Amidst the wellspring of congratulations in Lebanon following the formation of a government, many people have forgotten a man that also deserves thanks. Some people follow the Pali saying that “performing one’s duty does not require gratitude” but we must say thank you to Lebanese [caretaker] Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
He is a man who was sitting on a hot-seat; his governmental headquarters was besieged by Hezbollah for 18 months in the Iranian manner of hostage-taking. He was also subject to character assassination and a campaign to portray him as a traitor undertaken by the opposition [parties], and particularly Hassan Nasrallah.
This besiegement was not more difficult than what Lebanon itself faced, and there was the July 2006 war which Israel launched against Hezbollah. After this war began, [Hezbollah chief] Hassan Nasrallah appeared in a televised speech imploring all those who love Lebanon to work to bring an end to the war. Siniora was not slow [to respond] and he announced his 7-point truce plan [unofficially known as the Siniora Plan] and was seen later that day weeping in public. Nasrallah later accused Siniora and some of the Lebanese [people] of “not knowing the Arabic language, and not knowing the superlative adjective.”
This story does not end here of course, and the Hassan Nasrallah-led armed coup against Beirut took place [following this]. Nasrallah also came out threatening and accusing Siniora of plotting a conspiracy against Hezbollah during a time of war. Siniora responded by saying “If you will stretch forth your hand towards me to slay me, I am not one to stretch forth my hand towards you to slay you surely I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds” [Surat Al-Maeda, Verse 28]. Of course Fouad Siniora did not go on to quote the Quranic verse that follows this one “Surely I wish that you should bear the sin committed against me and your own sin, and so you would be of the inmates of the fire, and this is the recompense of the unjust” [Surat Al-Maeda, Verse 29].
Today represents a victory for this man who has left office…a man I have known for the past five years, which were a volatile and unexpected period [in Lebanon]. Not long after the Beirut coup and the Doha summit, Siniora became angered with the newspaper [Asharq Al-Awsat] and decided against dealing with us in the future. I telephoned a friend of mine who is also a friend of Fouad Siniora – who I knew personally following his visit to our headquarters in London – and I told him to inform the Prime Minister that he was welcome to join the caravan of those dissatisfied [with Asharq Al-Awsat]. My friend laughed and said “Fouad would not do this” and I told him to check and make sure. My friend returned and said “My God, he is so angry!” During the Kuwait summit, and following the speech in which the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques put forward the Arab reconciliation initiative, I left the room to find myself standing face to face with Fouad Siniora. I said to him, “Mr. Prime Minister, I am the one you are angry with.” He laughed and gave me a hug and astounding everybody around him said “Come, let us talk…there are a number of issues [to discuss].”
A few months ago I wrote an article about a specific issue, the mutual friend [between Mr. Siniora and myself] got in touch with me and said “Siniora does not agree with your analysis.” Following this, I renewed this same issue [in an article] and I telephoned the mutual friend in order to offer my regards to the Prime Minister and to tell him that I had won, but he said “Hold on…there is somebody here who wants to talk to you.” I was surprised to hear a voice say “my information says that such and such was true.” I answered, “Pardon me, but who am I talking to” and he replied “This is Fouad Siniora.”
This is how I got to know the man that Nabih Berri – who has a sharp wit that nobody is safe from – named “Fouad II.” However truth be told, I know him as the heart of Lebanon.
Therefore we say thank you Fouad Siniora.