Hezbollah is reportedly reopening channels of communication with different poles of the Christian community that hold opposite stances on the future of the army leadership, as the retirement of army commander General Joseph Aoun draws closer.
According to informed sources quoted by sister media, Houna Lobnan, Walid Ghayyad, media official of the Maronite Patriarchate, and Hezbollah officials, Muhammad Saeed al-Khansa and Mustafa al-Haj Ali, held a secret meeting last week at the residence of MP Farid al-Khazen, “aimed at restoring connection and warming up relations” between Bkerke and Haret Hreik.
It was an occasion for Ghayyad to explain Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rai’s position on the issue of the army command, the sources said, adding that Ghayyad also conveyed to the Iranian-backed party Bkerke’s desire not to outstep the presidential vacancy in dealing with the army leadership file.
Rai has categorically rejected having a vacancy in the post of army commander after General Joseph Aoun retires on January 10, thus, implicitly supporting a proposal by Lebanese Forces MPs to delay his retirement for a year.
On the other hand, according to information obtained by This is Beirut, Hezbollah’s security and liaison official, Wafiq Safa, resumed his contacts with the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Gebran Bassil, after they were interrupted as a result of the latter’s criticism of “Al-Sayyid” (Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah).
The meetings remained out of the limelight, and recent events in the region, namely the war in Gaza between Hezbollah-backed Hamas and Israel, contributed to the resumption of communication due to the party’s keenness on salvaging its alliance with the movement at this stage.
For this reason, the party appears to be going along with Bassil’s position with regard to the army leadership. The FPM leader is opposed to delaying Joseph Aoun’s retirement, be it by the government or in parliament, citing the violation of the constitution. However, it is as controversial to appoint a new army commander in the absence of a president of the republic, as Bassil is demanding.
Hezbollah is apparently stuck in a dilemma, torn between salvaging the Christian cover that the FPM provides and the specter of a vacancy at the helm of the military institution at this critical phase.
Regarding the joint committee between the movement and the party, tasked with formulating a new agreement in place of the Mar Mikhael understanding, there is nothing new to mention. The party is still studying Bassil’s proposals and the issues he raised, including expanded decentralization.