A banner hanged in the Beirut neighborhood of Verdun welcomes Hariri back in Lebanon, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri's return to Lebanon will strengthen the military's cohesion in its fight against extremists, analysts said, as he reprises his role as scion of a frustrated Sunni community that has seen its political power decline in the years since the fall of his Cabinet.The crackdown on Assir, as well as other extremist figures in Tripoli and Arsal, has prompted Sunnis opposed to the Army's measures to accuse it of targeting the Sunni community and collaborating closely with Hezbollah.Hariri's return, armed with $1 billion of assistance from Saudi Arabia intended for the military and speaking out in support of the Army's mission and against extremism, is intended to shore up support for the military. Abou Zeid said militants used such claims to call on officers to defect or be complicit in fighting the Sunni community alongside Hezbollah.Philip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland who writes Hizballah Cavalcade, a blog on Shiite militant movements, said Hariri would have been able to mobilize moderate Sunnis earlier, but had been blocked by Syria and Hezbollah.
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