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Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea: Iran, Hezbollah Play on Presidential Void | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, speaks during an interview with Reuters at his home in the Christian village of Maarab in the mountains overlooking the seaside town of Jounieh, October 31, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Beirut- In his latest interview with Asharq Al awsat newspaper, Lebanon’s Samir Geagea, executive chairman of the Lebanese Forces (LF), the second largest Christian political party in the country, hoped that the two-year presidential vacancy would be brought to an end.

What is more is that the LF high-profile figure -in his efforts to settle the presidential void- now supports the nomination of the Free Patriotic Movement leader, Michel Aoun, Mr. Geagea’s ex-arch enemy.

‘Dreadful,’ was the word Mr. Geagea used to describe what’s in store for the West-Asian state, should the Aoun initiative for settling the presidential void fail.

Mr. Geagea did not see any harm of Aoun’s alliance with Lebanon’s so-called Hezbollah, especially that it was evident to him that Aoun distanced himself from the controversial paramilitary group.

The March 8 Alliance, a coalition of various political parties in Lebanon, had been putting both Hezbollah and Aoun in the same group for a while.

Mr. Geagea cited FPM’s Aoun as not an ally nor supporter of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria—loyalty to the Assad regime is a major character found in Hezbollah.

Aoun’s position on Syrian affairs keeps his attempt at presidency at a safekeeping distance with the ‘state within a state,’ a term often used to describe Hezbollah.

In 1989 he declared a “Liberation War” on Syria, which ended after Syrian forces invaded Beirut in 1990 forcing Aoun to flee to Paris, where he lived in exile for 15 years.

Aoun also appeared at the U.S. Congress in September 2003 to urge the adoption of the Syria Accountability Act, which demanded that Syria withdraw its estimated 25,000 troops from Lebanon and allow restoration of Lebanese sovereignty that he deemed was “an absolute necessity if terrorism is to be defeated”.

Mr. Geagea’s recent ending of a long rivalry with Aoun, a surprise which dazed Lebanon’s Christians -according to the LF leader- in no way means that there would be a rapprochement with between the LF and Hezbollah.

Mr.Geagea says that Hezbollah follows a political agenda far too conflicting with the LF’s viewpoint, especially on allowing foreign elements to control Lebanese internal affairs.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah has no desire for presidential election to be completed — a presidential election is taking place in Lebanon since 23 April 2014. No candidate reached a two-thirds majority vote in the first round and subsequent rounds failed to gain a quorum.

Mr. Geagea revealed that Western diplomats who lately visited Tehran, have been told that Iran sees no urgent need to elect a new president for Lebanon.

Enforcing Iran’s agenda, the so-called Hezbollah understands that the lacking presence of a president gives the group a strategic upper-hand over Lebanon’s decision-making process, especially concerning foreign activities and affairs.

Save Hezbollah’s push for vacancy, Mr. Geagea says that other political blocs in Lebanon are spending considerable effort to elect a president.

Leader of the Future Movement and Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri is exerting serious efforts to reach an understanding with Aoun on backing his nomination, said Mr. Geagea.

“The result of the ongoing negotiations between Harriri and Aoun’s parties will show in a week or two,” added Mr. Geagea.

Other than that, Hezbollah’s position remains the greatest mystery of all.

Should Hariri reach a final decision to back Aoun’s nomination, Hezbollah would be facing a catch-22 paradox—Aoun is Hezbollah’s publicly declared nominee, but the group’s priority is to far and foremost prolong the vacancy as much as possible.

If Hariri concedes to Aoun’s presidency, Hezbollah will have to make a choice on whether to carry on with Iran’s agenda for Lebanon or prioritize its domestic role.

As to what stands in the way of Harriri announcing his bid for Aoun, Mr. Geagea says that Harriri’s nomination of MP Suleiman Frangieh for the presidential bid must not be overlooked.

More so, the Harriri-Aoun association remains a touchy subject. Harriri’s set of conditional common ground might not be immediately conceded to by Aoun, said the LF leader. Preparation and hard work are a major factor in reaching an understanding, especially in defining the practical dynamics of such a settlement.

For two years now, Hezbollah had relentlessly backed his bid for Aoun’s nomination, disregarding all other candidates and holding back quorum as a mean to its alleged end. Today Christian parties, who once opposed Aoun for president, have accepted him as an official nominee, yet Hezbollah is still failing parliamentary quorum—the group’s actions lead to one conclusion: Hezbollah cannot truly be serious with electing a president at home, and is rather consumed by either dominance or Iranian influence.

For Lebanon, the Aoun initiative failing –after receiving a wide consensus by the March 14 alliance – means that the state is in deeper trouble than one may think. The initiative failing is a terrible thing to imagine; Lebanon will descend into chaos, added Mr. Geagea.

October 31 won’t be the last chance to elect a president-there is no such thing as a last chance in the world of politics- however, it is a chance which should not be missed, said Mr. Geagea.