Prominent members of Lebanon’s parliamentary majority and opposition have expressed displeasure at the prospect of a Syrian-Saudi effort to determine the composition of Lebanon’s next government. Everyone from Michel Aoun to Walid Jumblatt to Naim Qassem to Amin Gemayel have spoken out against the idea of Saad al-Hariri handing over the reins of power to the Syrians and the Saudis, arguing that the formation of the cabinet should be up to the Lebanese alone.
A noble idea perhaps, but how realistic is the dream of Lebanese sovereignty? Not very, says the latest evidence unearthed by the muckraking masterminds here at The Qnion. Loyal readers, I give you the transcript of a top secret meeting held in Riyadh between PM-designate Saad al-Hariri, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and President Bashar al-Asad of Syria.
Remember, you read it here first!
[Scene: The royal reception room at one of King Abdullah’s palaces; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia]
Hariri: Your Excellency!
King Abdullah: Saad!
Hariri: I’ve missed you so much! How is everything?
King Abdullah: Splendid, my boy! We’ve missed you around here too. It’s been, what… ten days since your last visit?
Hariri: Has it really been that long? God, it felt like an absolute eternity…
King Abdullah: Well, the important thing is that you’re home. I mean, ahh, well, what I meant to say was…
Hariri: (uncomfortable) Ahem, yes… ummm
King Abdullah: … Make yourself at home! That’s what I meant.
Hariri: Yes of course.
King Abdullah: Saad, come over here, I’d like to introduce you to President Bashar al-Asad of Syria.
Bashar: Greetings Sheikh Saad. Congratulations on your appointment! I’m sure your father would have been very proud.
Hariri: (gritting his teeth) Yes. Thank you. Pleased to meet you. Finally.
Bashar: Wow, is it me or is it unbearably hot in here?
King Abdullah: We have the royal air conditioners on at full blast, but this is Riyadh you know, heh heh. Not quite as balmy and breezy as lovely Syria, that’s for sure.
Bashar: No kidding. I suppose it’s also perhaps a bit worse for me as I am slightly taller than both of you.
King Abdullah & Hariri: (nodding uncomfortably)
Bashar: You know, they say that heat rises, and given that I’m… what? A good foot and a half taller? It probably makes a difference.
King Abdullah: (annoyed) I don’t think you’re that much taller, Mr. President. Maybe a few inches.
Bashar: No, I do think that my shoulders are taller than your head, Your Highness. That is to say, I’m head and shoulders above you, ha ha. Physically speaking, of course.
King Abdullah: (straining to smile) Ok ok, I get it…
Bashar: I mean, I’m not saying that you’re half as tall as me, or anything, ha ha ha…
King Abdullah: No, no, I understand…
Bashar: Maybe if you stood on this little brown table with the mother-of-pearl inlay, you’d be as tall as me. Wait a minute… I have a table just like this in my reception room too!
King Abdullah: No way!
Bashar: I’m serious! Exactly like it.
Hariri: Me too! Come to think of it, so does every other Arab leader that I’ve ever visited. Huh.
Bashar: Well, they’re so useful, you know? Like, when you’re meeting with other world leaders, and stuff. Ideal place to put your coffee.
Hariri: Exactly. It’s like the perfect size. Not too big…
Bashar: (finishing his sentence) …but not too small! Exactly! Plus they’re just tasteful. Not too showy, and the craftsmanship is just fabulous.
King Abdullah: Totally. Oh my God, what a crazy coincidence! Anyway, where were we?
Hariri: We were about to discuss the Lebanese cabinet formation.
King Abdullah: Right.
Hariri: Now, in view of the fact that March 14 won the election fair and square, and that there is absolutely no constitutional basis for anything like a cabinet veto for the opposition, I believe that it is more than fair that…
King Abdullah: Ah, Saad?
Hariri: … we give the opposition absolutely no more than…
King Abdullah: Saad?
Hariri: … which is already more than one could expect under the…
King Abdullah: Saad!!!
Hariri: Yes sir! Sorry, you were saying?
King Abdullah: President Bashar has a proposal.
Bashar: Thanks, Your Excellency. Saad, this folder contains a list of helpful suggestions that King Abdullah and I came up with, just as a way to… you know, help you complete the cabinet formation process as easily as possible. Give it a read on your way home to Beirut tonight. You might find it useful.
Hariri: (opening the folder) Umm…
King Abdullah: That’s right, Saad. We just want the best for Lebanon, and given that this is your first time as Prime Minister…
Bashar: (smiling) And hopefully not your last.
King Abdullah: Ahem…
Bashar: That came out all wrong. What I meant was…
King Abdullah: Never mind. Just read what’s in that folder, Saad, and brainstorm it. By yourself.
Hariri: (incredulous) But… these aren’t suggestions. (Pulling out a single sheet of paper from the folder.) There’s just a list of ministerial portfolios with names attached to them!
Bashar: Like I said,these are some suggestions designed to help grease the wheels, so to speak.
Hariri: (frantic) And if I refuse? This is unacceptable! It’s blackmail! Lebanon is an independent country!
King Abdullah: There, there. No need to get upset. Sleep on it and call me in the morning.
Bashar: We’re sure you’ll come to the right decision.
Hariri: (steaming) Alright. I’ll be in touch. (Storms out)
King Abdullah: (To Bashar) Don’t worry. He’ll be fine.
Bashar: Do I look worried? God damn it, it’s hot up here.
King Abdullah: Just shut the hell up, ok?
Bashar: Sorry. Couldn’t resist.
King Abdullah: Freak of nature… What do they grow in Damascus, magic beans?
Bashar: (snickers) Something like that…
By QIFA NABKI