Elections, Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14

The Future of al-Mustaqbal

Now that the mystery of Moussa al-Sadr’s disappearance has been solved, Lebanon needs a new vanished imam to contemplate.

Why not Saad al-Hariri? Even by his own peripatetic standards, al-Hariri’s absence from the political scene over the past several months has been something to behold. The man has well and truly left the building, and the situation is so bad that even NOW Lebanon has noticed. Michael Young recently had this to say about Hariri’s Houdini act:

Hariri has been abroad for months, an affront to those who elected him. His money problems are genuine and have not yet been resolved, taking a toll on his patronage network and political authority. The former prime minister is not out yet, however if his occultation lasts much longer, his leadership will melt. Many sympathizers wonder what Hariri actually stands for. Who did they mobilize to elect in the 2009 elections? No answer has come from the Future Movement, which has morphed into something of an annoying jack-in-the-box—popping its head up episodically to deliver some statement or barb against Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

In my view, Saad is trying to pull a page from from his father’s playbook. In 1998, after Emile Lahoud was installed as Syria’s man in Baabda, Rafiq al-Hariri resigned. He told a reporter from al-Hayat the reasons behind his calculations in a revealing interview.

Hariri excused himself from forming the first government in the Lahoud era, after a dispute about the delegation of MPs’ votes, which left Lahoud with the freedom to name the prime minister-designate. In fact, some of his friends advised him to leave office, and one of them was then-Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam. Khaddam told him that Lahoud was beginning his mandate in a Buick that was fresh from the dealer, while “you’re driving an Opel that has been ground down by exercising power.” Khaddam suggested that Hariri let Lahoud use up some of the power of his car, and then they would see. This is what happened when Hariri returned to power in 2000 after a clear election victory, a victory that did not anger some Syrian parties that had not been enthusiastic about Lahoud in the first place.

Saad probably hopes that by the time the 2013 elections roll around, the Lebanese will have had enough of Najib Miqati and his Buick — to say nothing of Michel Aoun’s Batmobile and Nasrallah’s STL getaway car — and will welcome Hariri back to town with open arms. It is, in other words, a policy of “offshore balancing,” whereby a once-dominant power sits back and lets its enemies destroy each other before swooping in to tilt the balance in its own favor. (In this case, Hariri is the one who is perpetually offshore, trying to manage the affairs back home…)

My sense is that this gambit will fail. Miqati’s government — just by dint of being in the right place at the right time — will be able to take credit for solving the electricity problem, giving Lebanon high-speed internet, maintaining relative peace and stability while not compromising on the STL issue or crossing any Syrian red lines, and perhaps even introducing proportional representation. Furthermore, depending on how things play out in Syria, the Saudis may  find it more  advantageous to try to  co-opt Lebanon’s new quadripartite alliance (Hizbullah, Aoun, Jumblatt, and Miqati) rather than supporting an electoral “war of elimination” against March 8th in 2013.

Whatever the case may be, the near future doesn’t look so great for al-Mustaqbal.

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26 thoughts on “The Future of al-Mustaqbal

  1. Wait! what new information is there on Moussa Al Sadr?

    Posted by Haytham | November 3, 2011, 5:52 pm
  2. My immediate response would be: Huh? People have very short memories and there’s a long way to 2013…But on a slow news day; go ahead look into the crystal ball.

    Posted by danny | November 3, 2011, 6:25 pm
  3. Sa’ad Hariri has never been important , as an individual, politically and never will be. He has felt a moral obligation to stand up for his assassinated father and play a role that he is not capable of. It is for the good of everyone if he would just leave politics comletely and concentrate on his personal business as a Saudi citizen.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 3, 2011, 6:39 pm
  4. Its not worth looking into so much. It’s simple really.Young Saad has taken time off to complete his studies. Arabic, Business studies, political science, are among the subjects. He is also taking a short course on public speaking. He should be ready by the 2025 elections.

    Posted by Maverick | November 3, 2011, 8:16 pm
  5. Same question as Haytham up at #1: what’s new on the Moussa Sadr file? links/references?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | November 3, 2011, 10:18 pm
  6. Re. Musa Al-Sadr, I imagine that comment was made somewhat tongue-in-cheek, whilst overtly displaying full confidence in the NTC’s ability to unearth the truth!

    Posted by Naseem Mitrah | November 4, 2011, 5:53 am
  7. Thx Naseem.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 4, 2011, 6:22 am
  8. Very good post.
    I had a lot to say about this, so instead of writing a comment, I wrote an entire post.

    Posted by Mustapha | November 4, 2011, 6:50 am
  9. Good riddance to an unimpressive unprincipled guy, way over his head….

    What’s with all the idiots wearing the same tie as the boss on the pic? Were ugly ties on sale that day?

    Your internet and electricity comments QN are super optimistic to be polite, a break from the thesis seems called for… 😉

    Finally, if your Saudi comment comes to life, we will be back to square “minus 42” …which really has been the history of the failure called Lebanon

    Posted by OldHand | November 4, 2011, 12:24 pm
  10. OldHand

    I don’t know about super optimistic, but I think we can reasonably expect the internet situation to improve slightly by 2013. The electricity issue will surely drag on longer than that, but the FPM is going to be touting its General Electric theme to be sure, with or without the lights on.

    The Saudi succession adds a new dimension to this puzzle, of course.

    I don’t know about you guys, but Mikati has always struck me as a decent guy, all things considered. Yes, he’s a politician and yes he’s guilty of some flip-flopping (as attested by the Wikileaks cables) but he’s smart, savvy, not a thug, not as corrupt as many others, patient, well-spoken, but also not a wimp. I think Lebanon is in better hands… for now.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 4, 2011, 2:15 pm
  11. By the way, you never answered me: are you Abu Kais? 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 4, 2011, 2:18 pm
  12. QN,

    Come on now. Haven’t you be able to ascertain by now? He is AK!!!But not AK-47…I will endorse you for President or Lebanon. You ought to be a politician with that amount of optimism especially when that country looks worse than ever.

    Posted by danny | November 4, 2011, 2:28 pm
  13. Who would want to be President? The head of the taxi drivers’ union has more clout.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 4, 2011, 2:42 pm
  14. Dude…I meant of USA. 😀

    Posted by danny | November 4, 2011, 2:42 pm
  15. Old Hand is NOT Abu Kais

    Posted by Vulcan | November 4, 2011, 4:32 pm
  16. I feel like discussing Hariri is a bit of a waste of time. Who cares? The guy has almost no clout left. And whatever he had, was because of his father.
    I’m with Ghassan on this one…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 4, 2011, 5:24 pm
  17. QN,

    Vulcan (are you Mr. Spock?) is right, I am not AK. Cheers

    Posted by OldHand | November 5, 2011, 12:32 am
  18. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2011/Nov-04/153193-ill-be-back-hariri-tells-his-twitter-followers.ashx#axzz1cnzapbnD

    I think he had just watched Terminator, and thought it amusing to tweet “I’ll Be Back.” Or he’s an avid QN reader. Whichever it is I hope this is one campaign promise he doesn’t keep. I say good riddance!

    Posted by Johnny Seikaly | November 5, 2011, 1:34 am
  19. Why isn’t anyone considering the real threat of assassination Hariri Jr is under? His father with all the clout he had and the perceived international protection didn’t save him from being killed in Beirut.

    OH Live long and prosper 🙂

    Posted by Vulcan | November 5, 2011, 10:11 am
  20. RE: QN comment #11:

    “…Mikati has always struck me as a decent guy, all things considered… he’s smart, savvy, not a thug, not as corrupt as many others.”

    I’m wondering what the metric is here. How do we access corruption or ‘decency’ levels among Lebanese millionaire/billionaire businessmen and politicians?

    Considering the dearth of investigative reporting on the development and maintenance of the ruling class’s financial assets, to what extent are such character assessments based on documented research or proven facts? Or do speeches, mannerisms, charisma and other public behaviors play a bigger role as a consequence and if so, how credible of an indicator can such factors be?

    Posted by Habib | November 5, 2011, 11:43 am
  21. You’re right Habib. Very impressionistic on my part.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 5, 2011, 12:09 pm
  22. I think that main function of Hariri Jr. is to coalesce a majority Sunny block that can work with other blocks, Christian, Druze, or Shia, on pursuing Taeif accords and objectives. Without Hariri, the Mustaqbal can start breaking down, as a few allies of the Sunni majority, may start vesting towards the “opposition” of Taeif, best represented by Hizbollah and Aoun. I understand that this is a simplistic geopolitical position, but the fact is that a revision of Taeif, starting with the Doha accords, seems to be the poltical objective of the anti Mustaqbal coalitions.

    All this to say that Hariri is much more important than QN thinks, and that he is here to stay, as long as the Sunni want to hold on to the gains of Taeif.

    Btw, I find many interesting developments in Taeif, like the promisory note about secularism, as well as many important contributions of Doha, like the empowerment of the Shia voice in governemntal decision making, but I think that it is time to move beyond both, towards a de-sectarianization of politics accompanied by a transformation of political parties and their roles, and a transformation of the very representative nature of the so-called democratic process of government…

    Posted by Parrhesia | November 5, 2011, 6:43 pm
  23. Parrhesia,
    Sa’ad Hariri might be a wonderful person and a great human being but this does not mean that he has the qualities of being a leader or that he is equipped to be a role model. The guy is neither well read, noncharismatic. He is neither a creative thinker nor eloquent. His only claim to leadership is that his father was a political leader and by default he is the spokesperson for KSA, the leaders of Sunni Islam.
    Political leadership must be earned and must rise above these superficial allegiances to foreign monarchs. Mr. Hariri had ample opportunity to prove his mettle but he failed at every opportunity. He could not even present an agenda for governing beyond the support for STL. Many of us are as adamant ashe is, maybe even more so to have the investigation procced but not at the expense of the failure to govern. The STL is an important issue but it is not the only issue. Unfortunately, as I have stated many times, neither he nor Mr. Saniora could chew and walk a straight line. And that is sad. If Sa’ad Hariri is the only rationale for the Almustaqbal then the movement/party might as well fade away from the political scene. They have failed to articulate a Lebanese agenda anyway and have been satisfied in being the mouth piece for Saudi Arabia. I imagine a sovereign Lebanon should stand for more than that.. In a sense I do not see the fundamental difference between those that want Lebanon to be Tehran West and those that think Lebanon is Riyadh on the Med.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 5, 2011, 8:38 pm
  24. We should be so proud of the Arab League for being always on top of developments in the Arab world. They acted decisively to prevent Saddam from occupying Kuwait, they acted to help the Libyan masses against Qadaffi, They have protected the Yemenis from the machinations of Saleh, They helped preserve the integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon , They took action against the arbitrary detentions and killings of the Bahraini King and reversed its Saudi occupation and today they decided to hold a meeting in a week from now to discuss Syrian violations of the agreement reached four days ago. We are so lucky to have such watchful guardian angels looking after our welfare:-) What have we done to deserve such efficiency?lol

    اعلنت الجامعة العربية ان وزراء الخارجية العرب سيعقدون اجتماعا طارئا السبت المقبل لبحث عدم التزام سوريا بتنفيذ المبادرة العربية لانهاء اعمال العنف وقمع الاحتجاجات.

    There is only one decent thing to do: Dissolve the League. It is useless.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 6, 2011, 7:03 pm
  25. I mentioned the Arab League/Syria agreement a few days ago, and how it would change absolutely nothing on the ground.
    No surprises here.

    What was the point of all that? To show the world that the league “does stuff”? Comings and goings, meetings, etc. With no actual substance or facts on the ground.

    Yeah. Gus, I’ve been on the same page as you about the AL and its need to dissolve a LONG time ago (long before the Arab Spring).
    That body has shown to be completely useless for decades now.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 6, 2011, 9:58 pm


  1. Pingback: Beirut Spring: ❊ Does The Future Movement Have a Future? - November 4, 2011

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