Dangerous turbulence

File - President Michel Sleiman speaks during a conference in Kaslik, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

A verbal spat between President Michel Sleiman and Hezbollah emerged over the weekend, although the development came as no surprise to anyone who has been following the efforts to draft the new Cabinet’s policy statement.

But since the situation in Lebanon is fragile at best, any political bump in the road can create more dangerous turbulence.

In recent days and weeks, Sleiman has made it crystal clear he has strong views about how the policy statement should treat foreign policy and the priority that should be given to the Baabda Declaration. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has shown its determination to include mention of the right to resistance in the new government’s statement, ignoring reservations some have about how this weakens the Lebanese state.

On one level, it isn’t surprising to see Sleiman subjected to this level of criticism, since it often happens during the last few months of a sitting president’s term. But it’s also not surprising to see Hezbollah reverting to its usual rigid policy. The party, under duress, agreed to participate in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s Cabinet, but believes its massive rocket arsenal and direct involvement in the Syrian war are isolated from all other domestic and regional factors.

The tug-of-war over foreign policy has been ongoing since the Baabda Declaration was unveiled in 2012, and the latest hard-line stance taken by Hezbollah only boosts the perception that it is satisfied with Lebanon’s continued state of political paralysis. More importantly, the dispute has jeopardized hopes of the government winning confidence in Parliament, and the clock is ticking.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 03, 2014, on page 7.




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