Sunday, January 27, 2013

Al-Akhbar Interview: Suleiman Frangieh on Lebanese Elections and the Syrian Split
Everyone here is betting on what will happen in Syria. Our adversaries are betting that the regime will fall and we are betting that it will remain. "There is another side they do not want to see, which is Saudi and Qatar. They speak about weapons, but they do not mention the money which is more dangerous than weapons. The war waged by al-Qaeda and the outside against Syria is through money and not weapons. It is the main component in the war against Syria. All the escalation and tensions are due to money, and not the weapons, which are not used inside. Resistance weapons are under control but the weapons bought with money are the ones that cannot be controlled." Is he watching Syria, like March 14 before the elections?"Everyone here is betting on what will happen in Syria. Our adversaries are betting that the regime will fall and we are betting that it will remain. The difference will be that Syria will remain secular in our case, but their bet is based on two cards: the West and sectarianism. They bet on the fall of Syria to get rid of that sect and rule Syria through another sect that can expand their influence in the region."When [Salafi leader] Ahmad al-Assir appeared, everyone disowned him. Yesterday, they raced to his support. Two years ago, they said that Syria was behind him. But when he went to Faraya [ski resort], they scrambled to defend him. His trip to Faraya was an intimidation. He announced it days earlier to induce a reaction and intimidate a Lebanese side. His visit was no longer spontaneous and normal and it took political dimensions, which he fabricated due to a political issue.Today, the LF is telling the Christians that Assir is alright, warning instead of the Shia."Those who defended the right of Assir to go to Faraya, like the Lebanese Forces - while we believe it is his right - should not forget that they spent more than ten years warning of the chador and how it will change the image of Lebanon and the fate of its Christians. Today, the LF is telling the Christians that Assir is alright, warning instead of the Shia."Frangieh cannot find a justification for President Michel Suleiman's rejection of the Orthodox proposal, but "France and Qatar rejected it, so he was against it," he says. "The issue is simple. There is a regional war between two projects. If Syria wins, the Resistance will win in Lebanon and so will our project. If it loses, we lose and the Future Movement and others will win.""The president is a March 14 Trojan horse. This is now clear. The president was appointed with French, Qatari, and Syrian support. When Syria became weak, he revealed another side. He will not allow our side to win the elections. When a president wants to avoid his duties, he says he is the president of all of Lebanon, not just the council of ministers, the government, or the republic."Technically, all of them are the president of Lebanon, but they are actually and politically the leaders of their sect. The President cannot be outside or against Christian consensus. If he was not Maronite or if a Maronite consensus was not reached, he would not have been elected. If 51 percent of the Sunnis were against the proposal, would he have supported the other 49 percent? Same goes for the Shia."The President supports the other political project, not just another electoral law. That was before his trip to Russia. Let's see what happens there. Maybe they will tell him that Assad will remain and he will change his mind like he did before." On the Situation in Syria"Syria is getting more comfortable every day and will be at the heart of the deal. The question is in what condition Syria will be in after the crisis. This is related to the position of the Assad regime."I do not know what the deal will be, but it will be on Syria's image. The current international balance is in the regime's favor, not its enemies. The regime is strong. The army is strong and unified. All attempts to make it collapse and split have failed for the past three years. Time is on the regime's side."Of course, this will have repercussions of the whole region. If Syria is cleaned, then it means some lose and some cannot return. The available data on Syrian refugees and fugitives in our territories is not reassuring. What if they do not return to Syria? Who are those who will remain? How many of them can we handle? We could not handle the Shaker al-Absi group [Fatah al-Islam] and they destroyed the country. What about these people? Syria is now a playground for extremists from around the world who claim they are jihadists. One day, they might be in Lebanon."

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