Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Saad Hariri. By Ghassan Kadi June 2011

Saad Hariri

June 29, 2011
By Ghassan Kadi
Politics in Lebanon is traditionally a very peculiar game that is probably unique. It is a family legacy based structure that is legitimized by elections. It has its tribal rules and regulations. The sectarian constitution of Lebanon, adds to it a sectarian aspect.

This cocktail of archaic traditions plus a form of democracy give rise to a system that is based on sectarian regional leaderships. This means that different regions in Lebanon have their own lineages of family leadership that is structured on religion and sect.

In this respect, if we look at the Lebanese Sunni sect, the major areas of concentration of Sunni population are the cities of Beirut, Tripoli, and Saida. Each of those cities had its own lineages of leadership.

Within Beirut, the traditional Sunni families competed within each other over the leadership. But they kept to their boundaries. They did not go to compete with the families of Tripoli and Saida on their turf.

This structure prevented the families of this tribal system from being able to dominate and have monopoly over its sect. In other words, this out-dated system had a positive aspect.

When in the 60’s the Karameh family of Tripoli went out of its traditional turf, which is meant to be restricted to the city of Tripoli itself, there was a huge outcry. But all that the Karameh family did was to expand its leadership to the Sunnis of North Lebanon. It steered right away from other regions despite the strong national rivalry for the seat of the Prime Minister, which according to the constitution, has to be headed by a Sunni.

There is no doubt that this system of politics is feudalism in disguise, but it has its advantages. Apart from preventing monopoly, regional leadership meant that people were able to go and meet with their leader if they had a problem or a concern about their towns and cities. They addressed local issues locally and tried to resolve them locally, with some success and many failures.

The Hariri family is not one of the traditional Sunni leading families. Rafiq Hariri (father of Saad) was a middle class Sunni from Saida before he returned home a multi-billionaire after “striking gold” in Saudi Arabia. Even though there has been a great controversy about the dealings of Rafiq and his rise to power, there is little doubt that the man did many good things. He rebuilt Beirut and set up the Hariri Foundation which, among other things, sponsored thousands of students to go to universities.

Whether or not Rafiq Hariri used philanthropy to buy his rise to power or not, the fact remains that he vehemently wanted to establish his position as the supreme Sunni political leader of the whole of Lebanon. That said, Rafiq Hariri played by the rules of political allegiance. Whilst he was on good terms with all elements of the Lebanese mosaic, including the right wing predominantly Christian leaders, he was supportive of the Lebanese resistance (ie Hezbollah) and on good terms with Syria.
It was not till Rafiq Hariri was assassinated that his legacy took a different turn. Even though Syria had all to lose and nothing to gain by assassinating Rafiq Hariri, his heir son Saad, immediately jumped to the conclusion that Syria was behind the murder.

From that point on, Saad a young man in his mid thirties, with virtually no experience at all in politics, very poor mastery of the Arabic language, little charisma and obvious lack of intelligence, arrogant body language, total inability of public speaking, turned into something in between Hamlet and Don Quixote. His whole political career is openly and overtly focused on what he calls “the truth”, a term he uses to express his intention to prove to the world that Syria killed his father.

His first “achievement” was to get Syria out of Lebanon. With the help of his Saudi and American friends, and whilst the blood of his father was still warm, he was able to rally enough support for that.
With that done, his next objective was to dis-arm Hezbollah. A conservative political coalition was formed, the so-called “14th of March”. What brought members of that coalition together was the joint hatred of Syria, joint hatred of Hezbollah, and an intention to return the politics of Lebanon to the pre civil war era.

The traditional political heads of Lebanon were at great dis-ease about the rise of power of Hezbollah and the new status quo of Lebanon as a country that confront Israel. The powers that destroyed what Lebanon used to be seemed to have woken up and realized how much they each lost. They concluded that the only way for them to regain the privileges they had in the good old days was by side-stepping Hezbollah. No one was as vehement about this as much as Saad Hariri. The other parties were trying to re-gain a paradise lost, but his quest was vengeance. His quest for vengeance is so profound that he was prepared to slump Lebanon into civil war again just for him to get his satisfaction.

On the military front, in May 2008, his attempts of intimidating Hezbollah reached a break point and Hezbollah had to control the streets before the country fell into the doldrums of civil war again. In less than a day, Hezbollah had full control of Beirut and then withdrew and gave up it its positions to the Lebanese Army.

Knowing that he cannot have any military foot hold in the southern parts of Lebanon, Saad armed the Tripoli (Lebanese)-based Salafists under the leadership of Da’i Al Islam Shahal and immediately waged a war of intimidation and sporadic fighting against the Lebanese Alawites (Shiites) of Tripoli.
A few years earlier, he armed and sponsored the Palestinian-based Fateh Al Islam fundamentalist group in Al Bared camp north of Tripoli.

Shahal was a disgruntled fanatic Sunni leader who never managed to get a bite of the cherry. He is the son of Salem Shahal, one of the founders of Moslem brotherhood in Tripoli back in the 40’s. Father Salem was more of a clown than a religious leader, and his group was given the derogatory name of “Abu Danab” (the tailed ones) in reference to the pony tails that identified them. If anything, that group was more of a reason for ridicule rather than spiritual inspiration. Salem ran in the parliamentary elections of 1968 for a seat in the city of Tripoli and got a handful of votes. Later on, when Sunni fundamentalists rose to prominence in Tripoli in 1981-82, the new groups kept the Shahals away at arm’s length. They were perceived as an embarrassment.

When Saad Hariri was on the lookout for hired thugs, he could not find a better ally than Shahal. When the Hariri money started to flow into Shahal’s coffers, it was the magic moment he had been waiting for and was literally-speaking tantamount to being given a licence to kill.

The Shahal army is comprised of thugs that have recently settled in Tripoli from the adjacent hills. The traditional and self-respecting citizens of Tripoli do not take part of this charade. And whilst some people in Tripoli adopt the anti-Syrian politics and share the hatred for Syria with the Hariri camp, they feel the strong intimidation of the Shahal army. Tripoli is now a city under siege by Saad and his henchmen.

On the political front, Saad ran huge and expensive election campaigns and nominated his own people for all of the Sunni seats of the Lebanese Parliament. Traditional Sunni leaders had to choose between appeasing him to retain their positions, or stand against him and lose. His arrogance however made him lose allies as quickly as he got them. His 14th of March Coalition has lost some major allies, and some of his independent allies, including the current Prime Minister Najib Mikati turned against him driven away by his total disrespect of others.

On the ego front, no one knows how much money was spent by Saad to inflate his image. Huge posters of him litter the streets of Lebanon. Songs and slogans were written for him elevating him to the level of saints and heroes, but it was all bought. None of it came out of any one’s heart.

Every time Saad feels that his life is threatened, he makes a disappearance. He leaves the country and goes on a luxury retreat somewhere unknown in Europe.

The recent events in Syria are a dream come true to Saad and his followers. The political formula in the Middle East is clear for those who understand it properly.

When Israel is under threat, it pushes the USA button for help. The USA will in turn give the orders to the Saudis, the Saudis will pass them on to their sub-ordinates like Hariri, and Hariri passes them on to his Salafi and other thugs, each with his own ugly and dark agenda and vendetta.

This chain of command is now fully mobilized to de-stabilise Syria. In de-stabilising Syria, the USA intends to stop the supplies to Hezbollah and protect Israel. This is the ultimate plot. For this plot to succeed, it needs hungry demonic players with their own little agendas to do the dirty work.

To the vengeful Hariri, it is about evening up score with Syria. To the fanatic right wing Lebanese Forces, it means a chance for return to power. To the Salafis, it means Sunni superiority. None of those groups cares if this meant total American and Israeli hegemony.

Bashar Assad represents the side of Middle Eastern politics that stands up against this conspiracy. One can give him all the criticism in world if he/she wishes to, but what matters when a country is in a state of war is the bigger picture.

This is not about democracy or freedom of speech. It is not about single or multi-party rule. This is about nationhood and its self-determination. When the whole country is under threat, individual needs ought to be put on hold. Who ever puts his/her personal needs before those of the whole country is by definition a traitor. In this respect, it is an act of treason to rise against Assad.

Saad Hariri has demonstrated that he did join hands with the devil to get his revenge. To try to dispel the myth about him would give him un-earned importance and un-deserved credit. The truth is that there is nothing mystical about the man. He is a plain opportunist, a bigot, and a very short-sighted and selfish man. He is a pawn in the hands of Israel and the USA. Little does he see that they will dump him as soon as his tenure reaches its expiry date.
In between Hamlet and Don Quixote
In between Hamlet and Don Quixote

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