An astute reader of this blog sent me the following commentary, which speculates about the significance of several curious little signals coming out of Egypt.
In a sudden cloud burst of optimism, the Cabinet Alert Level was raised to orange Monday evening, only to come crashing down on the rocks of further demands by Michel Aoun on Tuesday morning. Signals now are about as mixed as the preceding metaphor but the question remains – after four months, what has finally happened to kick things into motion?
If Naharnet is right about the proposed deal (FPM retains the Telecommunicaitons Ministry but gives up Bassil as its head), this then sounds like a back-down by the Hariri camp.
Hadi Hobeich adds to that sense:
“Hobeich also said that the adopted cabinet formula suits all parties, adding that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has made concessions for the sake of forming a national-unity government.”
And you’ve got Naim Qassem boasting on Sunday that “external parties” have given up obstructing things, and I think we can assume he’s not talking about Syria or Iran.
So which external party is this? Might it be Egypt?
This theory is somewhat thinly sourced, but Jumblatt’s column from this weekend was oddly Cairo-centric:
“Jumblat urged the need to return to a minimum of Arab-Arab rapprochement after the Syrian-Saudi summit put its first pillar. Adding that “the Syrian-Saudi-Egyptian axis has to be the containing Arab vessel… “
Jumblatt continues to go on and on about Egypt and its regional role in the piece. Out of character for the Man from Moukhtara?
The real mystery clue though is this:
“Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu Al Ghayt said that Hizbullah’s arms have nothing to do with the fact that Lebanon has failed so far to reach a Cabinet formation considering that “the Internal Lebanese balances on one side and the foreign visions on the other are what’s weighing heavily on this government and its formation.”
On the other hand, Abu Al Ghayt announced in a statement in Al-Siyasa newspaper that he has taken a look at the reports referred to the Security Council found in the court file regarding President Rafik Hariri’s assassination. “There are no indications or criticisms pointing at Syria; on the contrary, there’s an international confession of Syria’s cooperation in the matter,” he added. “
Egypt has historically been a second-tier player in Lebanon, though they pop up in interesting ways here and there. In mid-October, Tripoli Alawi leader Rifaat Eid blamed an attack in his community on Egyptian intelligence, rather than his usual foes in the Sunni district. Sunni Sheikh Malek ash-Shaar blamed unnamed “foreign parties” for the attack, though he left it ambiguous as to exactly who he had in mind.
More directly relevant here, there were rumors in August about disagreements between Saudi Arabia and Egypt over Lebanon as the Saudis were gearing up for a rapprochement with Syria.
And as early as July, Hezbollah accused Egypt of holding up that rapprochement. Egypt was also reportedly in favor of keeping Saniora as prime minister, suspicious that the opposition had so readily agreed to Hariri in the role (Egypt denied the report, and in early June denied trying to influence the elections).
But now, kind words for Hezbollah’s weapons and Syria’s role in the Hariri assassination? If Egypt was possibly the last hold out pushing Hariri not to give Telecom to Aoun, did Egypt just “sell out Lebanon?” And if so, for what?
(Commentary for QifaNabki.com by Philippe Bou Rached)
Further reading material:
- Deen Sharp on electoral reform in Lebanon.
- Khaled Saghiyah on the homogenization of Lebanese politics.