Lebanon: Defense Strategy Depends on Elections Results, Hezbollah’s Readiness to Engage in Dialogue

Lebanon: Defense Strategy Depends on Elections Results, Hezbollah’s Readiness to Engage in Dialogue

Wednesday, 14 March, 2018 - 08:45
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun (R), Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri (2nd R) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (L) attend a parade at a military academy in Fayadyeh near Beirut. (Reuters)
Beirut- Paula Astih
Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s announcement that he will launch dialogue on the country’s defense strategy following the upcoming parliamentary elections has opened the door for speculations about the priorities of the new government and the main challenges awaiting the Lebanese in the post-election phase.

Dialogue on the defense strategy was halted at the end of the term of former President Michel Sleiman in 2014. The latter has convened national dialogue sessions that gathered the country’s leaders, who have failed, over a period of eight years, to agree on the fate of Hezbollah’s arms.

In 2012, Lebanon’s decision-makers agreed on a number of items under the so-called “Baabda Declaration”. Article 12 of the Declaration calls for “dissociating Lebanon from the policy of regional and international axes and conflicts, and avoiding the negative repercussions of regional tensions and crises.”

However, with Hezbollah’s decision to send its fighters to Syria to participate in the war, the party has bluntly violated the Baabda Declaration, as head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Raad said that the Declaration was “born dead and is mere ink on paper.”

In September 2012, Suleiman presented his vision of a national strategy for the defense of Lebanon, stating that the appropriate frameworks and mechanisms should be agreed upon to use the weapons of the resistance and to place them under the Army’s mandate. Lebanese leaders discussed this strategy without reaching a conclusion.

Hezbollah does not seem to be enthusiastic about re-discussing the defense strategy, and no official position on Aoun’s announcement was issued by the party.

However, in an indirect response, Raad said on Tuesday: “The resistance, which represents a cornerstone in the equation of power and defense of this homeland, and which offered a lot of gear, planning and will… this resistance embraced by our generous national people… do not need texts, and remains a need as long as there is an Israeli enemy and terrorist threats to our existence and identity.”

According to sources close to Aoun, the president has not yet developed any vision to tackle the defense strategy and nothing was clear on whether the issue would be discussed through national dialogue or by the new government that will emerge from the new Parliament.

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