Lebanon feels repercussions of Al-Hariri's shock resignation

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This photo from Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri’s Twitter account shows him with Saudi ambassador to Lebanon Waleed Yakoob. ‘It was a pleasure meeting Ambassador Waleed Yakoob after his swearing in before King Salman in Riyadh on Sunday,’ said Al-Hariri in his first tweet since his aannouncement of resignation on Saturday.
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This file photo taken on November 03, 2016 shows Lebanon's new Prime Minister Saad Hariri speaking to journalists following his nomination at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 06 November 2017

Lebanon feels repercussions of Al-Hariri's shock resignation

BEIRUT: Lebanon has continued to feel the repercussions of the shock resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri.

Political positions ranged from support from Al-Hariri’s allies and those who remain in shock, such as the Free Patriotic Movement to Hezbollah, which insists on considering Al-Hariri’s decision “bad.”

Dar Al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s highest Sunni authority, witnessed a series of meetings and statements stressing the importance of the “unity of the Sunni sect to which the prime minister belongs, according to the Lebanese constitution.

“No one of the Sunni political figures will accept his appointment as prime minister in succession to Prime Minister Al-Hariri,” sources close to Dar Al-Fatwa told Arab News, pointing out that the meetings “unanimously agreed to confirm unity at this crucial stage.”

Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abul Latif Al-Daryan met with Charge d’Affaires of the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon, Minister Plenipotentiary Walid Al-Bukhari.

“What is happening in the Lebanese arena today is dangerous and requires more awareness, wisdom, and national unity among the Lebanese,” Al-Daryan said.

He stressed that the resignation of Al-Hariri was “a shock that did not come out of nothing. We support him and understand this resignation and it should be treated with care and dialogue.”

“Lebanon is for all its people,” Al-Daryan stressed, saying: “Saudi Arabia is keen on the security and stability of Lebanon and wants what is good for Lebanon as it wants good for other Arab countries that have fraternal relations with Lebanon and the Lebanese people.”

The head of the “Future” parliamentary bloc, Fouad Siniora, said in media statements that the resignation of Al-Hariri was "an alarm for the developments of political settlement in Lebanon.”

Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement considered the political settlement accepted by Al-Hariri as "a weakness to achieve political gains.”

Siniora said: “The state should be the sole authority in Lebanon,” accusing Hezbollah of “acting according to Iranian instructions.”

Marada movement head, Suleiman Franjieh, tweeted: “We will not accept a prime minister who defies the Sunni component and does not enjoy national consensus.”

Strategic expert Antoine Haddad told Arab News: “Lebanon faces several possibilities, either an unprecedented Israeli war with its destructive capability, or Lebanon being completely isolated as a result of a larger economic blockade, especially as Arab countries are an important economic partner for Lebanon, both in terms of Lebanese investment and employment in the Gulf states.”

This isolation may be added to the recent US sanctions which put Lebanon in an unprecedented situation. “The likely possibility is that Hezbollah and Iran will back down from their determination to use Lebanon as a battlefield,” Haddad added.

The presidential palace did not issue any statement about the announcement of the date of parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister, which is stipulated in the constitution after the prime minister submits his resignation.

Free Patriotic Movement leader, Gebran Bassil, commented on the crisis in an interview with his supporters that appeared to be an attempt to heal the rift with Al-Hariri.

“If it is something that is not agreed upon by everyone; it comes with the background of preserving the country. We know very well that rule in Lebanon is not about excluding any Lebanese. Everything that happened before was a mistake that will not be repeated. We are determined to be together in ruling and government.”


Iraqi PM tightens government grip on country’s armed factions

Updated 17 September 2019

Iraqi PM tightens government grip on country’s armed factions

  • The increasingly strained relations between the US and Iran in the region is casting a large shadow over Iraq

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is putting increased pressure on the nation’s armed factions, including Shiite-dominated paramilitary troops and Kurdish guerrillas, in an attempt to tighten his control over them, Iraqi military commanders and analysts said on Monday.

Military commanders have been stripped of some of their most important powers as part of the efforts to prevent them from being drawn into local or regional conflicts.

The increasingly strained relations between the US and Iran in the region is casting a large shadow over Iraq. 

Each side has dozens of allied armed groups in the country, which has been one of the biggest battlegrounds for the two countries since 2003. 

Attempting to control these armed factions and military leaders is one of the biggest challenges facing the Iraqi government as it works to keep the country out of the conflict.

On Sunday, Abdul Mahdi dissolved the leadership of the joint military operations. 

They will be replaced by a new one, under his chairmanship, that includes representatives of the ministries of defense and interior, the military and security services, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and the Ministry of Peshmerga, which controls the military forces of the autonomous Kurdistan region.

According to the prime minister’s decree, the main tasks of the new command structure are to “lead and manage joint operations at the strategic and operational level,” “repel all internal and external threats and dangers as directed by the commander-in-chief of the armed forces,” “manage and coordinate the intelligence work of all intelligence and security agencies,” and “coordinate with international bodies that support Iraq in the areas of training and logistical and air support.”

“This decree will significantly and effectively contribute to controlling the activities of all combat troops, not just the PMU,” said a senior military commander, who declined to be named. 

“This will block any troops associated with any local political party, regional or international” in an attempt to ensure troops serve only the government’s goals and the good of the country. 

“This is explicit and unequivocal,” he added.

Since 2003, the political process in Iraq has been based on political power-sharing system. This means that each parliamentary bloc gets a share of top government positions, including the military, proportionate to its number of seats in Parliament. Iran, the US and a number of regional countries secure their interests and ensure influence by supporting Iraqi political factions financially and morally.

This influence has been reflected in the loyalties and performance of the majority of Iraqi officials appointed by local, regional and international parties, including the commanders of combat troops.

To ensure more government control, the decree also stripped the ministers of defense and interior, and leaders of the counterterrorism, intelligence and national security authorities, and the PMU, from appointing, promoting or transferring commanders. This power is now held exclusively by Abdul Mahdi.

“The decree is theoretically positive as it will prevent local, regional and international parties from controlling the commanders,” said another military commander. 

“This means that Abdul Mahdi will be responsible to everyone inside and outside Iraq for the movement of these forces and their activities.

“The question now is whether Abdul Mahdi will actually be able to implement these instructions or will it be, like others, just ink on paper?”

The PMU is a government umbrella organization established by former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki in June 2014 to encompass the armed factions and volunteers who fought Daesh alongside the Iraqi government. Iranian-backed factions such as Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah represent the backbone of the forces.

The US, one of Iraq’s most important allies in the region and the world, believes Iran is using its influence within the PMU to destabilize and threaten Iraq and the region. Abdul Mahdi is under huge external and internal pressure to abolish the PMU and demobilize its fighters, who do not report or answer to the Iraqi government.

The prime minister aims to ease tensions between the playmakers in Iraq, especially the US and Iran, by preventing their allies from clashing on the ground or striking against each other’s interests.

“Abdul Mahdi seeks to satisfy Washington and reassure them that the (armed) factions of the PMU will not move against the will of the Iraqi government,” said Abdullwahid Tuama, an Iraqi analyst.

The prime minister is attempting a tricky balancing act by aiming to protect the PMU, satisfy the Iranians and prove to the Americans that no one is outside the authority of the state, he added.