Despite Prime Minister Saad Hariri only announcing that he was delaying his resignation Wednesday, there is already an agreed road map going forward that will see constitutional institutions reactivated soon. According to official sources, discussions are ongoing between the relevant sides to the crisis: Hezbollah, Speaker Nabih Berri and Hariri. President Michel Aoun is overseeing the discussions – given he heard the opinions of all political sides in marathon meetings at Baabda Palace in the days after Hariri’s shock announcement on Nov. 4, it is the most effective way out of the crisis without hosting roundtable discussions.
The sources said there is significant optimism that a solution will be reached that is acceptable to all parties. The proposal includes reaffirming Lebanon’s dissociation from all regional conflicts and not allowing any Lebanese side to interfere in the internal affairs of other Arab countries.
The Arab League released a statement earlier this week blasting Hezbollah and Iran for interfering in the domestic affairs of Arab countries, most notably Yemen. In a speech Monday, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah responded by denying any involvement by his group in Yemen or any link to a ballistic missile fired from Yemen at the international airport in Riyadh on Nov. 4.
“Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Hezbollah fired the missile and it was Iranian-made. I spoke of this before, but some didn’t understand: No one from Hezbollah has any responsibility for this,” Nasrallah said Monday.
In addition to reaffirming dissociation, sources have said that Hariri rescinded his resignation at Aoun’s request because there were positive signs that an acceptable solution could be reached by all sides through dialogue. Hariri noticed this after significant international support sought to protect Lebanon from regional conflicts, especially with communication between Paris and Tehran. Sources said this dialogue would be ongoing between France and Iran.
As for the details of the agreement, they include Hezbollah’s weapons outside of the state’s control, Hezbollah’s role in the neighboring Syrian conflict, attempts to normalize government relations with Damascus and talking with Iran via Hezbollah about intervention in Yemen.
With regards to Hezbollah’s weapons, sources said that this is directly related to the continued Israeli occupation of Lebanese lands, its continued aggression of Lebanese territories and violations of U.N. Resolution 1701.
The resolution, adopted in 2006 to end the 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel, bolstered the number of U.N. peacekeepers in Lebanon and affirmed that only the Army and UNIFIL should operate south of the Litani River.
Lebanon accuses Israel of violating the agreement with near-daily incursions into Lebanese airspace as well as foot and boat patrols entering Lebanon and its territorial waters. Israel also continues to occupy Lebanese territory in the Shebaa Farms and Northern Ghajar.
“This [issue of Hezbollah’s weapons] could be tied to an approval of a national defense strategy and commitment by the international community to convince Tel Aviv to withdraw from Lebanese lands,” one source said.
Meanwhile, discussions over Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian war and the possibility of the group withdrawing fighters is not out of the question.
“[The Syrian war] is in its final stages and the military operations are almost finished, so a commitment by Hezbollah to withdraw from there is not impossible – but now there is no specified timeframe for this,” a source said.
However, the sources said that normalizing relations with Syria are tied to a political solution to the conflict. “The solution calls upon Lebanon not to take any steps towards normalizing relations [with Damascus] before it is known what the political solution to end the crisis will be and vowing that no faction in government makes any attempt to normalize ties, at least for the time being,” a source said.
Regarding the accusation that Hezbollah is participating in the war in Yemen and the inclusion in the local agreement that the group stay out of the conflict, Nasrallah has already denied any military involvement by Hezbollah. Therefore it is possible for him to reconfirm this in any future local settlement.
Sources refused to speculate on the manner in which the so-called memorandum of understanding would be announced. However, they said that in order to ensure Lebanese parties follow the policy of dissociation, by actions not just in words, it’s expected it will be through an agreement reached by Cabinet or through a presidential statement that is binding for all parties.
One thing the sources agreed upon is there must be consensus on a road map to implement the policy of dissociation. If not, the delicate but currently stable political situation in Lebanon could be disrupted and Hariri could, ultimately, submit his resignation.
This would lead Lebanon into the abyss of protracted political stalemate that would not serve the interests of any side in the country.