New look, new me. Does this expression, which basically means that a person adopts a new look to reflect a change in attitude or personality, apply to the leader of the Future Movement and former Prime Minister, Saad Hariri?

The Sunni leader’s arrival in Beirut on Sunday evening for the commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the assassination of his father, former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, on February 14, 2005, just a few days before the anniversary date, his look, but also his busy schedule, gave rise to much speculation. These speculations are mainly related to Saad Hariri’s possible return to political life, which he had suspended in January 2022.

Several clues might point in this direction. Certainly, they have nothing to do with the former Prime Minister’s new look, which has fueled comments on social networks. They are rooted in a comparison between the nature of his visit to Beirut in 2020, which he made on the sly, and that of 2024, which takes on an almost official aspect, and thus propels him back into the sphere of the country’s leaders that he had left two years earlier.

Some opposition sources, however, do not support this reasoning, pointing out that the conditions that had dictated Saad Hariri’s suspension of his political activities and departure from Lebanon in 2022 had not been eliminated to justify his return to political life. They were making reference to Hezbollah’s hold over the country, relations with Saudi Arabia, whose commitment to Lebanon is manifested only through the quintet (USA, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar) and aid to the population, and the absence of a political consensus for economic recovery and serious reforms.

However, according to the same sources, Saad Hariri wanted to show that, despite the suspension of his political activities, he remains committed to Lebanon and ready to assume a leading role.

On Monday morning, he visited his successor, Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, but refrained from answering journalists’ questions, contenting himself with making an appointment to meet them on February 14 for the ceremony commemorating his father’s assassination. He had also met Najib Mikati on the same occasion in 2023. Their meeting, however, remained far from the limelight, having only been announced later, along with the other meetings he had in Beirut, in a press release issued by his office.

Interestingly, his Moscow adviser for Russian affairs, Georges Chaabane, announced a few hours later that the Future Movement leader had recently held talks with the Deputy Russian Foreign Minister for the Middle East, Mikhail Bogdanov, who handed him an invitation to Moscow.

On Tuesday, the Sunni leader’s agenda is comprised of meetings with ambassadors, including representatives of the Five (USA, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar) in charge of the Lebanese dossier. Sources close to the House of the Center declined to specify which ambassadors Hariri will meet.

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