Matadors in Lebanon

November 5, 2016

TEHRAN - After about 29 months of political stalemate coupled with other internal and regional crises, the Lebanese parliament finally elected Michel Aoun, a former general and moderate politician, as president on October 31.

After the election of Aoun politics and diplomacy temporarily went into a calm sleep to wake up for high activity the next day. 

It does not matter that the post of president in Lebanon is considered ceremonial. The other politicians in the country are not in better condition when it comes to decision-making, but when a member of a faction in the country can be influential, the status of president becomes important too. 

Now that Aoun is elected president after preliminary agreement with former opponent Saad Hariri, for the Lebanese the issue may seem to have been resolved to some extent. However, many questions remain unanswered for experts on regional issues which will probably be answered in the next few days. There are three important and vague points from a regional and internal perspective:

1-It is not yet clear which diplomatic efforts and at what level took place regionally to agree on the presidency of Michel Aoun. We do not know what agreements were made among the influential players, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia, in Lebanon, which resulted in election of Aoun as president.

2-It is not clear that the historic event of October 31 was influenced by a confidential agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia or it resulted from the failure of one of them. From the second perspective and given Iran’s tactics and the result of the election, the Saudis have failed. However, it is not enough to understand the reason behind the recent events.

3-There is no doubt that there is differences between Hariri, Aoun and the March 8 coalition (led by the Hezbollah chief). How much has it cost Hariri and the March 14 faction, now that he has reached an agreement with Aoun to assume the post of prime minister? 

Most importantly, has the agreement cost him distancing from the Saudis? It would be very naïve to believe that the agreement was reached without the consent of Saudi Arabia.

These are ambiguous points that should be cleared up. 

One can be optimist about future to some extent. However, politicians in the Middle East have taught us that “there is nothing with the name of optimism in their region”. Exactly like the kind of feeling that exists toward them! 

The game of matadors in the Lebanon has just started.

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