What is clear is that Mikati’s resignation was essentially part of the crisis in Syria.
Regarding the domestic issues that prompted the move, which are inextricable from developments in Syria, a number of things can be noted.
One is the growing hold of the US and certain European and Arab governments over a great many Lebanese politicians, including Suleiman, Mikati, and Walid Jumblatt.
These countries wanted to block the adoption of a new election law that would deny the March 14 coalition a parliamentary majority and jeopardize the “balance-tipping” power of Jumblatt. So they went into action to ensure that no agreement would be reached on legislation that does not suit their strategy. Even the confused position of the Phalangists and Lebanese Forces was insufficient to enable the Orthodox Gathering Law to be approved.
Given Suleiman, Mikati, and Jumblatt’s insistence on involving Berri in the ploy to thwart the Orthodox Law, the speaker may have erred by not referring it to parliament earlier, rather than allowing the trio to mount their pre-emptive strike aimed at keeping the 1960 election law in place.
The trio assumed that pressure from the president and prime minister would suffice to achieve this goal. Their aides insist they had they cooperation of the speaker — why else would he have agreed not to convene parliament to debate the Orthodox Gathering law? But it did not cross their minds that the people who matter would be unwilling to submit to blackmail once again.
The other directive that was issued relates to the security situation in the country.
For the West and its Arab clients, it is not enough to neutralize the Lebanese army, prevent it from acting decisively to bring the security breakdown under control, and threaten to split or scrap it. They also want direct control over the Internal Security Forces (ISF), so decided there is a pressing need for General Ashraf Rifi to be kept in his post as ISF head following the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan.
No opportunity was missed to press this point, whether in repeated remarks by the US ambassador to Lebanon, or in the Saudi ambassador’s claim to have been given an undertaking by the president of the republic that Rifi’s term would be extended. The French prime minister even raised the subject with Mikati, telling him within earshot of accompanying ministers that “President Hollande recommends” that Rifi be retained.
But the trio were unsure they could get that done. When Mikati failed to secure a direct promise from Berri, he sought at least to obtain one from Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). The big surprise was when Hezbollah’s reply, delivered to the prime minister minutes ahead of the resignation announcement, was “do what you deem appropriate.”
While everyone will now be busying themselves with analyses and anecdotes about the domestic aspects of the crisis, the consequences of Mikati’s resignation for the tragedy in Syria are no less serious. In this context, it would help to note the following:
– The sharp escalation of political and military pressure on the Syrian regime by its Arab and Western detractors. They have acted to foil any efforts by opposition figures to pursue a political settlement, such as by sidelining Moaz al-Khatib. This while running a massive scheme to arm and train thousands of fighters inside Syria, Turkey, and Jordan, ahead of what the Turks have been saying will be a decisive showdown in three months.
– The real results of US President Barack Obama’s visit to Palestine and Jordan. While urging the Palestinian president to keep praying, he was firm with the king of Jordan about the need to fall fully in line with the anti-Assad camp. More importantly, Obama obliged Israel’s leaders to keep quiet, refrain from action against either Iran, Syria, or Hezbollah.
– The American, European, and Gulf mobilization against Hezbollah, which has taken several forms: reactivating the issue of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL); putting pressure on the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization; directly pressing the prime minister to do what is necessary to weaken Hezbollah’s influence in the government; and contriving a new controversy called “Hezbollah’s role in Syria.”
In light of the above, some worrying conclusions can be drawn:
– The slogan of dissociation from the Syrian crisis, even if it was never fully realistic, is being finally abandoned. The resignation of the government means involving Lebanon directly. In parallel, more pressure will be exerted on the army to prevent it from taking preventive measures, while the ISF will likely head toward disintegration, rendering it ineffective.
– The architects of this move are betting that change in Syria is inevitable and will come soon. One security veteran says it amazes him how time after time, world capitals behave as though the end of the war in Syria and the downfall of the regime are imminent. This wager requires waves of tension to be unleashed in Lebanon, in the belief that this will unsettle Hezbollah and prevent it from aiding the regime in Syria.
– The political chaos will be protracted, the elections are as good as postponed, and the political tilt of Suleiman-Mikati-Jumblatt will revive the fortunes of the March 14 camp. Some of its leaders made calls yesterday evening to arrange their affairs in anticipation of new ministerial and security posts.
God protect us.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
نهاية النأي بالنفس
ومع إصرار الثلاثي سليمان، ميقاتي وجنبلاط على إقحام الرئيس بري في مناورة اسقاط الأرثوذكسي، فإن رئيس المجلس ربما يكون قد أخطأ في عدم التعجيل بإحالة اقتراح قانون اللقاء الأرثوذكسي على الهيئة العامة، لكن الثلاثي بادر من دون انتظار، إلى خوض المعركة الوقائية الهادفة الى التعامل مع قانون الستين على أنه أمر واقع. وافترض هذا الفريق، انه بالإمكان من خلال ضغوط رئيسي الجمهورية والحكومة، تحقيق هذا الهدف. ومرة جديدة يقول أركان «الثلاثي» انهم عملوا باتفاق مع رئيس المجلس، والا فلماذا وافق الأخير على عدم دعوة مجلس النواب إلى مناقشة اللقاء الأرثوذكسي، لكن فات هؤلاء ان القوى صاحبة الامر والنهي، ليست في وارد الخضوع مجددا للابتزاز.
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