Lebanon security chief comes up with complex solution to government crisis

Ibrahim’s proposal states that none of the Sunni members of parliament affiliated with Hezbollah would be in the new cabinet, as Hariri has demanded.
Thursday 20/12/2018
Major-General Abbas Ibrahim, director-general of the General Directorate of General Security in Beirut, last May. (Reuters)
Christmas wishes. Major-General Abbas Ibrahim, director-general of the General Directorate of General Security in Beirut, last May. (Reuters)

BEIRUT – There are signs of a new Lebanese government being formed, breaking a stalemate in place since Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was mandated in May to propose a cabinet.

The optimism was based on a complex settlement proposed by Major-General Abbas Ibrahim, director-general of the General Directorate of General Security.

Ibrahim’s proposal states that none of the Sunni members of parliament affiliated with Hezbollah would be in the new cabinet, as Hariri has demanded. He has declared he would wait another year before accepting any of Hezbollah’s Sunnis in the government.

The second basis is that Sunni ministers affiliated with Hezbollah would be counted as part of the president’s share in the government and among the prime minister’s share.

Some in Lebanon say satisfying two of Hariri’s conditions does not mean he would not have to make any concessions. They pointed out that he accepted six Sunni members of parliament indirectly represented in the new cabinet, even though they had formed a political bloc that did not exist during consultations to nominate a new prime minister.

The settlement would involve six members of the House of Representatives designating five people among whom the president would pick a new cabinet minister. A Lebanese political source did not rule out that the son of the Sunni minister affiliated with Hezbollah, Hussein Abdel Rahim Murad, would be one of the six Sunni deputies.

Hariri has also agreed to meet with the six members of parliament after previously refusing to do so.

Sources close to Hariri suggested that he could announce his new cabinet December 21 or 22 if Hezbollah does not create new obstacles.

Hezbollah, anxious to penetrate other sects as it did in the Christian and Druze communities, had insisted on having a minister in the Lebanese cabinet representing its Sunni members of parliament. Experts in Beirut said Hezbollah might try to transform the Sunni-Shia divide in Lebanon into a Sunni-Sunni conflict. The party would then place itself above all other parties, communities and sects in Lebanon and become a reference for all.

Hariri was compelled to accept Ibrahim’s settlement especially after Lebanese President Michel Aoun changed his position with respect to Hezbollah’s six Sunni MPs.

Aoun last October said Hezbollah’s six MPs did not have a right to be represented by a minister in the new cabinet since they were not organised in a parliamentary bloc after the May 6 elections. Aoun later reversed his position after Hezbollah asked him to meet with the six MPs. The president has since dealt with the six deputies as a parliamentary bloc.

Hariri was also pressured by is Druze ally, Walid Jumblatt, who is trying to avoid a Druze-Druze strife that Hezbollah could ignite, thanks to armed Druze elements belonging to a party founded by former minister Wiam Wahhab.

The Druze elements demonstrated in Beirut, chanting anti-Jumblatt slogans. More than 60 gunmen marched towards the Chouf Mountains headquarters of the Jumblatt leadership.

Lebanese political circles pointed to did not fail to highlight the role played by Ibrahim in facilitating the formation of the government after a political deadlock of more than seven months. They noted this was the first time that a senior state official had played such a role at the national level. It could be an indication of Ibrahim moving to a major political role in the future.

The political circles pointed out that Ibrahim was a Shia from southern Lebanon, the same area as Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Lebanese parliament.