Aoun denies that he is opposed to the declaring a state of emergency

general Joseph Aoun
Lebanese Army chief General Joseph Aoun

The Presidential office on Tuesday issued a statement in which it denied claims that President Michel Aoun is opposed to declaring a state of emergency over coronavirus for political reasons .

Lebanese Army chief General Joseph Aoun

“All information and stances attributed to the president are totally baseless and aimed at harming the unity of constitutional, executive and military institutions, especially the army,” the Presidency said.

This development comes after Speaker Nabih Berri said he discussed with Prime Minister Hassan Diab the need to declare a state of emergency over coronavirus fears which has become a necessity in light of the increase in the number of people infected with the virus, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday.

Berri said that Diab had vowed, during their talks on Saturday, he would declare a state of emergency, “but I do not know why this decision has not been taken yet,” said Berri.

“The situation is unbearable, a state of emergency must be immediately and urgently declared,” he emphasized, likening the “general mobilization” state announced last week by the government to a “light emergency.”

“Measures must be strict to the utmost extent in obliging citizens to adhere to orders similar to what is applied in the countries of the world, at least a curfew must be imposed,” said Berri.

“The government’s responsibility is to strive to secure the people’s need for food, medicine and unconditional aid, especially for the poorest,” he concluded.

The Lebanese government was on the verge of declaring a state of national emergency that would lock down the entire country and grant the Lebanese armed forces extra-jurisdictional powers to enable them to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the projected state of emergency was replaced by “total mobilisation,” which adopted the same measures but was short of empowering the Lebanese Army, which was met with bewilderment and outrage by the public.

The Lebanese Constitution allows the executive branch to declare a state of emergency to respond to or pre-empt imminent dangers. Empowering the Lebanese Army would have been the logical, not to say the ethical action to take, given that the Lebanese state and its various decrepit institutions lack the resources and the moral standing the Lebanese Army possesses with the public.

Hezbollah rejects state of emergency measures

But the Hezbollah-backed cabinet changed its mind the last minute because empowering the army to implement the state of emergency would seriously curtail Hezbollah’s ability to carry out its logistical operations,  especially crossing in and out of Syria undetected, and would sooner rather than later place the Lebanese Army and this transnational militia at odds, according to analysts.

It is therefore kind of strange that Berri, a close ally of Hezbollah is reiterating the need for a State of Emergency .

According to analysts Berri is still pushing for a State of Emergency , because the Shiite community in Lebanon must be hurting because of the number of infected people that came from Iran , the epicenter of the coronavirus in the Middle East .

Despite having an implicit understanding with the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah always looks at this US-trained and -equipped institution with distrust and is always looking for ways to control it or render it ineffective.

Several reports and videos circulated in Lebanon about plane loads of Iranian citizens that also came to Lebanon for coronavirus treatment , but the health minister Hamad Hassan denied yesterday the reports. Hassan represents the Iranian- backed Hezbollah militant group in the cabinet .

Free Patriotic Movement founder ,president Michel Aoun (left) , is shown during his meeting with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah ( right). The meeting was held on October 24th , days before the parliament elected Aoun as president in October 2016

Slamming the allegations as “cheap incitement,” the Presidency said those launching them are seeking to drive a wedge between Aoun and certain institutions, a possible reference to the Lebanese army and Hezbollah

Aoun, the founder of Free Patriotic Movement ( FPM) is closely associated with Hezbollah . In 2006 he signed a memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah , even though when he was in self exile in France between 1990 and 2005 he was very critical of the militant organization and its backers, Syria and Iran .

According to analysts all the most recent presidents of Lebanon headed the Lebanese Army. The analysts are of the opinion that Aoun is trying very hard to get Hezbollah to back his son- in – law Gebran Bassil, the current FPM leader for the presidency after his term expires in 2022. If Joseph Aoun takes over now during the State of Emergency he could become very popular and powerful and most probably he could become the future president.

” The Lebanese state continues to fail in the test of statehood . Hezbollah has proven, time and again, that it is more dangerous to Lebanon’s future than any flu or doomsday disease for which, sooner or later, there will be a cure, ” AUB professor Makram Rabah wrote in a March 22nd article about the undeclared State of Emergency