake one Lebanese politician’s hands, he introduces you to another Lebanese politician; you then find these two politicians arguing with one another, even if they are on the same side, or members of the same political trend! You would also hear a well-known Lebanese figure asking the Iranian ambassador [to Lebanon] – and this is something that I heard with my own ears – “Have you seen so-and-so? What do you think about him?” The Iranian ambassador looked at one of the Lebanese politicians and laughed, saying “it seems that you haven’t visited Lebanon for a while!” I wish that I could say everything that I know and hear, however council has its privacy, and a situation is governed by its provisions.
In the hall, I said to one of my friends, imagine how relieved Lebanon and the Lebanese people would be if they locked all of these Lebanese politicians in this hall, and then transferred them by airplane to a land faraway? He replied without thinking or even meeting my eyes “similar politicians will emerge to take their place within the month” whilst smiling and extending his hand to shake the hand of one of his own [political] rivals, before hugging him.
In summary, what I heard and sensed from everybody in Lebanon, regardless of their sect or political background, is that the country is under threat, and the future might be even worse than the past. Even the most optimistic politicians were concerned about what would happen in the coming days, and how could they not when Hezbollah official for southern Lebanon, Nabil Farouk, issued a statement saying “the resistance considers any accusation of its leadership or cadres to represent a form of aggression against it, more serious than the 5 May 2008 decision [calling for Hezbollah to dismantle its communication network]. Hezbollah is committed to defending its achievements and the good name of its fighters to the last and until the end.” Farouk’s statement, of course, means to remind the Lebanese that they will be facing the same fate as the 7 May 2008 Hezbollah armed coup of Beirut. This is something that would be expected in the event of the [Hariri tribunal] issuing the expected decision accusing Hezbollah of being responsible for Rafik Hariri’s assassination.
We said goodbye to Beirut, saying: God help Lebanon and its people, they are facing a long night!