Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prez Michel Suleiman: And So It Begins

Deus ex machina.

After years of crisis and tension: the embassies do some voodoo, the Maronite Patriarch meets Army Chief General Suleiman, Suleiman makes a “bold” statement. Voila.

While poor Gen. Paul Fares (?) and hapless personality-challenged MPs Robert Ghanem and Boutros Harb etc are dusting up their resumes to run for president of Lebanon, the choice has been made for us and them, or so it seems.

The powers-that-be have decided General Michel Suleiman/Sleiman will be the next president of Lebanon. OK Lebanese, the goose is cooked. The Maronite Patriarch seems to have made another huge blunder but who’s counting. Most Lebanese will grumble while the rest will say those dangerous words: “this time, it’s different” (from Lahoud and Aoun).

General Suleiman the man who, weeks ago, scared us by saying he would resign his post in case of vacancy at the head of the state, now says he was misquoted and that of course he would see the nation through the storm.

This blogger is not necessarily anti-Suleiman though Suleiman’s Syrian-sponsored appointment as army chief years ago is a huge question mark, as is the fact that his sister lives in Damascus. I’ll try to return to the man when we know more. For now, the process, the need to change the constitution, the Aoun/Lahoud precedents all add to mounting concerns.

From the Daily Star:

Army Commander General Michel Suleiman has indicated he would accept to head a transitional government in the event MPs are unable to choose the next president before the end of President Emile Lahoud's term in office in November, provided all sides accept his nomination.
"Is it reasonable for me to abandon this ship while it is being lashed by high waves from all sides?" Suleiman asked, adding: "At any rate I am a public employee and I am subject to the Constitution..."

So far so good, that’s much better than his recent threat to bail out in case of a constitutional crisis.

What’s “less good” is when he says:
…he would remain at the head of the armed forces until a new president is elected and a new government is formed and he is satisfied with the security situation in the country.
No, when a new president is elected and a new government formed, they can fire you, General Suleiman, whenever they want.

What is far worse is that the apparent originator of the “idea” is ex-MP and ex-Minister Albert Mansour who, when the Syrians were under pressure to leave Lebanon in 2005, said: we would rather lose with Syria than win with Israel and the US.

So today Albert Mansour says:
"Such a [transitional and Maronite led] government would be in keeping with established practice, which is for a president to hand over power to a Maronite prime minister, it happened twice before,**"
What hypocrite Mansour forgets to tell you is that he fought the legal government of Aoun in the 1980’s as defense minister in the rival Hoss government. He was the defense minister when Syrian soldiers deposed Aoun.

And, since in Lebanon everyone is free to read one’s fantasies in the constitution:
Mansour said being appointed prime minister of a transitional government would allow Suleiman to bypass constitutional requirements that prevent grade-one civil servants like Suleiman from being elected to the presidency while still in their post or within two years of their resignation.
The law says that the army chief has to have been out of his job for TWO years before he can be elected president. Making him PM for a few days does not change anything, unless Mansour has in mind TWO years-plus of PM Suleiman. The Sunni community will be elated to hear that.

Furthermore you have to wonder why is Mansour talking about that? Why not amend the law and elect Suleiman now? Why can’t we have an election within the legal time frame (prior to November 13, 2007)? Is there a reason the MPs cannot meet and do their duty?

The answer is: yes. It seems that 1/3 or more MPs are unwilling to do their job. But in Lebanon, no one wants to talk about that. They don’t want to do their job? We'll just break the country some more, and destroy the (bad) constitution a little further. Bur never ever ask why our MPs, supposed guardians of the nation, are the worst possible law-breakers and duty-shirkers.

Further in the article:
Suleiman hoped political leaders in the country would go back to applying the "spirit and text" of the Taef Accord…
OK, General Suleiman, I hope you are a man of your word and I am keeping my fingers crossed. The “spirit and text” of Taef say you cannot be president in 2007.


** Fuad Chehab and Michel Aoun in the 50’s and 80’s.respectively.


  • At 8/15/07, 12:45 PM, Blogger Bad Vilbel said…

    Bleh! I have to say I'm a bit disappointed that you're giving Suleiman the benefit of the doubt (unless there's a bunch of sarcasm in your post that I'm missing).

    This whole charade is tantamount to a pro-Syria coup. It's the typical bait and switch approach: They scared M14 with promises of Aoun as Prez to make us see their real guy (Suleiman) as an acceptable compromise. He is not. For countless reasons.

    And you talk about the government having the ability to fire the chief of the army. I am in fact wondering why he hasn't been fired yet (accountability anyone?)

    Let's see. A civil servant and employee has so far:
    - Made political threats.
    - Gone over the heads of his bosses to have contacts with foreign heads of state (Calls to Assad, etc.)
    - Done a shitty job at his actual job (Nahr Al Bared).
    - Talked about a thinly veiled coup if a president to his (and his master's) liking wasn't elected.
    - Talked about going over/around/under the constitution countless times.

    If that's not grounds for dismissal, I don't know what is.

    And don't even get me started on the MPs. (What MPs?)

  • At 8/15/07, 8:21 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    I have the same doubts you do. I am just trying very hard to keep an open mind.

    I realize this piece is wishy-washy re Sleiman, though it does say Sfeir has blundered again and it does wish Sleiman is not the next prez.

    HOWEVER, I am afraid that M14's incompetence and Sfeir's blunder (especially his 2/3 quorum interpretation of the constitution) has weakened M14 so much that Suleiman may now be inevitable.

    Since Hariri's death he has played his cards very shrewdly.

    Now, you have to be an opportunist to become army chief or central banker or minister.

    So the question now is: Is Suleiman an opportunist with a conscience (a la Hariri) who went with the flow when the flow was irresistible?

    Or is he a Syrian puppet because he's a kalb (dog) and pro-Baath (a la Kanso and Qandil)?

  • At 8/16/07, 2:16 PM, Anonymous Vox P said…

    "I have the same doubts you do. I am just trying very hard to keep an open mind."

    Well I have no doubts and I already made up my mind. Better an empty chair than a Syrian stooge.

  • At 8/16/07, 2:39 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    I can't defend Suleiman with any conviction, I am just trying not to give up on the guy before he's even in.

    More seriously, what do we really know about this guy?

    He let the M14 demos take place. Did he think he had no choice? In which case he gets zero credit?

    On the negative side: he allowed illegal Hezbo/Aoun demos too (disobeyed orders?), and waited until he had no choice on Bared where the army's taking high casualties.

    And if he really buys the crap on the army web site: sisterly Syria etc it's terrible.

    The other question we need to think about: is it better to have a guy who can use the army and position it in the middle, or a weak guy (Harb etc) who will not have army support, who will sign useless decrees, and who will be kissing the butts of Salloukh types to stay in his cabinet?

    I don't know the answer yet.


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