Bahaa Hariri drawn again to the limelight, takes aim at brother

Saad Hariri’s older brother said, “To me it is clear that anyone who forms a government which is under the control of Hezbollah is not doing the right thing.”
Wednesday 11/11/2020
A file photo shows Bahaa Hariri, right, and his  brother Saad Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
A file photo shows Bahaa Hariri, right, and his brother Saad Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)

BEIRUT--Lebanese businessman and brother of the leader of the Future Movement Bahaa Hariri has returned to the spotlight again, appearing more frequently in the media and increasing his social media presence.

According to analysts, Bahaa is showing that has not given up on his ambition to play an active role in Lebanese politics and that he is not shying away from competing with his brother for leadership of the country’s Sunni community.

In his latest media appearance, Bahaa Hariri spoke with Israeli writer Barak Rafid, a contributing correspondent for the US website Axios based in Tel-Aviv.

During the interview, he sent direct messages to his brother Saad, who is struggling to form a new Lebanese government after months of deadlock.

Lebanese political analysts say that Saad’s older brother Bahaa, who spent many years away from politics while focusing on his investments and accumulating wealth, now wants his share of the Lebanese political cake, and has launched a campaign run by his adviser Jerry Maher aimed at presenting his credentials abroad after he found it difficult to market himself at home.

Bahaa Hariri first appeared on the political scene more than two years ago during Lebanon’s parliamentary election season, controversially endorsing the electoral list of former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi. He later withdrew from the scene, only to return again after the Beirut port blast on August 4, trying to exploit the anger of the street against Lebanon’s political elite.

Bahaa Hariri’s attempts did not draw much attention at home, especially within the Sunni community, which still largely rallies around Saad Hariri despite the public’s disapproval of some of his policies, particularly his multiple concessions to the Shia Hezbollah movement.

Analysts say Bahaa Hariri wants revenge, as he feels more entitled to succeeding his late father Rafik Hariri than his brother Saad. Bahaa says his ambitions are driven by his desire to preserve his late father’s legacy and help bring Lebanon back from the “abyss.”

Bahaa Hariri (lbcgroup.tv)
Bahaa Hariri (lbcgroup.tv)

He told Axios that the could not sit on the sidelines and do nothing as the situation in Lebanon grows “very critical for the country and its people.”

“We have reached the abyss, and what happened in Beirut forces me more to do everything in my power to help,” Bahaa Hariri added.

Bahaa did not refrain from taking aim at his brother, the leader of the Future Movement, even if diplomatically.

He expressed deep concern that his younger brother would in the coming weeks form a government that is “controlled by Hezbollah,” which should be considered a “terrorist organisation.”

“At the time of Rafik Hariri, Hezbollah was not in the government. Until his death there was no Hezbollah in any government with Rafik Hariri — so I think forming a government with Hezbollah is… a big mistake,” he said.

“Hezbollah have caused a lot of damage to Lebanon internally and externally. They managed in 15 years to break Lebanon. Hezbollah and their cronies manage to bring down an empire,” he said, referring to Lebanon. “Their failure is huge.”

Bahaa stressed that “Hezbollah and the warlords and all those who support them reached a point of failure that is of no return and they have to step aside and let people who have clean history” take over.

Bahaa Hariri said a government that included members of Hezbollah would not receive support from Gulf states or the broader international community, and therefore would not be able to bring Lebanon out of its economic and political crisis.

When asked if he was disappointed with his brother, he said, ““I love my brother and I care about him, but the political differences between us are stark and very big. To me it is clear that anyone who forms a government which is under the control of Hezbollah is not doing the right thing.”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun assigned Saad Hariri to form a new government after former Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib failed to complete the process. The Future Movement leader is struggling to fulfill his mission, however, especially in light of Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement’s prohibitive conditions.