Sunday, 10 July 2011

March 14 Running Out of Strategies...and Allies

By Ali Rizk

The March 14 alliance has pledged that it will do all it can to bring down the government headed by premier Najib Miqati after the policy statement of this government didn't meet the wishes of March 14 regarding the Hariri tribunal.

The first attempt at accomplishing this was in parliament during the discussions of the cabinet policy statement.

Members of March 14 used language which targeted Najib Miqati personally especially from the sectarian angle.(a sunni figure denying responsibility towards uncovering those who assassinated Rafiq Hariri was how some March 14 figures tried to put it). Miqati easily passed this test however and firmly stood by his stances which included a smart defense of the clause in the policy statement related to the Hariri tribunal. Now this group is saying that it wants to oust this cabinet on the street (with mixed language as some say in a democratic way and some in a non-democratic way).

The withdraw of March 14 lawmakers from parliament just before the vote of confidence (which the government won as expected from the parliamentary majority) sought to send a strong message to Miaqti and his government that they were in for a tough time ahead. This may remind some of the scenario back in 2005 when the government of premier Omar Karami resigned as protests erupted calling for the resignation of the government AND for an end to what they described as Syrian occupation of their country. Here let us look at the important differences between the situation back then and the situation now which prove that toppling this government by resorting to the street is near impossible:

First of all how much street power does march 14 have left?

After Michel Aoun and his movement who represent a majority of the Christians in Lebanon (look at how many mps the movement has in parliament) other figures who represent important political parties and religious sects have also left the movement.

The exit of Walid Jumblatt means March 14 has lost the significant street power of the Druze community.

Even when it comes to support from the Sunni street the choice of Najib Miqati was a very smart move by March 8 which will complicate for March 14 the goal of mobilizing the Lebanese Sunni community against this government. While Karami was viewed as part of the pro Syrian anti Hariri camp, Miqati still has the reputation of being a neutral figure and enjoys wide support amongst many Sunni's particularly in his hometown of Tripoli. Other members of his cabinet including finance minister Mohammad Safadi (who is even known for his close ties to Saudi Arabia) also have the same traits.

Second of all, the rallies which took place back at the time of the cedar revolution came just after the assassination of prime minister Rafiq Hariri when feelings of anger were still boiling and taking advantage of such feelings was a simple task. These rallies, in addition to calling for the ouster of Karami's government, also evolved around ending the Syrian presence in Lebanon (which was why Michel Aoun's supporters took part in them). Hence these protests focused on Syria and what was described as its accomplices in Lebanon.

These factors do not exist today as there are no fresh feelings of anger although this was one of the aims of releasing the indictment into the Hariri assassination to coincide with the cabinets' discussion of the cabinet policy statement and the vote of confidence.(Hizbullah's pre-emptive campaign against this politicized tribunal is the main reason for this plot failing). And there no longer is Syrian military presence in Syria and Najib Miqati and his government of course cannot be put in a category of Syrian accomplices like Karami and his government were as previously stated.

Third and probably most important of all the situation of regional and world powers is completely different. The Bush administration was at the peak of its power and thought it was capable of changing the situation in Lebanon and extended unwavering support to the March movement. Now the US is planning its retreat from Iraq, and how to get of its very difficult situation in Afghanistan, not to mention its military involvement in Libya and its attempts to hijack Arab revolutions (note here the talk of dialogue between the US and the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt).
Regional countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia (the two main traditional backers of March 14) are pre-occupied with their own internal matters and in the case of Saudi Arabia with issues of bigger importance like Bahrain and Yemen which Saudi Arabia considers part of its geographic orbit and sphere of influence.

After mentioning all of the above the March 14 has only one choice to pin its hopes on: The fall of the regime in Syria. As it seems there is a dead end for them here in Lebanon the March 14 will throw everything they can behind the international campaign being launched against Syria. They believe that a collapse of the regime of Bashar Assad will turn the tide back in their favor in Lebanon. However with the failure of the international campaign against Syria will come the knockout blow to the March 14 alliance.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian

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