Is France’s reliance on Hezbollah’s arms behind its push for Franjieh’s election?

Masked Hezbollah (Party of God) fighters march thr
File : Masked Hezbollah fighters as they march through a suburb of Beirut in May 2008 , when the party occupied a large section of Beirut . In 2016 the party insisted on installing its ally Michel Aoun as president and now ii is also insisting on installing Suleiman Franjieh ,a staunch ally of Syria’s dictator Bashar al Assad , as Aoun’s replacement, but does not have the votes to get him elected . This is leading to the current impasse . Hezbollah and allies lost the majority in the parliamentary election

By Sally Hamad

The French company Total Enegies is planning to start drilling for oil and gas in offshore Lebanon starting this October . For this reason, according to analysts French president Emanuel Macron is reportedly pushing for the election of Hezbollah’s presidential candidate Suleiman Franjieh to guarantee the support of the Iranian backed and heavily armed militant group for Total in case of any attacks

Ali Hussein , a political analyst told me” France doesn’t seem concerned about what the Lebanese people really want . All it cares about is protecting its business interests in the country and the region”.

France trying to corrupt the politicians more

France is reportedly using unconventional corruption methods to force the Lebanese politicians to elect Franjieh

The well informed “Kuwaiti News” daily revealed the following on Saturday:

“The French diplomacy is in constant contact with ( FPM leader) Gebran Bassil, and the latest offer that was put to him, was the selection of the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, after the removal of Riad Salameh, and prosecution by the French and international judiciary,

Against this offer France wants Bassil to support Suleiman of Franjieh’s candidacy along with the so called “Shiite duo” ( Hezbollah” and Amal) .”

“Does that mean that France is trying to prosecute Salameh with The aim of appeasing Bassil who along with his father -in- law former president Michel Aoun have been trying for years to replace Salameh?” One analyst told me

In 1920, soon after the end of World War I, the League of Nations mandated that Lebanon would be administered by France after the Partition of the Ottoman Empire. Lebanon officially became part of the French colonial empire, as part of the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, and was administered from Damascus.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Lebanon following the Beirut port explosion twice in a diplomatic move aimed at promoting reform in the crisis-stricken country.

Many questioned whether Macron could help encourage leaders to reform the mismanagement and corruption that the Lebanese blame for the economic crisis and the devastating explosion.

Some commended Macron’s leadership after he convened an international donor conference following his first visit, to help Beirut emerge after the blast.

But others criticised Macron’s visits to Lebanon, saying it recalls France’s colonial past.

Historically, French influence in Lebanon stemmed from close ties with Maronites, who are Eastern Catholics.

When French forces landed in Beirut  in September 1920 to  put an end to the short-lived Arab government, Maronites and other Christians waving French flags cheered their arrival at the Beirut port. They hailed France as their “tender, loving mother” (Arabic, al-umm al-hanuni).  

Between 1920 and 1943, the State of Greater Lebanon existed under a French Mandate. During this time, it became the Lebanese Republic.

The mandate’s legacy includes the Sectarian political system splitting power between Christians and Muslims.

Since the 1950s, the links between France and the Maronites have weakened: France’s influence in the regions has faded, the notion of ‘protection’ is no longer there, according to historians

The first president of France’s fifth republic to visit the country was François Mitterrand He travelled to Beirut after 58 French parachutists were killed in 1983 in a Beirut bombing.

Mitterrand had sent French troops to the country as part of a multinational peacekeeping force during the throes of a civil war between Christians and Muslims that would last until 1990.

Macron’s first visit to Beirut days after the explosion rocked the city was met with early hope that he could influence the ruling class,

But critics accused Macron of using the crisis to wield further influence in the region.

His second visit to Lebanon was seen as “largely symbolic” .

“Lebanese people, you are like brothers to the French. I promised you: I will come back to Beirut to take stock of the emergency aide and help you build the conditions for reconstruction and stability,” Macron tweeted .

Macron failed to deliver and never came back . He is now seen as the father of corruption in Lebanon

After 103 years   France ceased   to be the “tender, loving mother” of the Christians  according to analysts 

For reasons none of the largest Christian parties and other opposition leaders can understand   France is still trying to dictate to the Lebanese people its proposal that calls for the election of Franjieh as president  despite the objections of the group of 5 countries involved in resolving the crisis .

The Marada Movement chief  who is an ally of   Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad, whom he calls “my friend is the weakest Christian leader in Lebanon .

The problem for Franjieh according to analysts is twofold: Until now Hezbollah  doesn’t have a majority in parliament that would allow him to win an election, and he is opposed by the three main Maronite Christian parties, which would deny him any communal legitimacy, since presidents come from the Maronite community. 

According to political observers, even in the unlikely event that he could be voted into office, his term would be highly contentious because of hostility from within his community.

The top Christian Lebanese  parties; The Lebanese Forces, The Free patriotic Movement  and the Phalange parties  are all opposed to the election of Franjieh  and are shocked at the French position. 

Franjieh was named after his  grandfather former president Suleiman  Franjieh  who invited the Syrian army to come to Lebanon during the civil war to crush the nationalist movement .

Te Syrian army ended up occupying Lebanon for nearly three decades , from 1976 to 2005. It withdrew  from Lebanon in April 2005  under pressure by the Cedar Revolution and the international community .

  The Cedar Revolution erupted following the assassination of former  PM Rafic Hariri.

Three Hezbollah operatives were indicted by STL, the UN -backed International court  in Hariri’s assassination but Hezbollah refused to hand them over.

Sami Haddad , a Lebanese political analyst told me. France is no more the “tender, loving mother” of The Christians , it is now the “tender, loving mother” of Hezbollah .

He added: “The whole world , France included , knows that the majority of the Lebanese are opposed to Hezbollah’s arms . France ‘s actions will strengthen Hezbollah and no force on earth can ever disarm it “.

Mr Haddad concluded “with friends like France who needs enemies “