While the rest of the world struggles with a solution to the threats posed by the Islamic State and what to do about the Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad, who reiterated his refusal to let go of power, Lebanon seems poised to appoint a man who considers himself “Assad’s brother” as its president.
Meet Suleiman Frangieh, Jr, 50, the scion of one of Lebanon’s prominent Maronite families, as the Constitution requires, and a man who has paid the price, in blood, for the small nation’s ongoing strife.
Frangieh’ grandfather, for whom he is named, stile him away to Syria after the 1978 Ehden massacre, in which his father, Tony Frangieh, mother, Vera, and three-year-old sister, Jihane, and thirty allied partisans were slaughtered by rival Maronite Kataeb militias hoping to eliminate a political threat.
In Syria, 12-year-old Suleiman was taken under the wing of Bassel Assad, the flamboyant oldest son of Syria’s then strongman, Hafez Assad, father of the current president. He has remained a close friend to the Assad family since that time. Bassel was killed in a car crash in 1994. Frangieh refers to himself as Bashar’s brother.
Lebanon has been without a president for 18 months, rivalling Belgium, that once went for 541 consecutive days without a prime minister, for political disfunction.
Recently, such antagonists as Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and former prime minister Saad Hariri have called for renewed dialogue and an end to the presidential limbo, but even the suicide twin bombings perpetrated by Islamic State (IS) that killed 44 people in Beirut on November 12 failed to generate a consensus that would have allowed for the election of a new president and on December 3rd the 32nd such attempt failed again.
Enter Mr Frangieh. In a deal that may resolve the gridlock, the appointment of Frangieh as president might open the way for Hariri to resume the mantle of prime minister. (Hariri’s father, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was murdered in 2005 in a massive bombing widely attributed to Assad.)
Lebanese media report the deal has the backing of such diverse interested parties as Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United States and France.