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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

FPM - HEZBOLLAH: Memorandum of Misunderstanding

Last December 10, 2016, I posted one of several posts over the past few years in which I put forth the notion that Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement and Nasrallah's Hezbollah have always been, and are very close today, to a divorce of epic proportions. Not the least of the reasons behind this conviction is the cheap black market deal that the two sides made in 2006, which was ultimately driven by Aoun's disgruntlement at the American administration's refusal to make a deal with him when he visited Boston and Washington in November 2005. He thus returned to Lebanon and immediately struck a deal with America's Iranian proxy.

Not one of the elements of the memorandum of understanding between Aoun and Hezbollah has been implemented to date. Its only gains to the two sides were simply tactical, and by necessity, temporary. It forced Aoun to change his political and ideological discourse upside down, and when taken altogether, now with the hindsight of some 11 years, it appears that Hezbollah initially benefited more from Aoun than the reverse, for Aoun offered Nasrallah the Christian fig leaf the latter needed after the spate of Syrian-commanded Hezbollah-implemented assassinations and a cover to launch Hezbollah disastrous war with Israel in 2006. Fast forward to 2016, and Aoun has returned the favor: He dragged an unwilling Hezbollah - that was always weary of the volatile and former enemy Aoun - into reluctantly supporting Aoun's bid for the presidency. Hezbollah colluded with Aoun to paralyze Parliament for 2.5 years until the latter had no choice but to elect Aoun. Yet, Aoun's election to the presidency is NOT what Hezbollah had in mind in the 2.5 year long stalemate; Hezbollah was more interested in the paralysis of the State itself because it afforded it the chaos it needs to continue its unlawful operations as an Iranian paramilitary force separate and independent from the Lebanese State.

Now that the favors had been exchanged, there is nothing left to keep the two sides together. For Aoun has, yet again, completed a reversal in his posturing: He is now an ally of Hezbollah's enemies, namely the Sunni Hariri and the Christian Lebanese Forces; Aoun is no longer the "secularist" he always claimed to be, and is today a defender of Christians; All of Aoun's proposals for an electoral law are at odds with Hezbollah's own proposals; Aoun also sees that the current US administration has overturned former US president Obama's policy of rapprochement with Iran and is now engaged in an overture to the Sunni Arabs (Saudi Arabia and the Emirates), a policy of isolating Iran, an escalation of tensions between the Iran-Hezbollah camp and the Israelis who want a revenge for their truncated 2006 war with Hezbollah, etc. Now that Aoun is no longer in the opposition, he will defend his gains by aligning himself with the anti-Iranian camp, thus returning to his pre-2006 positions in which he considered Hezbollah a terror organization and a proxy for Iran and Syria, and the Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms as a hoax made up by Syria and Iran to justify the unlawful existence of Hezbollah. Aoun's platform today is no longer the one that rises above the petty sectarian, familial and tribal considerations: It is part and parcel of the same traditional swamp of sectarian (Christian Maronite) and familial (The Aoun clan with daughters, nephews, sons-in-law, cousins etc...all in some position of power) political farms of the Lebanese system.

Mark my words: Gebran Bassil, Alain Aoun, Simon Abi-Ramia, and all of Aoun's  poodles in his inner circle will, sooner rather than later, be attacking Hezbollah and will become Hezbollah's sworn enemies, just as they were prior to 2006. Hezbollah is gradually becoming an entity undergoing shrinkage, if not extinction, especially with the re-alignment and the redrawing of the Syrian landscape and the impending relegation of the Syrian regime to a clannish horde along Syria's Mediterranean coast. The umbilical cord between Iran and Lebanon is quickly being severed, and a Sunni-American-Israeli alliance is marshaling its forces to push any significant Shiite presence along the Iraqi-Syrian-Lebanese topography, especially that abutting Israel.

Following are some excerpts from my December 10, 2016 posting entitled "Aoun: Decisions Decisions":

"...- As the Syrian war seems to be at a turning point, and as Hezbollah's attention appears to be turning back to its favored pastime of harassing Israel on behalf of the Iranian theocracy (threats and cross-border exchanges are on the rise of late), the questions that many Lebanese are asking themselves are the following:

- What will "strong" President Aoun do if Hezbollah engages Israel in some attack across the border?

- What will "strong" President Aoun do if Hezbollah DOES NOT consult with him before launching such an attack?

- What will "strong" President Aoun do if Hezbollah DOES consult with him on launching such an attack? Will he acquiesce and violate his country's laws and risk an all-out destruction - yet again - of his country? Will he object/reject/oppose Hezbollah and violate his 2006 Memorandum of Understanding with the Iranian proxy militia and risk the precarious equilibrium in which this tormented country has been living for half a century?

- Is the "strong", yet older and apparently more sedate, President Aoun still the volatile, highly principled, zero-sum military bargainer kind of guy? Or will he, now that he has "arrived", be more prone to temper down his principles because he has learned from the past, or because he is unwilling to take risks, or worse yet because he has become indifferent?

- What will "strong" President Aoun do if Israel itself attacks Lebanon first for whatever reasons, including perhaps to deliberately destabilize Lebanon and drive a wedge in the semblance of unity between Lebanon's sects? Will Aoun put the US-equipped Lebanese Army together with Hezbollah in the same trenches, thus rendering official Lebanon, and not just Hezbollah's locations, infrastructure and supply lines, a formal target (i.e. ministries, official buildings, the Baabda palace itself)?

Whatever the answers Aoun may have in his mind to these questions, the risks to him, his legacy, his presidency, his country, are enormous and existential. For now, the President is speaking from both sides of his mouth: He dispenses promises to the two halves of the country that are in essence contradictory.

If a "strong" Christian president is unable to bring stability to a republic that has been decaying for 50 years between a chronic Muslim rejection of the National Pact status quo on one hand, and Israeli aggression on the other hand, then is there any substance to the promises by the Christian leadership (both political and religious) to its people that the 96-year old Greater Lebanon that was forcibly glued together from incompatible parties in the 1920s can actually survive and prosper? The alternative being to admit defeat and the failure of the expanded-borders Christian homeland fairy tale that, not coincidentally, was born at about the same time that the Zionists launched their own Jewish homeland fabrication.

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