Saudi Arabia's changing stance: A boost for Sleiman Frangieh's candidacy

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2023-05-18 | 00:03
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Saudi Arabia's changing stance: A boost for Sleiman Frangieh's candidacy
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6min
Saudi Arabia's changing stance: A boost for Sleiman Frangieh's candidacy

With great satisfaction, supporters of the nomination of the head of the Marada Movement, Sleiman Frangieh, deal with the developments.   

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar.  

A satisfaction expressed publicly by Speaker Nabih Berri and depending on a set of data based mainly on the movement of the Saudi "locomotive," which has so far passed three stations, and is expected to reach its fourth station, between the 20th of this month, the date of the Arab League Summit in Jeddah, and the 15th of next June, with the release of the election Frangieh as president, as a translation of the calm regional atmosphere expected to result from the summit after the recent regional reconciliations.  

Since the end of President Michel Aoun's term, this team has dealt with the fact that Frangieh faces two main obstacles: Christians and Saudi Arabia.  

In the first hurdle, it was relied upon that the understanding of the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, would be sufficient to overcome it, provided that Berri would undertake a dialogue with the Lebanese Forces, and if it were not convinced, then Bassil's Christian representation would suffice and increase Frangieh's coverage.   

The disappointment came from the Movement's leader's total rejection of any attempt to persuade him in return for any guarantees he wanted from Nasrallah personally.  

The second hurdle, Saudi Arabia, was seen as the most difficult. Realistically, this team acknowledged that without the approval of Riyadh, the head of the Marada Movement would not set foot in Baabda Palace.  

Realistically, too, this team was aware that Saudi Arabia's approval of Frangieh, in light of the sharp regional clash, was almost impossible.  

This is what the Saudis expressed in the first five-party meeting by rejecting any discussion of the French barter settlement (Frangieh in exchange for Nawaf Salam), insisting on the nomination of Army Commander Joseph Aoun or a candidate from outside the political alignments in Lebanon.   

This was the starting point for the Saudi "locomotive."  

The French did not give up, in conjunction with the start of the Iranian-Saudi communication, in trying to soften Riyadh's position.   

Their argument was that any president whom Hezbollah did not accept would not rule. Saudi Arabia realized that the army commander had no chances, so it moved to the second stage by lifting the veto in the face of Frangieh and insisting on a candidate from outside the lineups.  

In front of the Saudi and Christian obstacles, the decision of Frangieh's supporters was as follows: If we are not able to make it a success, we will prevent the election of someone else - the quorum was disrupted, and the paths were blocked - until the reconciliation between Riyadh and Tehran "exploded," on March 10, in the face of everyone.   

It seemed clear that Mohammed bin Salman wanted to relieve all the burdens of the past stage and devote himself to "NEOM" and "Vision 2030," so it was the third and largest stop in withdrawing the veto from Frangieh's candidacy.  

Accordingly, the logic of matters, according to Frangieh's supporters, is that waiting for the fourth and final stage to approve his election will not take long after the Arab League Summit.   

No, it is even beginning to loom. Not to mention what has become known about the threat of sanctions by the Saudi ambassador, Walid al-Bukhari, to those who obstruct the quorum in the session to elect the president in his recent meeting with the National Moderation Bloc MPs, and informing them that "we do not interfere in the elections."  

One of them asked him: "No veto over Frangieh, and is it possible to vote for him?"   

He replied, "No veto, and you are free." And when he was asked: "So without a Deal?" he replied: "The deal comes later. There is the presidency of the government and others."   

In this sense, this is a return to square one to settle the French barter, which the Saudis were refusing.  

With this, in principle, the Saudi obstacle has been removed, but the Christian obstacle remains.  

According to Frangieh's supporters, and contrary to what is rumored, Qatar's lack of enthusiasm to host the five-party meeting in Doha expresses its conviction of failing to market the army commander after its delegates heard a strict rejection from more than one political party.   

On the other hand, Frangieh's supporters doubt the success of the ongoing negotiations between the leading Christian blocs opposing him in agreeing on a candidate's name, especially if Bassil insists that this candidate is not a provocateur to Hezbollah.   

The names put forward, according to them, are all "provocative to the party," including Jihad Azour, which Bassil himself puts forward.   

For this team, the only name that does not provoke Hezbollah is: Sleiman Frangieh.
 

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