Hezbollah supporters angry at Macron for criticising party

Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Monday his country is still committed to the initiative launched by French President Emmanuel Macron to solve Lebanon’s crisis.
Monday 28/09/2020
An employee watches a news conference of French President Emmanuel Macron on the political situation in Lebanon, inside an empty restaurant in Beirut, Lebanon, September 27.(REUTERS)
An employee watches a news conference of French President Emmanuel Macron on the political situation in Lebanon, inside an empty restaurant in Beirut, Lebanon, September 27.(REUTERS)

BEIRUT--Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Monday his country is still committed to the initiative launched by French President Emmanuel Macron to solve Lebanon’s crisis, according to a statement by the Lebanese Presidency.

“I appreciate the interest that President Emmanuel Macron conveyed towards Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Aoun said during his meeting with French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher.

Aoun also expressed his regrets about the failure of Prime Minister Mustapha Adib to form a new government that was to implement serious reforms in the country.

Meanwhile, MP Ali Hassan Khalil of Amal Movement’s Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc, said there were no talks currently about a new government, noting that Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri could hold discussions on the matter.

“Nothing prevents talks between President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri,” he said.

On Macron’s news conference, Berri’s aide, Khalil, said, “We have no comments to say about the French president’s news conference. The agreed initiative is there in writing and was distributed and everyone knows what it states.”

Shortly after Macron’s news conference, Hezbollah supporters launched the hashtag #Macron_do_not_cross_your_limit (in Arabic), with thousands of accounts attacking the French president and tweeting that he had removed “the mask and revealed his true face. The meek lamb is now a fierce wolf, and the French initiative is nothing but an American one.”

Sharing pictures of Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, other supporters of the Shia movement tweeted, “May someone tell Macron about Shias and their history since the 1980s.”

“May someone tell Macron what happened to the French paratroopers,” another tweet read, in reference to the killing of 58 French soldiers 30 years ago in a bombing of the nine-story Drakkar building in Beirut. The explosion was attributed to Hezbollah at the time and led to France’s withdrawal of its troops five months after the attack.

“The era of mandate and colonialism is over forever,” other Hezbollah supporters tweeted.

Macron assailed Hezbollah and the entire Lebanese political class on Sunday, warning of a new civil war if they can’t set aside personal and religious interests to unlock international aid and save Lebanon from economic collapse.

But Macron said France wouldn’t impose sanctions on anyone in Lebanon — for now. And he clung to his proposed road map to break Lebanon’s political stalemate despite Saturday’s resignation of its prime minister-designate, which throws Macron’s plan into question.

“I’m ashamed of the Lebanese political leaders. Ashamed,” Macron repeated in a news conference Sunday in which he gave a brutal assessment of Lebanon’s power brokers.

He accused them of “collective betrayal” and choosing “to favour their partisan and individual interests to the general detriment of the country.”

Lebanon’s two main Shia parties, Hezbollah and its ally Amal, led by Berri, had insisted on retaining the finance ministry in the new government and on naming all the Shia cabinet ministers.

Prime minister-designate Mustapha Adib rejected those conditions and stepped down Saturday, throwing the country into further uncertainty and further delaying foreign aid.

Macron didn’t propose any concrete steps that France might take if Lebanon’s Central Bank reserves dry up and the government is no longer able to subsidise basic goods such as fuel, medicine and wheat.

Macron has been pressing Lebanese politicians to form a Cabinet made up of non-partisan specialists that can work on urgent reforms to extract Lebanon from a financial crisis worsened by the August 4 explosion at Beirut port.

Macron has travelled twice to Beirut since then and has made it a personal mission to try to repair the damaged country, raising resentment from some who see it as a neo-colonial foray.

Macron warned that lack of progress would lead to “a crisis that would not only be a political crisis but that would lead to the risk of a civil war.”

Many in Lebanon think sanctions are the only effective way to deal with politicians who are putting their self-interest and greed ahead of the country’s interests. But that would put France in confrontation with the entire political class just as Macron is trying to broker a solution.

“Sanctions do not seem to me the best tool — at this stage,” he said. He didn’t rule out imposing them later, but said it would be done in coordination with other countries.

Macron criticized the decision to divvy up certain ministries among Lebanon’s various religious groups, “as if competence was linked to religious confession.”

He reserved his toughest words for Hezbollah, demanding that it clarify whether it’s a democratic political force, anti-Israel militia or a tool of Iran — but also criticized Lebanese political leaders from all camps.

“The failure is theirs. I won’t take it on myself. I did the maximum I could,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron listens to a Lebanese journalist’s questions during a virtual press conference broadcast at the official residence of the French ambassador, in the capital Beirut, September 27. (AFP)
French President Emmanuel Macron listens to a Lebanese journalist’s questions during a virtual press conference broadcast at the official residence of the French ambassador, in the capital Beirut, September 27. (AFP)

He reiterated plans for an international conference by the end of October to mobilise more aid to go to UN agencies and non-governmental aid groups working to rebuild Beirut after the explosions — but not to the Lebanese government.