Future Movement looks weak in Hizballah talks

Future Movement looks weak in Hizballah talks
4 min read
18 Jan, 2015
Lebanon's Future Movement has ignored its strengths and assumed a position of weakness in recent talks with the Shia movement aimed at easing Lebanon's sectarian tensions.
The Future Movement has engaged in dialogue with Hezbollah to ease sectarian tensions [AFP]

Talks to ease sectarian tensions in Lebanon between the country's two main political movements, the Future Movement and Hizballah, have brought together at the table two sides embroiled in their own individual crises.

Two sessions have been held so far, both at the offices of Nabih Berri, the Speaker of Parliament, after mediation by Berri and MP Walid Jumblatt, leader of the predominantly Druze Socialist Progressive Party.

Representatives of both parties said they were meeting to ease sectarian tensions in the country. However, there has

     Sectarian tensions ... are in part the result of the two movmeents prioritising their own interests.

been little discussion about why these tensions exist, and if the two sides should be held accountable.

Sectarian tensions in Lebanon have already claimed lives and caused economic conditions to deteriorate. They are in part the result of the FM and Hizballah prioritising their own sectarian interests and those of their external sponsors over the national interest.

Some argue that Hizballah has ignored its own interests by prioritising those of its regional patron, Iran. It has embroiled Lebanon in a war in Syria that it should have nothing to do with by supporting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. There has been extensive debate over whether or not Hizballah is right to fight alongside the Syrian regime.

The FM took a different position from the outset, believing Assad would be quickly overthrown. Wissam al-Hassan, a key March 14 politician and head of the information branch of Lebanon's Internal Security Forces, died helping the Syrian opposition on security, political, humanitarian and military levels.

When he was killed in a car bomb in Beirut in October 2012, the FM lost the brains behind its support for the Syrian opposition. The following year the movement was further harmed when former minister and one of FM's most important members, Mohamad Chatah, was killed in a car bomb in December.

The movement has also found it difficult to keep up-to-date with changes in Syria, especially as radical Islamists have effectively taken over much of opposition. In Lebanon, in August 2014 radical Islamist fighters occupied the eastern Lebanese city of Arsal for several days.

The FM has reacted to these events by supporting Hezbollah and engaging in dialogue with it to ease sectarian tensions and agree on a candidate to become Lebanon's next president, a post that has been vacant since May 2014. However, the FM has chosen to engage in dialogue from a weak position. It has done this by, for example, retracting its decision to nominate Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea as the next president.

It has also abandoned its support for Syrian refugees, pushing them to seek support from radical Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic state group (IS, formerly Isis). It agreed to make it obligatory for Syrian refugees [AR] to get entry visas for Lebanon. Restrictions on Syrian refugees began in February 2014 when Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government came to power, and when initially Syrians of Palestinian origin seeking refuge in Lebanon were targeted. Now restrictive measures have been extended to all refugees.

But the Future Movement seems to be underplaying its hand. It currently represents the largest sectarian bloc in Lebanon, and is supported by Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian Sunnis. It should be in a position of strength, and a strong Future Movement can play a vital role in the fight against radical Islam.

At the same time, Hizballah is facing a crisis. It is engaged in a war of attrition in Syria that lacks a political horizon. Iran, its regional sponsor is suffering from a financial crisis, which is being aggravated daily by the drop in oil prices. If reports are to be believed, the Shia movement is also suffering from corruption and security breaches at the leadership level.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.