Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will join a coalition government with Hezbollah, conceding defeat and handing the terrorist organization more political power than it ever had before.
Hariri, in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica while on a visit to Rome to meet with his Italian counterpart, Paolo Gentiloni, said that he and the Shi’ite jihadist group have “put aside” their differences to serve the country.
“The prime minister only thinks of the good of Lebanon, of finding the formulas and making the agreements that allow us to handle the problems of the country,” he was quoted as saying.
Thousands of Lebanese Shia rely on Hezbollah – deeply embedded into politics and society – for social, medical and financial support. According to the Italian newspaper, Hariri said that as premier, he seeks to find a national formula that preserves Lebanese unity.
Hariri succeeded his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was murdered in a 2005 car bombing blamed on Hezbollah. When asked about being in a government with the party accused of murdering his father, he responded by saying that he trusts that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will find those responsible and “condemn the criminals.”
In August, the Lebanese Army, along with Hezbollah, recaptured an Islamic State enclave in the Qalamoun mountains on the Syrian border. The Lebanese Army said that it was not coordinating Syrian or Hezbollah photos being posted on social media, which show armored personnel carriers carrying a Hezbollah flag alongside a tank with a flag of Lebanon.
Turning to Syria, Hariri said that despite Iran’s mobilization there, it was Moscow that saved the Assad regime.
“Russia is now pushing for a political solution, and as Putin says, their work is in the interest of the entire country, not just one person,” he said, adding that he met with President Vladimir Putin, who has “committed himself to the stability of the region. Putin’s words on Syria count, for Iran and the region, and at this moment the unity of the Arab world is decisive.”
But according to Hariri, allowing Bashar Assad to remain the leader of Syria would be a major mistake.
“In Syria, everything started with the people demanding reform [and] democracy. The regime began killing their own citizens and a civil war began.”
As for the increased tensions between the United States and Iran, Hariri said that Lebanon “wants good relations with all countries in the region, and we hope that in the midst of the confrontation between the United States and Iran, we will avoid any negative repercussions on our country.
“However,” he continued, “I also say that interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries is absolutely unacceptable, and Iran should play a positive role that will help in economic development and security, and not contribute to destabilization.”
Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006, which came to an end after UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for the disarmament of Hezbollah, the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, and the deployment of the Lebanese Army and an enlarged UN force in the south.