BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's return to Lebanon is aimed at reinforcing moderation within the Sunni community, which felt largely marginalized by Hezbollah’s political and security upper hand in the country, according to a Future Movement official.
According Rached Fayed, a Future official and political adviser, Hariri’s unannounced return was not a surprise.
“Hariri has come to stay. He was to return to Lebanon sooner or later, but his presence here now is needed by allies and foes alike, for the sake of boosting Sunni moderation,” Fayed told The Daily Star Friday.
Hariri, political heir of his father, slain Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, returned to Lebanon Friday morning after more than three years in self-exile. He had left the country a few months after the collapse of his government in 2011, and stayed away for personal security concerns.
His comeback follows a major spillover of the Syrian conflict in Arsal on the country’s eastern border with Syria, where the Army battled takfiri jihadists from the Nusra Front and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“Hariri is a party in the war against terror, and his return was engineered at the international, Arab and regional levels,” Fayed said. “The return is a concrete interpretation of Arab, regional and international keenness to preserve Lebanon’s stability and security.”
Hariri told reporters after holding talks with Prime Minister Tammam Salam in the Grand Serail, that his return “comes after the Saudi grant to the Lebanese Army and to discuss ways to implement it.”
The former premier's return comes two days after Saudi Arabia announced a $1 billion donation to help Lebanon fight terrorism, following five days of clashes between the Army and Syrian rebels in Arsal in which 17 soldiers, 42 civilians and at least 60 militants have been killed.
Fayed argued that Saudi grant bestowed to Lebanon was coupled with a practical plan to confront terrorism, and “Hariri’s return is part of this plan aimed at reinforcing the moderate Sunni trend.”
Fayed contended that “the systematic targeting of the Future Movement in the past years “resulted in nurturing Sunni extremism.
“Hariri came back to tilt the balance towards moderation. His return is a must and need for his political opponents more than his allies.”