On the state of shock for Christians in Lebanon

  • Written by:

Ali Al-Amin
The confrontation that recently erupted between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement in Lebanon exposed the disharmony between allies, which has existed ever since the FPM joined the so-called March 8 coalition, or the resistance coalition which is led by Hezbollah and which was formed in 2005 when the Syrian army exited Lebanon.

According to the Memorandum of Understanding, signed between Hezbollah and the FPM which was then led by Michel Aoun in February 2006, the FPM would accept the strategic choices which concern Hezbollah on the regional and local levels (basically maintaining its arsenal) in exchange of supporting Aoun to become president.

The MoU also included the Christian concept of the alliance of the minorities as a source of security to Christians. Aoun led the project of establishing a Christian alliance in the Middle East with Iran thinking it will protect Christian presence in the region. This indicated that the source of threat is the Sunni majority in the Arab world. The agreement between Aoun and Hezbollah thus turned its back to the Arab structure and turned its face toward Iran.

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Perhaps he and the group he represents thought that after Aoun becomes president, they will become a partner in the axis which Iran leads through Hezbollah in Lebanon. However, last week’s developments in Lebanon revealed the nature of the relation between the FPM and Hezbollah.

The confrontation erupted due to Aoun’s son-in-law, FPM leader and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, who spoke against Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in a leaked video.

Ties between the two Shiite parties, i.e. Hezbollah and the Amal Movement, which is led by Berri, is based on a solid and strong base of interests, while relations between Hezbollah and the FPM do not, and they have a weak base that can collapse or disintegrate.

The Christians now feel that what they did in favor of the Iranian project against Arab project led by Saudi Arabia did not provide them security
Ali Al-Amin

Mediator’s role

Ever since the conflict erupted, the FPM and Amal, Hezbollah stood by Berri while maintaining its role as the mediator to amend relations between them. Hezbollah, however, clearly said that its priority is Berri. When Berri’s supporters took to the street last week in predominantly Christian areas, Hezbollah did not object to this behavior which was much worse than what Bassil said about Berri.

Later on, Bassil’s interview with a French magazine expressed the Christian shock when he said that some domestic options adopted by Hezbollah harm Lebanon’s interest. What Bassil meant is that Hezbollah is not ready or does not desire to support the option of the state when this option conflicts with the interests of its allies who are involved in corruption. Bassil was indirectly talking about Hezbollah’s relations with Berri whom the FPM believes obstructs the option of the state.

The Christian shock within the FPM, which bet on the alliance with Hezbollah to restore respect to the state and to the Christians’ role, is not a result of Hezbollah’s interferences in other countries. Aoun actually defended Hezbollah’s role in fighting alongside the Assad regime and Bassil played his part in terms of defending Hezbollah and its arms.

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As a foreign minister, he did what he had to do to serve Hezbollah’s interests at the Arab League, the UN and the EU. The shock is a result of the militant and violent deployment of Berri’s supporters in Christian areas. These developments last week made the Christians realize the size of “political Shiite” encroachment in the country.

This comes after the requirements of the agreement between Hezbollah and the FPM came to an end especially after Saad Hariri got involved in the settlement and given the stronger Iranian influence on the country. These developments showed that Hezbollah has succeeded in imposing what it wants since 2006.

Its arms were kept out of the authority’s debates and the party invested in the Christian cover to strengthen its influence within the state. The cover which the FPM provided has thus become less important than it was before especially that Hezbollah has become a reference that acts upon the power of the fait accompli.
Sectarian imbalances

The FPM was thus shocked when it realized that some Shiite politicians impose themselves in ways that lead to political and sectarian imbalances. This may have been accepted before Aoun became president; however, it’s shocking if it continues after he became president. Christians in the past 10 years mainly feared the Sunnis.

However, some parties close to the FPM said Hezbollah and Amal which engaged the country in foreign adventures via Hezbollah reflect the approach of “either I rule or there will be political vacuum,” i.e. everything must go their way. FPM officials are now discussing their role in the state and Hezbollah’s role in terms of restoring state institutions’ respect.

They’re also reconsidering their calculations given their fear of the results of the Shiite political encroachment especially that Hezbollah has directly and indirectly told the FPM that what it did to make Aoun become president was in exchange for what the latter did in terms of providing a Christian cover.

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The challenges of building the state is another matter that does not obligate Hezbollah to stand behind Aoun. The Christians now feel that what they did in favor of the Iranian project against the Arab project led by Saudi Arabia did not provide them with security. Facts have revealed that there is a hostile demagogy ruling the Shiite street.

A Free Patriotic Movement official said the way Amal supporters took to the street marked an insult against the Shiites, adding that their behavior does not suit the Shiite sect or the Parliament speaker’s status.

The problem which the FPM actually realizes is that having the Christians stand behind Iran’s project should have been followed with serious measures that make the Christians feel that that the road towards the state of institutions is smooth. These measures should have been taken by Hezbollah after it announced its victories in Syria and Lebanon.

Given the price which the Christians paid to break the Arab and Saudi project in Lebanon, they must be promised that the state will restore it role now that everyone, willingly or forcibly, accepted to serve Hezbollah’s and Iran’s strategic interests in Lebanon and its surrounding countries.

The Christians’ shock is still at the beginning. The parliamentary elections which will be held in May foreshadow a conflict in which Bassil is trying to stand before his rivals who bet he will be the loser since the fact that Aoun became president did not change and will not change the path of the state which is heading towards collapse.