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Hazem Saghiyeh

Aoun is the primary victim

Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement could well be the primary victims of the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon.

If we take a look at the past, we notice that the Understanding between Hezbollah and the FPM was one between a major regional issue (the Resistance’s weapons and the interests of the Syrian-Iranian alliance) and a petty domestic one (Aoun’s accession to the presidency). While Hezbollah does not intend to bring the FPM leader to the top spot in the state, it provided him with cover on the national level, much like the FPM provided Hezbollah with a Christian cover.

However, the repercussions of the Syrian crisis on the situation in Lebanon mean that Hezbollah cannot afford slow, considerate and complaisant action similar to what the Understanding with Aoun dictated. During his speech before last, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah did emphasize the continuing alliance with the General, but news of conflicts, though patched up, is now largely predominant over news of agreement. More importantly, Hezbollah’s “regional issue” no longer cares that much about cover, be it Christian or otherwise due to its distress in Syria, as it is now a matter of life or death.

Such a transformation is likely to lead to a progressive, albeit rapid, retreat by Aoun toward pure and clear Christian positions. The issue of hourly-wage workers at Electricité du Liban and granting them permanent employee status may well be an indicator in this respect. Still, the Christian positions to which Aoun will retreat do not allude to national détente, nor do they entail any positive connotation regarding saner national relations between the various sectarian groups. Rather, these positions are likely to hover between childish sulking on the one hand and, on the other, the exacerbation of instincts. This prediction is even more bolstered by the deep frustration Aounists are certainly feeling today.

In fact, the Free Patriotic Movement made a break with “the West” and was overrun by an “East” that is fraught with worries far greater than Michel Aoun’s place on the Lebanese political stage. This deadlock is added to a conflict between a wish to withdraw from the cabinet in order to gain popularity and an inability to do so in order to void the total collapse of the Understanding with Hezbollah.

In other words, all roads seem blocked and all we can do is to wait for weird surprises in the shape of Aoun’s statements. Aounists can indeed do no more than talking.

This article is a translation of the original, which appeared on the NOW Arabic site on Sunday July 29, 2012