Jumblatt has friends in high places: Walid and the King
Unlike other politicians in Lebanon, MP Walid Jumblatt does not feel that his security is threatened. He cannot wait to set an appointment with the Saudi king and says that his increasing criticism of Hezbollah will not affect the alliance keeping the Najib Mikati government in power.
Normally, when head of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt leaves his Beirut residence in Clemenceau to his historic home in Mukhtara, it means he is on a security alert. But this time he left Beirut to his stronghold in the Chouf mountains, “to escape the heat of summer, no more, no less,” as he puts it.
Security measures around his castle of many mansions attest to the lack of anything out of the ordinary. “I receive security reports which I do not believe. They come from the same source. It is the same fax and gets distributed to everyone,” he explains.
In his office, packed with mostly Soviet-era memorabilia, he keeps two AK-47s near his chair. They seem ready to be used at any moment. “But they are souvenirs. There is no need to oil our weapons. Who will we fight?”
The usually anxious man is not concerned these days. He is more worried about renovating the house once used as a headquarters for the military wing of his party, than about the blaze that could set fire to the country at any moment now.
King Abdullah is a big friend. As commander of the National Guard, he paved the way for the relationship between [Walid’s father] Kamal Jumblatt and King Faisal in 1972. He considers the Druzes as his clan. His safety net remains the same. “We agreed to control our disagreement with Hezbollah on the Syrian issue. My position on their weapons is clear. What the President of the Republic said about using these weapons to defend Lebanon represents me. But it should be under the state’s command.”
He believes the problem lies in Hezbollah contradicting itself. Hassan Nasrallah once linked the issue to the conclusion of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Another time, MP Mohammad Raad said that the weapons are for liberation.
“Liberation should be the state’s decision, not the party’s, after determining the ownership of the Shebaa Farms and demarcating the borders from south to north, to our shared seas with Syria, which contain a vast store of oil and gas.” This is his dilemma.
He does not see that his recent statements about Hezbollah as an escalation. He repeats his “dismay” from Nasrallah’s talk about “brothers in arms.”
“The Iranians demoted Nasrallah by supporting Bashar al-Assad. Where was Nasrallah in July 2006 and where is he today?”
Otherwise, “there is no escalation. The political equation governing the survival of the government remains. When the equation falls, the government falls.”
But he does not seem optimistic about the government’s performance in the future. “The government’s slogan is returning Louis Lahoud to the General Directorate for Agriculture. [North MP] Suleiman Frangieh wants Semaan Badawi as General Director of Petroleum. They want to give this vital dossier to a [...] rate employee of [Public Works and Transport Minister] Ghazi Aridi.”
He spares agriculture minister from his criticism. “He is the first real agriculture minister since the Taif Agreement.”
The justice the daily workers deserve should not hide the fact that some of them are casual workers on paper only. One of them controls a 3-megawatt electrical generator in Dahiyeh.The second rope in the safety net is tied to Riyadh. “After Prince Nayef Bin Abdul-Aziz died, the Saudi Ambassador [to Lebanon] told me that King Abdullah will meet me. I am still waiting for the department of protocol to set the date.”
Jumblatt is counting on this visit and awaits it anxiously. “I will explain the details of what happened with me in January 2011. Hezbollah withdrew from the Doha Agreement and I chose Najib Mikati instead of [head of Future Movement] Saad Hariri.”
“At the time the ‘typewriter chorus’ claimed that Hezbollah will burn Beirut if the indictment [in the Hariri assassination] is issued. But the decision was issued after the government was formed and nothing happened.”
He does not deny the financial dimension to his relationship with the Saudis. “When I asked for the king’s help, he was not stingy. King Abdullah is a big friend. As commander of the National Guard, he paved the way for the relationship between [Walid’s father] Kamal Jumblatt and King Faisal in 1972. He considers the Druzes as his clan.”
Jumblatt declines to talk about the impact the appointment of Bandar Bin Sultan as head of Saudi intelligence will have on Lebanon. “I will not say anything. I want to meet with the king.”
There is a communication breakdown with Saad Hariri. He said it is because “Sheikh Saad” is in Saudi Arabia, before linking him to the equation that governs the survival of the government.
As for Mukhtara’s relationship with Maarab [home of Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea], he says smiling, “When the elections are close, we will talk.”
As for Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader General Michel Aoun, Jumblatt is taking a different approach these days. The general is no longer “a madman inciting the Shia against the Sunnis,” as he described him a few weeks ago.
Today, “despite the political differences between us, Aoun is right. As a demand, there needs to be a just solution to the issue of the daily workers. But this should not be an excuse to occupy and disable a public facility.”
“We also have to be careful about the delicate situation in the area [Achrafieh]. There are fears that the [workers] sit-in will create tensions between Christians and Shia.”
He does not stop at this. He remarks that “the justice the daily workers deserve should not hide the fact that some of them are casual workers on paper only. One of them controls a 3-megawatt electrical generator in Dahiyeh. He belongs to a particular political movement and is demanding US$3 million to give it up.”
Even his some of his partisans are not spared his wrath. “Here, we have a Druze shabih [thug]. He is theoretically connected to me politically, but he is a shabbih. He tried to close down the electrical company here and we stopped him.”
Rapprochement with Aoun will not go beyond this issue. But there is another intersection of interests between Rabieh and Mukhtara – the telecommunications data file.
Jumblatt wants Hezbollah to “order” the telecommunications minister Nicolas Sehnaoui to give the data to the security agencies. “These agencies should coordinate with each other and ask for data in particular regions in Lebanon, not the whole country.”
He does not think the alliance between Hezbollah and FPM will be broken. “[FPM MP] Alain Aoun visited Damascus lately. One of the heads of security got the password from Abdul-Fattah Qudsieh. It said that disagreements are forbidden. They act as if the Syrians are still in Lebanon.”
I wish the so-called Friends of Syria arm the opposition instead of empty talk. The sooner we topple the regime, the more we can protect Syria from the international conspiracy that seeks to destroy it.The new Syrian target for Jumblatt’s jibes is Qudsieh. He is the former head of military intelligence who was appointed as deputy national security chief on Wednesday. “[Syrian] military intelligence usually takes care of the Lebanon dossier,” Jumblatt explains.
As for Syria, he believes the regime will fall. But what will happen?
“It will definitely fall. But I wish the so-called Friends of Syria arm the opposition instead of empty talk. The sooner we topple the regime, the more we can protect Syria from the international conspiracy that seeks to destroy it due to its strategic position, for the sake of Israel. The regime is actually enacting the conspiracy by its actions.”
He believes Iran is ultimately responsible for Assad’s support. “The Iranians are implementing a policy that I cannot understand. No one can understand the Persians. Thank God there is no communication between us.”
And the actions of his Russian “friends” are “simply stupid. [Russian President] Vladimir Putin is no longer capable of doing anything. They want to protect their interests? Today’s situation will destroy the Syrian army. What will remain of those interests?”
When talking of Syria, Jumblatt cannot forget his personal vendetta. “Thirty five years of reconciliation with Hafez al-Assad and now the Syrian people want to topple his son. Yes, the Syrian people is seeking vengeance for all the regime’s victims.”
“If I had men in Syria...”
Walid Jumblatt moans when he hears the story about the attempted assassination of former minister Wiam Wahhab in Syria. “If I had men in Syria, I would have given them another mission.”
In several television appearances yesterday, Wahhab unveiled new information about the attempt on his life. Both al-Manar and al-Jadeed TV channels broadcast a video of the suspect, supposedly admitting to the plot.
Wahhab said that “the young man is not Lebanese. He was asked to shoot at me and my motorcade in Sweida. They also gave him a Lebanese ID card with a fake name, certified by the interior ministry.”
But he pointed out that “the young man had second thoughts about the attempt. He is not connected to any party, but he communicated with someone from the PSP. But it does not mean the PSP is involved in the incident.”
He also denied that “Jumblatt could be involved, because he knows its repercussions well. I am certain he was not behind it, which would have put him in the line of fire, along with others.”
But he stressed that “he does not want to pre-empt the investigation” and indicated that “the person is also suspected of the Baqaata bombing [which targeted Wahhab’s party offices last April].”
By: Hassan Illeik