After Soleimani slaying, Hezbollah may want politicians in government

The powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah might no longer accept to have mere technocrats in the government but might insist on being represented by leading politicians instead.
Sunday 05/01/2020
Tremendous challenges. Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab gives a statement following meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut, December 20. 				    (AFP)
Tremendous challenges. Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab gives a statement following meeting with outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Beirut, December 20. (AFP)

BEIRUT - Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab’s efforts to form a government regained momentum after the holiday break and are reportedly focused on clearing the final hurdles delaying the announcement.

“The new administration should see the light within two to three days,” said political observer Johnny Mounayar. “Any further delay would mean that disagreement is persisting over names and repartition of portfolios of supposedly independent experts, and this would complicate the creation of the aspired government of technocrats.”

Mounayar said that, after the killing in a US strike of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah might no longer accept to have mere technocrats in the government but might insist on being represented by leading politicians instead.

“We might end up having a provocative government of politicians who represent one camp, namely Hezbollah and its allies,” Mounayar said.

Diab, a little-known former education minister and professor at the American University of Beirut, was nominated to replace Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who resigned October 29, two weeks into unprecedented anti-government protests over years of corruption and poor governance.

Diab is supported by Hezbollah and its allies, the Shia Amal Movement and Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement. Diab’s appointment was, however, rejected by his own Sunni community led by Hariri’s Future Movement, the Christian Lebanese Forces and Phalange Parties and the Druze Progressive Socialist Party.

Diab’s potential administration will face tremendous challenges even if it wins a vote of confidence, which can be secured by Hezbollah’s bloc and allies in parliament.

“With no Sunni backing, no Druze backing and no support from two Christian parties and a portion of the Shia community who are with the protest movement, such an administration will not be able to introduce necessary financial measures and harsh reforms to deal with the economic crisis,” Mounayar said.

A Diab government would also be unlikely to convince Western and Arab donors to disburse badly needed financial aid, he said, adding: “Potential donors, notably the Americans and the French, are not happy with the way the government is being formed. The mentality of sharing the seats among partisans is still guiding the government line-up even if new faces or names are appointed. They won’t go for cosmetic change.”

Mounayar cautioned that Lebanon will be heading towards extremely difficult times caused by a worsening financial and banking crisis, which a Diab government would probably not be able to survive.

“This would be compounded by rising regional tensions as Iran would be looking to avenge Soleimani’s death through proxies in Iraq, Syria and maybe Lebanon,” he said.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has already called for “avenging” Soleimani’s death

“Meting out the appropriate punishment to these criminal assassins… will be the responsibility and task of all resistance fighters worldwide. We who stayed by his side will follow in his footsteps and strive day and night to accomplish his goals,” Nasrallah said in a statement.

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