Lebanese leaders held their 14th national dialogue session on Wednesday and agreed on a tentative accord to appoint three officers to the sensitive Military Council although last minute roadblocks were not ruled out.
The gathering, which highlighted a looming danger to the Prime Minister because participants accepted that executive branch decisions would now be handled under the leadership of Speaker Nabih Berri, allowed for a semblance of tolerance ahead of a scheduled Cabinet session on Thursday.
It was unclear whether the full session would occur, as rival leaders apparently consented to the Minister of Defense’s recommendation that he name three individuals for each of the three vacant posts, reserved for a Shiite, a Greek Orthodox and a Catholic even if the exercise resembled theatre 101.
Importantly, two of the posts were easily approved, since major parties represented in the cabinet agreed on the names proposed for the Shiite [Brigadier-General Muhsin Fneish] and Catholic [Brigadier-General George Sharim] posts.
Among the three names advanced for that position was one favored by the Free Patriotic Movement, which, along with acolytes boycotted past cabinet sessions in part because they insisted that their preferred officer be promoted.
Both the FPM’s Michel Aoun and Speaker Berri backed Brigadier-General Samir Al Haj for the Orthodox portfolio although Al Haj, regrettably, stood fifth on the army’s promotion list based on qualifications and seniority.
How could the army, as an institution, justify bypassing four other Orthodox officers ahead of Al Haj?
Would this not introduce an added level of sectarianism in the army on top of existing constraints?
On Thursday, the cabinet is supposed to dispose of 379 items on its agenda and may not get to the security appointments if the favorite officers are not the ones that make the cut.
It remains to be determined whether FPM-Hezbollah and Tashnag ministers will then walk out when the Minister of Defense Samir Moqbel brings up the three names for a vote to finally fill the two-year long vacancies in the Military Council.
Parenthetically, Wednesday’s national dialogue session apparently skipped discussions over the Michel Aoun-Sulaiman Franjieh candidacies for the presidency of the republic, although the head of the Marada Movement told news outlets that he remained a contender.
“How can someone with 70 votes drop-out,” he claimed, “in favor of a candidate who mustered 40?”
In words that targeted Aoun, Franjieh affirmed: “We are Plan B for the official March 8 candidate,” meaning General Aoun, “who is our Plan A.” “But if Aoun does not want us as Plan B, we do not want him as Plan A,” concluded Franjieh.
Amid such jockeying, everyone waited for Hezbollah’s reaction to the January 18, 2016 accord between the Lebanese Forces and the FPM, expected to come on Friday evening when Hassan Nasrallah returns to the airwaves.
The Hezbollah Secretary-General was likely to maintain that his party stood by Aoun, adding that he favored compromises among rivals, ostensibly to settle their differences and vote on a consensus candidate.
The FPM’s Jibran Basil passed along the gist of this message after he was taken to the woodshed at the national dialogue session for his Organization of Islamic Cooperation vote a few days ago.
Basil, for is also Lebanon’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, justified his position in elusive terms and revealed on television that Aoun would not compete with Franjieh in parliament, which is bizarre since that’s where elections are held.
What he meant to say was that he and his father-in-law wanted a clear unopposed mandate, which Nasrallah was likely to stress too, even if the exercise stretched the very principles of democracy.
– Gulf News