Tehran's moves and Riyadh's red lines: Lebanon's presidential challenge

Press Highlights
2023-09-04 | 02:14
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Tehran's moves and Riyadh's red lines: Lebanon's presidential challenge
Tehran's moves and Riyadh's red lines: Lebanon's presidential challenge

The sources affiliated with Hezbollah and Amal Movement have once again stirred up the atmosphere surrounding the election of their candidate, the head of the Marada Movement, Sleiman Frangieh, following the expected stance of the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil.

This article was originally published in and translated from Lebanese newspaper Nidaa al-Watan.
They have now exceeded 65 deputies' voices, attempting to give the impression to the public that they are on the verge of securing the two-thirds majority quorum. 

However, they largely ignore the opposition's ability to obstruct achieving this quorum, even in the face of American and Saudi positions rejecting the election of the Hezbollah candidate, no matter who that may be.

The regional and international atmospheres seem ambiguous, with no hopeful indication of receiving external orders to elect this or that candidate.

Furthermore, any president elected without Saudi or American 'blessing' would be isolated and unable to achieve anything.
Thus, the calculations continue for internal entertainment and to pass the time while everyone awaits a settlement involving the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Frangieh knows these dynamics very well and has previously stated his lack of enthusiasm for the presidency if it does not receive Saudi support.

Therefore, the challenge of his election remains significant unless Hezbollah can secure an absolute majority and two-thirds majority.

All claims from the "opposition axis" about nearing victory in the Lebanese presidency due to external stances fall flat.

In this context, informed sources confirmed the Saudi stance to Nidaa Al-Watan that the Kingdom has sent clear signals to its allies and those affected by its stance that it is forbidden for Tehran to win in Lebanon.

The Saudi-Iranian agreement primarily covers Yemen and secondarily Syria, with its influence yet to reach Lebanon.
But the Lebanese calculations differ entirely from those in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria.

Furthermore, faced with this strict Saudi position, there is no capability for either the Sunni opposition bloc or the Democratic Gathering bloc to push forward any candidate who does not receive Saudi approval and is counted on by Hezbollah.

Additionally, a significant US rigidity does not permit the election of a president from the Iranian axis.

The FPM leader, MP Gebran Bassil, has not yet given his final position on the issue of Frangieh's election.

Therefore, the opposition axis calculations remain uncertain without Bassil's clear stance. 

The latter attempts to buy time while he knows the cost of returning to an alliance with Hezbollah, covering his policies. As a result, internal matters remain in limbo amid the resolute American and Saudi position on settling Frangieh's election.

Despite the soft positions of both the National Moderation and the Democratic Gathering blocs, the opposition remains comfortable with its situation because it understands the regional and international red lines and domestic obstacles.

Moreover, there is an absolute rejection of electing a candidate from Hezbollah, and there will be no settlements like those in 2008 and 2016.

The current battle is about preventing a Hezbollah candidate from assuming the presidency. Any settlement, if it were to happen, would only come with conditions that strengthen the state and reduce Hezbollah's influence.

Some officials within the opposition axis count the opposition's deputies as 31 votes, those who signed the parliamentary petition after the Kahaleh incident.

However, the reality lies elsewhere – the inability to drag the country into a confrontation with the Arab and international community and bear the consequences of electing a president aligned with Iran.

On the other hand, no faction, especially those associated with the opposition, including the reformist MPs, dares to secure a quorum to elect a president aligned with the opposition axis.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah is striving to regroup after the Kahaleh incident, which realigned its focus towards the danger of its weaponry.

The recent developments in Riyadh's relations with Tehran are separate from its relationship with Hezbollah. Riyadh considers Hezbollah's unchanged behavior, whether internally or regionally, as a negative signal.

Thus, it continues its policy of countering Hezbollah wherever it operates and will not allow the election of a president who aligns with it.

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