That the U.S. accepts (or has facilitated or suggested or instructed) Lebanese Forces head Samir Geagea to adopt General Michel Aoun’s candidacy is corroborated by the facts, writes Nasser Qandil in the Lebanese daily al-Bina’
by Nasser Qandil – al Bina’
(translated by Middle East Mirror Ltd)
Washington has directed (or facilitated or suggested) former PM Sa’d al-Hariri to adopt Suleiman Franjieh’s candidacy. But what Washington wants in particular in both cases remains unclear. For both candidacies are booby-trapped with elements that may foil them. Their path to success is riddled with obstacles that do not seem easy to overcome. The result in Lebanon may be a stalemate for the presidential elections. It may also turn into an ongoing presidential competition. The least likely outcome is that these candidacies will produce a new dynamic for a comprehensive accord that avoids victor and vanquished. They may also produce a third candidate after claiming that each of the two current candidates had been offered a shot at the presidency but to no avail.
But what is new about the candidacy arises from the words of the Qatari foreign minister. He praised Geagea’s move and described it as an expression of the Lebanese national interest as part of a statement in which he also expressed support for Russia’s role in Syria, describing it as the only hope for a political settlement. And he also expressed his hopes that the Turkish/Russian disagreement would be soon resolved, and spoke positively about Iran.
These statements are consistent with Qatar’s positive relations with Iran; they also come against the background of the recent [Qatari-mediated] exchange of prisoners and kidnapped [Lebanese] soldiers with the Nusra Front, which revealed that the lines are still open between the Emir of Qatar and Hizbollah.
These statements come after a silence that lasted for more than a year, during which Qatar has refrained from adopting any discourse that differs from Saudi Arabia. During that period, Qatar agreed to proceed under Saudi Arabia’s mantle in order to avoid the latter’s anger, and against the background of the American cover that Doha needs in order to continue to diverge from Riyadh.
This U.S. cover was present at the start of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ against the background of the neo-Ottoman project that had the Muslim Brotherhood as its main representative. But it disappeared with that project’s failure, ending in the [former] Qatari emir and his PM and foreign minister’s humiliating removal from power. But that cover now seems to be reemerging, which appears to be part of the American response to Saudi intransigence towards Washington’s efforts to achieve settlements in the region.
The Qatari minister’s statements suggest that Doha will resume the role of mediator that it aspires to. It also suggests that it will meet Geagea’s need for a financial backer to replace Saudi Arabia. He will need this if he is to pursue a path that places him at the center of settlements and that opens the doors to the long track towards [Lebanese] negotiations whose capital Doha aspires to be.
Geagea’s gateway to reserving a front seat in this track is his support for Aoun’s candidacy, without this being the end of his presidential options. For the project to stage a Lebanese Doha meeting requires rounds of conflict, vacuum and political tension, not a smooth transition towards a solution. This is a project that the young Emir of Qatar awaits, and whose first steps have already been taken with Qatar’s extended bridges towards Tehran, Haret Hreik [Hizbollah’s headquarters], ‘Ain el-Tineh [Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri’s residence] and al-Mukhtara [Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s residence]. And there will be no problem with Sa’d al-Hariri, just as there were none a few years ago at the first  Lebanese Doha meeting.
Parallel to this is a track towards a settlement in Syria. This will begin with a Turkish/Russian settlement that is endorsed by Washington and for which it recruits Qatar as a mediator. Meanwhile, Lebanon will be primed for a long negotiation process before producing the long-awaited president. And the pretext of Saudi Arabia’s preoccupation with Yemen will then be used to justify its departure from the Lebanese and Syrian equations – something that Hariri has been sensing since before he nominated Franjieh.
Washington has wanted to strengthen Qatar’s hand before strengthening Geagea and Aoun’s candidacy. It seems, however, that we have to wait and accept the fact that the laboratory in which the settlements and negotiation tracks are being prepared has still not readied our file for final presentation at the settlements’ table. We still have to wait for a long time before we get a new president.