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No signs of election of new president: Western diplomat

Berri called the session for noon next Wednesday. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

The international community sees no clear signs indicating that the presidential vacuum, now in its third month, will come to an end soon, according to a Western diplomat.

The diplomat, speaking during a meeting with a senior Lebanese politician, said that since the presidential void would definitely affect the entire situation in Lebanon, efforts would be made by the International Support Group for Lebanon in New York to come up with a solution to the Lebanese presidential crisis, especially as the international community maintained its support for Lebanon’s stability.

The ISGL was created in New York last year to support Lebanon’s national institutions and its Army.

For his part, the Lebanese politician warned that there could be dire consequences if the Christian parties in both the March 8 and March 14 camps maintained their unyielding positions on the presidential election.

“Practicing democracy means that in the absence of a parliamentary majority for any of the two [rival] factions, we should go to consensus on the name [of a candidate] who has the qualifications that make him acceptable to everyone,” the politician, who requested anonymity, told The Daily Star.

This candidate, the politician said, should be able to satisfy all the parties with his conciliatory attitude, must appreciate the need for national dialogue and must avoid spite and gloating.

The politician also spoke about the dramatic developments in Iraq, where the Al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, has captured large swaths of territory, particularly in the north.

The politician said there were diplomatic reports indicating that ISIS was forging ahead with its preparations to take over Baghdad, as the militant group possessed huge military power.

ISIS has not yet reached the apex of its achievements in Iraq and the group is now focused on the Ramadi-Haditha crossing, as a prelude to seizing the central government headquarters in Baghdad, according to the Lebanese politician.

He laid the responsibility for the U.S. failure in Iraq squarely on the shoulders of politicians and policymakers, rather than on the intelligence agencies.

According to the politician, there was a deluge of information that was published in media outlets last year which pointed to the imminent outbreak of a sectarian war in Iraq and to the growth of ISIS’ military strength in both Iraq and Syria.

“The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama should have learned from the ISIS control over the city of Fallujah and other areas in the Anbar province and taken sufficient measures to change its Iraq policy,” the Lebanese politician said.

He recalled the testimony of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, to the Armed Forces Committee in the Senate in February. Lt. Gen. Flynn warned of ISIS’ attempts to seize territories in Iraq and Syria, while simultaneously maintaining a number of safe havens for its activities inside of Syria.

“This information indicates that all Western, Arab and Lebanese reports about the activities of extremist groups that have begun to surface since 2000 following the Diniyeh events [clashes between the Lebanese Army and extremists] were not made idly, nor were they meant only to frighten the Lebanese, but they were a preemptive warning of what lay in store for Lebanon,” the politician said.

“These groups have begun operating in the region in order to translate their black ideologies into reality, by extending their control over vast areas in Iraq and in Syria. This means that Lebanese wisdom must overcome political stubbornness, which will lead only to big risks that threaten the [Lebanese] entity and institutions.”

The politician therefore called on rival leaders to set the Lebanese political house in order quickly, so that it could serve as “a fortress for the military and security forces in confronting the takfiri danger.”

“I don’t want to frighten the Lebanese. But my duty compels me to say that the situation is extremely dangerous and that there is no room for complacency,” he said.

“We hope we will not wake up one day in a nation ravaged by dark ideologies that use its land as a new starting point [for attacks] that would lead to the elimination of the Lebanese model, with its uniqueness in the world.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 01, 2014, on page 3.

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Summary

The diplomat, speaking during a meeting with a senior Lebanese politician, said that since the presidential void would definitely affect the entire situation in Lebanon, efforts would be made by the International Support Group for Lebanon in New York to come up with a solution to the Lebanese presidential crisis, especially as the international community maintained its support for Lebanon's stability.

The politician also spoke about the dramatic developments in Iraq, where the Al-Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, has captured large swaths of territory, particularly in the north.

ISIS has not yet reached the apex of its achievements in Iraq and the group is now focused on the Ramadi-Haditha crossing, as a prelude to seizing the central government headquarters in Baghdad, according to the Lebanese politician.

According to the politician, there was a deluge of information that was published in media outlets last year which pointed to the imminent outbreak of a sectarian war in Iraq and to the growth of ISIS' military strength in both Iraq and Syria.


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