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Asharq Al-Awsat Q & A with Samir Geagea - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Q) Do you consider that discussing the defense strategy at the dialog table can produce an applicable action plan or vision?

A) I go to the dialog table with a pragmatic mind in order to see what will be presented at the meeting, and to discuss the issue. As the process started in 2006, we will continue to take every step until we achieve the aims. I am not deceived into thinking that the agreement on a defense strategy will be reached soon, or that the upcoming sessions will lead to an immediate result. However the issue is interesting and we will discuss it. No one can judge that the dialog table has failed yet. We know that the situation is ambiguous, but a breakthrough could occur at any moment, and we find ourselves moving toward a national defense strategy.

Q) What do you think of Hezbollah’s statements that reject the discussion of its weapons on the basis that it is the resistance weapons that are necessary for the protection of Lebanon?

A) Every group has the right to express its vision of the situation in the way that suits it. Our opinion is different from this vision proposed by Hezbollah. It is not true that its weapons are outside any discussion. Everything in Lebanon is open for discussion, from the presidency, to subjects beyond the budget and the day-to-day matters. Therefore, how can we disregard the discussion of Hezbollah’s weapons, which is a sensitive issue that affects the Lebanese and the details of their lives?

As for saying that the weapons are the weapons of the resistance and not the weapons of Hezbollah, this issue should not be presented in this way. This is because the resistance was formed on territories on which the state was defeated, and not in an established state, even if it is not yet completed. Perhaps one of the reasons that the state is not complete is the existence of weapons outside the legitimacy. Moreover, the permanent presence of the resistance, as in our case, requires a minimum of popular unanimity, say 60 to 70 percent. However, the latest parliamentary elections, which Hezbollah fought under the slogan plebiscite on the resistance option, have shown that more than half the Lebanese are against the preservation of the weapons in their current state.

Q) How can you be able to discuss the defense strategy with Hezbollah refusing to do so, despite the fact that it is participating in the sessions?

A) Our job is to convince Hezbollah during the meeting at the dialog table. We will persevere with this, and it is inevitable that we will reach something. In the beginning to reassert a stance, and then we will move into presenting the foundations of the defense strategy of the country. However, in the current stage, we insist on reasserting our stance by putting forward concepts that can be applied to face up to the continuous attempts since 1990 to impose an equation that stresses that Lebanon cannot defend itself unless Hezbollah remains armed.

Q) Why does the defense strategy require national unanimity while the resistance does not need it?

A) This is true according to the laws, the constitution, and the National Accord Agreement in Al-Taif. The agreement from A to Z does not include the word “resistance,” and it allocates the responsibility to defend Lebanon to the state and the army, while insisting on the truce agreement with Israel.

Moreover, the broad lines of the defense strategy ought to be in the hands of the Lebanese Government, which can amend them according to the impending and sudden circumstances, requirements, and dangers. Therefore, it is required to continue the dialog among the political sides in order to reach agreement over the best way to defend Lebanon. This is a fundamental step. The decision to defend Lebanon ought to be in the hands of the Lebanese Government.

Q) From the first, to the second and the third dialog table, how have the presentation of the issue of the weapons, and Hezbollah’s stances toward this presentation developed?

A) The situation is regressing. At the first table of dialog we had an agenda that included a clear article entitled “The Weapons of the Resistance.” I took it to the dialog table in the first session after the elections. Currently they reject this. However, we will continue to present the subject in a complete spirit of democracy and amicability, and without any sensitivities, otherwise Lebanon will not rest.

It is not true that the Lebanese Army is incapable of protecting Lebanon, and Hezbollah alone is capable of this. In the army there are more and better trained special units than those possessed by Hezbollah. Why do we not allow the army to draw up the necessary plans to defend Lebanon and its south? If we do this, we will win at the fighting level, and also we will win more by consolidating the foundations of the Lebanese legitimacy and unanimity by taking a realistic and logical step. However, they [Hezbollah] do not accept this thesis, and it is probable that they will ask to discuss a defense strategy in isolation from the status of the weapons.

Q) Will two groups gather around the dialog table, one insisting on preserving the weapons, and the other rejecting that, or will there be more than two groups?

A) There are two principal groups facing each other at the dialog table; however there are other groups with stances distinctive from insisting on preserving the weapons, or demanding that the weapons are placed within the state legitimacy.

Q) Where does President Gen Michel Suleiman stand with regard to the conferees?

A) I will not hide from you that there are worries because of the attack by a group on Suleiman, demanding his resignation, and criticizing the dialog table, while our group hastens to defend and support him with huge campaigns. Unfortunately, following this, Suleiman has leaned toward certain theses in order to appease those who attacked him. The situation is not reassuring, as the president is supposed to be for all the Lebanese, and not for one group and no one else.

Q) What about Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri?

A) Al-Hariri still is convinced that the defense strategy ought to be in the hands of the Lebanese Government.

Q) Democratic Gathering Leader Walid Junblatt no longer accepts this thesis. He has stated that he will work toward withdrawing the verbal discussion of Hezbollah’s weapons. What is your stance toward this?

A) Our friend Walid Junblatt has this opinion. We have our opinion to which we still are committed. We consider that Hezbollah’s weapons expose Lebanon to danger more than they defend it.

Q) What about the US warning to the Syrians about the smuggling of advanced weapons to Hezbollah through the Lebanese-Syrian borders, linking the issue to not sending new US Ambassador Stephen Ford to Damascus, and the impact of this on Lebanon?

A) If anyone has advanced weapons, why does he not hand them to the Lebanese Army? More than that, our main focus is the following: Hezbollah is tied to a large regional network that starts from Tehran, and does not end in Damascus. This drags Lebanon into confrontations, which it does not want. No one has the right to drag us into these confrontations. As for the confrontation with the Israeli enemy, it has several aspects. Currently, who determines the way of the confrontation? It is determined by officials in Hezbollah in coordination with Tehran and Damascus; this behavior exposes the Lebanese people to danger. On the other hand, not tying Lebanon to the regional network spares it many of the confrontations with which we actually have nothing to do.

Q) Do the latest events witnessed in the regions of Qusaya and Ayn al-Bayda in Western Al-Biqa come under exposing Lebanon to dangers with which it has nothing to do through the Palestinian weapons outside the camps?

A) I do not have precise data about what took place in Qusaya and Ayn al-Bayda. However, regardless of the causes and background of the incident, every weapon outside the control of the state turns into a danger against Lebanon and its civil peace. As we regret all the victims of such events, we point out that what takes place tarnishes the image and stability of Lebanon. We have the Lebanese Army, but who is responsible for these groups and these weapons outside the camps, whether in Western Al-Biqa, Al-Naimah, or other places? We do not know how these weapons, whose presence we reject, are mobilized, and we demand that the resolution to remove them, which was adopted unanimously at the first dialog table in 2006, is implemented. The regime in Syria can prevent these people from entering Lebanon through the borders, and can stop financing, training, and supporting them. Next Thursday, I will present [to the dialog table] the issue of the Palestinian weapons outside the camps, because it has priority as a result of the latest events; this is in addition to the issues of Hezbollah’s weapons, and the defense strategy.

Q) Do you think that these events indicate a regional danger threatening Lebanon at this stage of the conflict between Iran and the United States, with Israel behind it?

A) The region is living through an unstable period. In the light of the military and security reality outside the Lebanese State I believe that Lebanon is entering the domain of instability. Had it not been for this reality, Lebanon would not have entered this domain. Therefore, there is a need to speed up the domestic accord over a defense strategy that spares Lebanon the consequences of the regional conflict.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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