April 9, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1844

On the Eve of Rally Marking Third Anniversary of Al-Hariri's Assassination, Sa'd Al-Hariri Launches Harsh Attack on Lebanese Opposition, Syria, Iran

April 9, 2008
Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 1844

With the approach of the third anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, his son Sa'd Al-Hariri, who is Al-Mustaqbal party chairman and leader of the March 14 Forces, launched a harsh attack on the Lebanese opposition, which is headed by Hizbullah. His attack was also directed against Syria and Iran, which, he says, are trying to regain control over Lebanon.

At a February 7, 2008 press conference, Al-Hariri accused the Lebanese opposition of sabotaging every move that Lebanon made, in retaliation for the establishment of the international tribunal for the assassination, and in response to the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon. He called upon the Lebanese people to participate in a mass rally on February 14, 2008 in downtown Beirut. Al-Hariri also stressed that the March 14 Forces would not stand idly by, and would not hesitate to confront Syria's and Iran's "black plan."

The following are excerpts from Al-Hariri's address, as published in the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal. [1]

On February 14, We Will Raise Our Voices against the Return of Syrian Control over Lebanon

"...Brothers and sisters, this anniversary has gained new dimensions in light of the growing dangers threatening our national destiny, [dangers] which place [Lebanon] in direct and open confrontation with the Syrian-Iranian plan and with its local servants. The goal of this plan is to regain control over Lebanon and to place its constitutional bodies under a terroristic, security and political siege...

"Since the last anniversary [of Al-Hariri's assassination], a group of worthy Lebanese dignitaries has joined the ranks of the martyrs [who have fallen in our] Intifada of Independence... [2] It is in honor of all these heroes, and out of loyalty to all the martyrs that have fallen for the sake of [our] liberty, independence, and sovereignty in the struggle against aggression and terrorism, that we gather here today and call upon all the Lebanese [people], from all over [the country], to take part in the anniversary rally. In this way, we will emphasize our determination to continue defending Lebanon and to resist the counterattack aimed at undermining our second independence [gained by Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon in April 2005]...

"On February 14, we shall witness another Intifada of Independence, and raise our voices in protest against renewed Syrian control over Lebanon's decisions. On February 14 we shall return to Shuhada Square [Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut], where we [held the demonstrations] that compelled [the Syrians] to withdraw from Lebanon. We shall come [to the square] so that Lebanon will not return to its [former] status as a permanent arena for the dreams of the Syrian regime.

"On February 14, we will return to the square [named after] the martyr Rafiq Al-Hariri - and [after the other] martyrs who have fallen in the name of liberty - in order to announce, with a single voice, that the Lebanese people are stronger than terrorism, that the series of explosions and assassinations will not break their spirit, and that all attempts to threaten and intimidate us will not avail and will not make us relinquish our national rights.

"We shall come to Martyrs' Square to renew our oath of loyalty [to Lebanon], and [to reiterate] our commitment to its defense and to the defense of its democratic regime - in the name of Rafiq Al-Hariri, Basil Fleihan, Samir Qassir, Jubran Tweini, George Hawi, Pierre Al-Gemayel, Walid 'Ido, Antoine Ghanem, General Francois Al-Hajj, Major Wissam 'Id, and all the other martyrs who fell with them [in our struggle] for national sovereignty.

"We shall gather at Martyrs' Square to stress that the [establishment] of the international tribunal [for the Al-Hariri assassination] will not stop; it will continue to advance full force towards its goal, [which is to ensure] that the depraved murderers - wherever they are - will be put behind bars and will receive their just punishment, in front of Lebanon and the entire world."

The Road to the Presidency of Lebanon Will Not Go Through Damascus and Tehran

"On February 14, we shall set out from all regions and all parts [of the country]: from north and south, from the [Lebanon] Mountains and from the Beqa' Valley, [to gather] in the heart of Beirut, to cry out the cry of a united Lebanon: We want a Lebanese president who will give voice to the will of the national consensus, and who will bring our country out of the maelstrom of extortion and threats of great destruction, into a situation with a vista to a solution and to true reconciliation.

"We will go out to Martyrs' Square to convey a clear and resolute message to all - and that message is that the path to the presidency of Lebanon goes through Beirut and the Lebanese parliament, not Damascus, Tehran, or any other capital in the world.

"Brothers and sisters, Lebanese everywhere, today Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa has returned [to Lebanon]. Several days before his arrival, the winds of thwarting [the Arab initiative for resolving the Lebanon crisis] blew [in Lebanon]. This was part of [the opposition's] policy - a policy whose shame has become visible to all, and whose aim is to suppress any spark of hope for a breakthrough [in resolving the crisis]. We will go out against this policy, with all political means, in order to defend the Arab initiative and to increase its chance of success.

"As part of this [effort], we are ready to come to the parliament this Monday [February 11, 2008], to elect Gen. Michel Sleiman as president, and immediately thereafter to begin to establish a national unity government that will act to legislate a new election law...

"We have chosen the path of freedom and democratic government. We wanted to transform the catastrophe that struck Lebanon on February 14 [2005, that is, Hariri's assassination] into a new point of departure towards the liberation of Lebanon from the grip of the Syrian regime, and into the renewal of the faith in our homeland, our country, and our institutions. [The Syrians and their allies,] on the other hand, sought to exploit this catastrophe in order to declare Lebanon defeated, and in order to turn it into fertile ground for their continued policy of thwarting, anarchy, and attrition of the country by means of an unceasing series of bombings and intimidation and the spread of the culture of fitna [internal strife]...

"It seems to me that we are facing a political, security, and terrorist presence of the Syrian and Iranian regimes, in the guise [of the Lebanese opposition]. This is the painful truth that is materializing before our eyes, on this the third anniversary [of the assassination]. The truth is that there are in Lebanon those who wish [Lebanon] to remain political and security collateral in the hands of the rulers of Damascus and Tehran.

"Therefore, at this stage in Lebanon's history, we have no option but to maintain steadfastness and solidarity, in order to prevent Lebanon from falling into the trap of the Syrian and Iranian regimes. Lebanon is under counterattack [by Syria and Iran] aimed at harming the Intifada of Independence. Every Lebanese who participated in the [demonstration] of March 14, 2005, has the responsibility today for defending this Intifada."

If We Are Fated to [Face] Confrontation - We Will Fight Without Hesitation

"We are facing a long Syrian/Iranian film, which began March 8, [2005]. [3] Every step [taken by the opposition] is aimed at vengeance against the March 14 Forces, vengeance for the establishment of the international tribunal and for the Syrian forces' expulsion from Lebanon. [As far as Syria, Iran, and its allies in Lebanon are concerned,] Lebanon must not be free, Arab, and independent, and the country must not spread its rule over all its lands. Lebanon must not have a president, and it must not have an active government. Lebanon must not have a parliament that convenes, makes decisions, demands an accounting, or makes laws... and Lebanon must not experience stability and security. There is a long, expansive lists of 'must nots' - and we must not stand idly by watching Lebanon crumble, institution by institution and region by region.

"If we are fated to [face] confrontation - we are ready. The national responsibility and even the national duty compel us to confront this black plan, and we will do so without hesitation. Alongside us stand the majority of the Lebanese people. The Lebanese people have stood fast for the past three years, and the independence movement [has stood fast] beside it, in an unprecedented way. This steadfastness is a victory in itself, [and it signifies] determination to continue in the path that will lead to the establishment of a free, Arab, and independent state. We have stood fast against terrorism, and we overcame it in Nahr Al-Bared. We did not break before the campaign of murder, bombings, and intimidation...

"We stood fast, and we overcame the [opposition's] political pressure and threats [to take] to the streets. Indeed, the taking of the national decisions remained in the hands of those who should take them: the legitimate and constitutional [authority] - [namely] the government. We stood fast against the campaign of destruction, and against the sending of the sowers of the destruction to Lebanese regions in order to establish military camps specializing in sparking internal strife and struggles...

"We stood fast, and by grace of Allah, and by the grace of the [strong] will of the Lebanese majority, [the opposition] did not manage to bring Lebanon's independent national decision[-making apparatus] back into the hands of the Syrian regime and of its disguised apparatuses in the security [zones, that are in the hands of some] of the parties [i.e. Hizbullah's security zones]. [The opposition] did not manage to harm either the unity of the March 14 Forces, or its determination to stand fast in the face of the dangers.

"[The opposition] has perfected the 'art of thwarting,' and uses it under every possible circumstance. [They sabotage] the government, the constitution, the economy, the parliament, the markets, security, roads, dialogue, initiative [for resolving the crisis], logic, presidential [elections], and the army...

"Even the Lebanese army is now among [the elements] doubted by [the opposition]... Now the army, its leadership, and some officers are being accused of crossing the red lines and of being under the influence of one of the other parties. We didn't know whether there was a blue line or a red line in certain Lebanese regions that the army is forbidden to cross. Nor do we know whether there is a state within the Lebanese state, which is now in a position to dictate conditions for the army's movements in the Lebanese territory.

"Our claim that the army must guarantee Lebanon's sovereignty and general stability does not mean that [the opposition] should drag [the army] from street to street, making it a tool for quelling disturbances, extinguishing fires, and putting out smoldering tires in city squares. If the function of the army is [to prevent] fitna between different schools of thought and ethnic groups, then [the opposition's] dragging the army into the streets is fitna in its own right.

"Lately, the army has been fulfilling its national and security function while managing to stay away from the internal conflict. It did not offer its cards to any one side, supporting national unity and mutual agreement as best it could. When the army leadership became the symbol of this agreement [i.e. when the March 14th Forces and the opposition agreed to nominate military commander Michel Sleiman as a presidential candidate], [the opposition] launched a coup against the army leadership, undermining its prestige...

"A campaign is currently underway against several senior officers, and it is harming army commander [Michel Sleiman] as well as Chief of Staff [Shawqi Al-Masri] and others. Not long ago, [Nasrallah] presented a list of strange and astonishing political conditions, including the demand for an [advance] decision on who will be the new army commander, the new intelligence chief, and the new heads of all the security apparatuses. [4] I fear that in the future a Lebanese army officer will be able to reach the rank of commander or to head a security apparatus only if he is faithful to the Ba'th party or to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) - while the only requirement that is truly necessary is that the officers be faithful to Lebanon and no one else."

The Opposition Rejects the Principles of Partnership

"[The opposition's] approach to national political partnership is to abolish its foundations, [thereby] permitting interminable crises in government management and public interests. We want to create a genuine partnership at all levels of national decision making - not [a partnership] that depends on affiliation with a [particular] group, party or ethnic community... We want a partnership that will give the Lebanese a real opportunity to strengthen the democratic rule and to create a solid and stable foundation for implementing the constitution...

"We want a partnership that will help the Lebanese defend their independent national decisions, rather than one that will create loophole [for Syria's and Iran's] interference in Lebanon's affairs. We want a partnership that will help - in both word and deed - prevent the naturalization of refugees [in Lebanon], rather than one that will support terrorism and armed militias in [Lebanese] refugee and army camps. We want a partnership that will revive faith in the role of the state and its institutions, and will help the state establish its dominion throughout the entire Lebanese territory, rather than one whose function will be to provide strategic services to certain regimes in the region...

"Oh my brothers and sisters, we will not yield to despair, no matter what means of intimidation, murder, or threat they use. We will not abandon the arena to plans for hegemony over Lebanon.

"Our decision is to defend coexistence and to provide, over and over again, a chance for every initiative [for resolving the conflict] that [might] reinstate the prestige of constitutional institutions, primarily the presidency - but [to provide no chance] to an initiative [aimed at ] transforming Lebanon into a permanent arena for settling regional and international accounts..." [5]

The International Court Will Pursue, and Try, the Syrian Regime

Two days later, Sa'd Al-Hariri addressed a delegation of municipal heads, mukhtars, and leaders from Tripoli and 'Akkar in northern Lebanon. He said: "The Syrian regime that murdered Rafiq Hariri is again trying to murder Lebanon. But the Syrian people have no hand in this; indeed, it [too] is suffering from this regime.

"We have witnessed the imprisonment of several Syrian opposition members, as terrorists are released and [sent] to Lebanon and Iraq to murder Muslims - on direct orders from this terrorist regime, which seeks nothing but bloodshed in order to attain its political goals...

"On February 14, 2005, [former] prime minister [Rafiq] Al-Hariri was assassinated, and an attempt was made to murder Lebanon [as well]. On March 8, 2005, [Syria's allies in Lebanon] attempted to claim that they were representing Lebanon and the Lebanese in expressing gratitude to [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad and the [Syrian] regime for everything it had done [over its 30-year presence in Lebanon]. However, on March 14, 2005, the Lebanese turned out en masse, surpassing all expectations, and reinstating their faith in a sovereign, free, Arab, and independent Lebanon..."

In another speech on the same day, to dignitaries from Tripoli and other Lebanese districts, Al-Hariri said: "The opposition tried to topple the government of [Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora], claiming that [it wanted a share of power]. But - miracle of miracles! what a coincidence! - this attempt [to topple the government] came, of all days, on the exact same [day that the government was supposed to] confirm the international tribunal for the Al-Hariri assassination.

"But rest assured... the international tribunal is about to commence its work, and on February 14, Allah willing, [you will hear good news] in this respect. The international tribunal will not only [benefit] Rafiq Al-Hariri and Basil Fleihan, but all of Lebanon and all the martyrs. True, it will not give me back my father, but the Syrian regime must know that it will be pursued and tried for its crimes. If Israel has been committing all these murders - as some [Lebanese] claim - why don't they let the international tribunal do its work, and not thwart it. Let it try Olmert and decide on a proper punishment for him...

"If they were [really] concerned about the Lebanese and their interests, and if they [really] wanted to solve [the country's] financial and economic problems and guarantee the population's basic needs such as electricity, they would reopen the parliament... instead of sabotaging the country, blocking roads, burning tires, and carrying out planned disturbances of the peace...

"Why are they doing all this? Only because [they feel protected] under the patronage of Syria and Iran, who are aiming to bring about the country's failure, so as to acquire an additional card [to be used in negotiations] over [Iran's] nuclear dossier or [over any other] regional issue."

[1] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 10, 2008.

[2] The term "Intifada of Independence" refers to the Lebanese protests of March 14, 2005 against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.

[3] On March 8, 2005, the pro-Syrian opposition in Lebanon held a mass demonstration to express support for and solidarity with the Syrian regime, accused of being behind the Al-Hariri assassination.

[4] In a November 11, 2007 address, Hizbullah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah demanded that the March 14th Forces and the opposition agree not only on the future Lebanese president but also on the makeup of the government, on the future commander of the Lebanese Army, and on the future directors of Lebanon's security apparatuses.

[5] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), February 8, 2008.

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