Saad Hariri

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Prime Minister

"The regime in Syria is trading with the blood of the children of Qana, Gaza and Baghdad."

"We don't want Lebanon to be used as a territory for other conflicts. We need Lebanon to be a free and sovereign country"

"The Israeli aggression may be able to destroy Lebanon, but it cannot touch Lebanese unity, which is what will help to rebuild the country."

"We have to understand that we come out of 30 years of not making decisions by ourselves; of having a country telling us what to do."

"We would like to have peace with Israel. We don't want wars."

"We and the Syrians will be here for 1,000 years so we have to have normal and regular relations with Syria."

Early Years and Education

You were born on April 18, 1970 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, but you identify as Lebanese. Also, you are a Sunni Muslim. You studied business administration at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. In 1996, you took over the Saudi-based "Saudi Oger" construction company owned by your father, Rafik Hariri, which is worth $3.15 billion. 

Public Life

Your father was assassinated in February 2005, after serving as the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 2004. He is credited as the driving force behind Lebanon's post-civil war and foreign invasion reconstruction. Following his assassination (for which Syria and pro-Syrian elements within Lebanon were blamed) and the resulting Cedar Revolution, which consisted of mass protests demanding Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, you left your job at Saudi Oger in Saudi Arabia and returned to Lebanon to defend your father’s legacy.  Having returned to Lebanon, you quickly ran for the Lebanese parliament in an attempt to continue your father’s political ideals, which included reform and the removal of Syrian influence in Lebanon. Nevertheless, before your return to Lebanon, you never had any experience in politics. You are the leader of the Future Movement, a newly formed political party originally committed to the expulsion of Syrian troops from Lebanon, but now committed to a general rebuilding of Lebanese society after civil war and the July 2006 Israeli invasion. Your party swept the May 2005 parliamentary elections, and in alliance with several small Christian groups, and the Progressive Socialist Party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, you formed a governmental majority known as the "March 14 Coalition." You became the parliamentary majority leader and your father's close friend, Fouad Siniora, was Prime Minister. 

Your support mainly comes from Lebanon's Sunni community, concentrated in the north, though your strong pro-business stance makes you popular amongst entrepreneurs of all stripes. Even though you were the majority leader of government, you remained by temperament an oppositional figure: you were swept to power on an anti-Syrian, anti-corruption agenda, and maintained that much of the Lebanese political system was still staffed by supporters of Syria, especially the Lebanese president at the time. You have boldly called out your political enemies (corrupt politicians at home and abroad) and although this has made you popular with your supporters, it has likewise galvanized your opponents, including former Lebanese president Emile Lahoud, the Maronite Michel Aoun, and Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah. While Lebanon's more experienced political actors view your vocal opinions as a sign of weakness, with your youth and energy you have one trump card: You are favored by the United States. Most of Lebanon's other political elites have alienated Washington at one point or another, including Walid Jumblatt and more recently Fouad Siniora, but with your technocratic development schemes and simple anti-Syrian policies you became a darling of the Bush administration.

The Lebanese government was sorely tried in 2006. The July 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel devastated much of your country and saw you actually support Hezbollah as a defender of Lebanon against foreign aggression. Fortunately for you, the damage inflicted by this war strengthened you personally, since your background in construction made you a key voice in the rebuilding process (much like your father during the 1990s after the civil war). After this conflict, Hezbollah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, emerged as strong contenders for power on the national level. They called for a new government of national unity, and accused your government of siding with the Israelis during the war. Maronite general Michel Aoun, who returned from exile in 2005 after 15 years spent resisting the Syrian occupation from abroad, joined Hezbollah in challenging you. As an exiled patriot, his voice carries special weight, and he accused you, Jumblatt and Siniora of being collaborators with the Syrian occupation. While you spent most of the Syrian period working in Saudi Arabia, it is undeniable that much of your father's fortune (which you inherited) was acquired during the occupation, in cooperation with local authorities. In December 2006 all Shiite ministers left Siniora's government on Nasrallah's orders, and in alliance with Michel Aoun they took to the streets in protest. Their ire was directed at Siniora and not your parliamentary majority, but as a key member of the ruling coalition you stood firmly behind PM Siniora, and resisted any attempt to overthrow the government by illegal means. 

June 2009 to Present

After the March 14 Coalition won the 2005 elections, you were slated to become prime minister, but deferred to Fouad Siniora, helping him to avoid near-civil war by negotiating a unity government. However, after winning the June 2009 parliamentary elections, you were again tapped by President Michel Suleiman for the premiership, and you accepted the challenge of forming a unity government with the March 8th (Hezbollah) Coalition. After much difficulty, you were able to form your cabinet. When you assumed leadership, you were faced with a nation plagued with debt, political and religious divisions, and war. You have had to make concessions to the March 8 Coalition in order to keep your fragile government intact, including allowing Hezbollah to keep its arms and granting them veto power in parliament.

Originally, Syria was blamed for your father's 2005 assassination, but after the UN ordered the release of several accused generals because there was insufficient evidence to further detain them, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (set up by the UN to investigate your father's murder) has changed directions in its investigation. The STL report, initially due to be released by the end of 2010, was thought very likely to contain indictments for members of Hezbollah. In order to prepare the public and especially Hezbollah's Shi'a supporters, who you said would be treated as rogue elements of the group, you informed Nasrallah of the impending accusations in early summer 2010. Nasrallah has denied the tribunal's legitimacy from the beginning, accusing it of bias and politicization. In August 2010, Nasrallah came forward with "evidence" of of possible Israeli involvement in your father's murder. This evidence is video footage from Israeli surveillance drones that includes images of routes frequented by your the late PM, including the site of his death. Although Nasrallah called this evidence inconclusive, he has slammed the STL for its failure to investigate any Israeli implication, and Hezbollah and its supporters will surely have rejected the report’s any conclusions: that find Hezbollah members, acting at the behest of the Syrian government, were or its members guilty of your father's assassination. This comes after a year of normalizing relations with Syria, at the encouragement of the US and Saudi Arabia who have been striving to "bring Syria out of the cold." Lebanon and Syria exchanging diplomats for the first time in years, and you even paid a visit to Damascus. Recently, however, in an attempt at normalizing relations, you publicly absolved Syria of guilt in your father's murder. 

In August 2010, four deaths resulted from a skirmish between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the IDF over a border breach that occurred when an Israeli soldier crossed the fence to remove a tree blocking security cameras. Although Hezbollah was not involved, members of the US Congress are concerned that the clash was encouraged by Hezbollah, and they are further concerned that Hezbollah will somehow benefit from US aid to the LAF, or that the LAF might use US materials against Israel. As a consequence, future US aid to the LAF will be closely contested in Washington. Luckily, other powers have offered to fill the funding void, including Iran and France. Then, in early 2011, 11 Hezbollah-allied ministers withdrew from cabinet prior to the release of the STL report. At the urging of Western backers of your government, including Presidents Obama and Sarkozy, you resisted calls from Hezbollah to preemptively reject the results, which in turn led to the resignations. While many feared that Lebanon could go for years without a new government, as had already happened from 2006-8 following a similar Shiite-led walk-out, a new cabinet was announced five months later under a March 8th-supported PM, Najib Mikati. This was seen as a victory for Hezbollah, since with March 8th controlling 11 seats it was guaranteed veto power. (There are 30 cabinet posts in the government, and veto power requires 1/3 + 1). Hezbollah, which had long demanded this veto power, seemed finally to have achieved it.

In 2013, Mikati resigned. At the time of his resignation, the Syrian civil war had begun to take its toll on Lebanon, with armed conflict flaring up Tripoli – the capital of Mikati’s home district – resulting in more than 12 dead and 100 injured. Mikati had wanted to hold new parliamentary elections, which would probably have given March 14th another majority. However, this would not have sat well with Hezbollah, who was and is working to support Assad, both politically and militarily. They therefore used their position in the March 8th Coalition to hijack the elections, in part by refusing to appoint members to the Supervisory Commission for Election Campaigns. After Mikati’s resignation, the parliamentary election was cancelled, and in 2014 President Michel Suleiman’s term expired. These two factors meant that from 2014 to the end of 2016, Prime Minister Tamam Salam served as both Prime Minister and President. Meanwhile the members of Parliament, having last been elected in 2009, continued to extend their own terms of office, with the elections being pushed back to May 2017.

Ten months after the Mikati resignation, Tamam Salam announced a new cabinet lineup. Then, on October 31, 2016, after 43 rounds of voting in parliament, Michel Aoun was elected president. The deciding factor in his election was your support, which you had announced earlier in October. Aoun, whose Christian party is allied with Hezbollah, would not have been your ideal choice. However, to some extent, this change of heart on your part reflected Saudi Arabia’s decreased presence in Lebanese internal politics, partially due to their ongoing war in Yemen, and partially due to their dissatisfaction with the growing influence of Hezbollah. Without their traditional backing, you felt the need to throw your support behind a compromise candidate, and were yourself rewarded when Aoun, in his capacity as president, asked you to form a new government on November 3rd, and appointed you Prime Minister on December 18th. In the new cabinet that resulted, your Future Movement’s share (7 seats) combined with Lebanese Forces (4) are still in the minority, though your combined 11 seats do hold veto power, meaning that your coalition’s consent is essential for any major government action.

Domestic Issues of Concern

You ran for the Lebanese parliament on an anti-corruption, pro-reform platform. You vowed to pursue your father's economic plan with help from Europe, the United States, and the Gulf States. You declared that should you win the election your "first mandate is to have new election law." You've continued to strive for a Lebanon free of Syrian and Iranian influence. You have continued to maintain dialogue with France and the United States. You know that Western investment will be essential in the effort to rebuild your country, and that means staying friendly with the US and the members of the EU. You are a technocrat with a background in telecommunications, and you would like to see Lebanon modernize into a highly-developed technological oasis in the Middle East, with an economy centered on information technology, banking and tourism. 

You are committed to working towards a free, stable, and independent Lebanon. You would like to see a reduction in weapons in Beirut, especially after the May 2008 clashes between a few Hezbollah members and a rival group that resulted in tens, if not hundreds, of deaths. You hope that a reduction in weapons will prevent future sectarian violence. Furthermore, in August 2010 an Israeli soldier crossed the border fence to remove a tree blocking security cameras, resulting in a skirmish between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the IDF. Although Hezbollah was not involved, members of the US Congress became concerned that the clash was encouraged by Hezbollah. Consequently, US aid to the LAF is closely contested in Washington. Luckily, other powers have offered to fill the funding void, including Iran and France. You hope this will prevent future sectarian violence. 

There are more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon, in addition to the 1.1 million Syrians that have settled in Lebanon since the beginning of the civil war. This, coupled with the fact that Lebanon is situated in the heart of regional discord pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict, makes the refugee issue a special concern of yours. Lebanon's constitution outlaws the settlement of non-Lebanese in Lebanon, and Lebanon's confessional system of government makes the idea of naturalizing its Palestinian population a contentious issue, especially among Lebanon's Christian population, because it would tip the power scales in favor of Muslims, specifically Sunnis. Regardless, you have supported granting basic rights to Lebanon's refugees, to the effect that in August 2010, the Lebanese parliament finally passed legislation allowing Palestinians to work legally in Lebanon (although many professional careers are still out of reach to Palestinians, as well as property ownership, freedom of movement, and national health care services). The situation for Syrian refugees is more dire, particularly given Michel Aoun’s call to dramatically restrict refugee flows. While your coalition is generally anti-Syrian, you have spoken in favor of humanitarian aid, and so a compromise with March 8th on this issue is desperately needed.

In May 2010, you met with US president Barack Obama for the first time. Discussion focused on tensions between Lebanon and Israel, especially recent accusations that Syria has been supplying Hezbollah with Scud missiles, capable of striking any target within Israel. You vehemently deny that such missiles have crossed into Lebanese territory. Nevertheless, this has engendered fresh military exercises on the Israeli side of the fence, as well as intensified war rhetoric from Hezbollah, who bounced back from the 2006 war stronger than ever. 

In August 2010, four deaths resulted from a skirmish between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the IDF over a border breach that occurred when an Israeli soldier crossed the fence to remove a tree blocking security cameras. Although Hezbollah was not involved, members of the US Congress are concerned that the clash was encouraged by Hezbollah, and they are further concerned that Hezbollah will somehow benefit from US aid to the LAF, or that the LAF might use US materials against Israel. As a consequence, future US aid to the LAF will be closely contested in Washington. Luckily, other powers have offered to fill the funding void, including Iran and France. 

Policies and Beliefs Pertaining to the Middle East

You are in favor of the Mideast peace process and would like to see progress towards King Abdullah's 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. Although you support the arms reduction in Lebanon, your government voted to allow Hezbollah to keep its weapons and you maintain that Hezbollah is a "resistance" group to Israeli occupation. Hezbollah's influence in Lebanon is obviously a concern for one of your most powerful foreign backers, the US, and its support may very well hinge on how close it perceives your bloc to be with Hezbollah, and of course on Hezbollah's actions. While you would like peace with Israel, you insist that they withdraw from Shebaa Farms, an area of contested ownership where Syria, Lebanon, and Israel meet. Even though you are anti-Syrian and believe Syrians assassinated your father, you acknowledge that you cannot ignore them. You have said of Syria, "We will respect their sovereignty, and we hope that they will respect ours." 

Role-Playing Notes

You are the former Prime Minister of Lebanon and leader of the March 14 Coalition. Most of your political views parallel those of your father. In fact, you believe that your goal is to achieve what your father could not. Although strongly supported by United States’ policy making, you still condemn the aggressions of Israel. While you succeeded in forming a coalition government, Hezbollah's veto power and disagreement with a lot of your stances makes governing troublesome. You have been described as "an impressive and smart figure." Despite your intelligence, you are now a small fish in a very large ocean: Lebanese politics have produced some of the world's most dangerous and wily figures, men like Walid Jumblatt (whose Progressive Socialist Party left your coalition in 2011 and now represents a swing vote in parliament) and Hassan Nasrallah. While you have inherited a great name (and fortune) these will not be enough to secure your authority, or ensure that others treat you with respect. To truly establish yourself as a figure in Lebanese politics you must get beyond your father's legacy and become your own person, a job you might succeed at if you can truly keep Lebanon sovereign and use your international connections to modernize it along Western lines. Never forget, however, that your father was killed for working towards similar goals, and he was much more experienced than you are. 

In January 2011, your government was brought down by the Hezbollah-led opposition, and in 2013 the same opposition again used its influence to hijack a parliamentary election that would likely have given your coalition a majority. In short, their continued power and influence in all spheres of Lebanese politics mean that despite your disagreements, particularly regarding their continued support for the Assad regime, and due to your insistence on letting the UN Special Tribunal (STF) on the assassination of your father complete its work, cooperation is necessary. There were efforts by several countries in the region (Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar & Turkey) to negotiate a governmental response to the tribunal that took into account Hezbollah's belief that the results of the STF were excessively influenced by the United States, and other Western countries who believed that Hezbollah was responsible for the killing. The Hezbollah members of the cabinet pulled out of the government while you were in the United States, meeting with US President Barack Obama, and were ultimately able to command a parliamentary majority that pushed you out of the prime ministership, and you did not regain the position until 2016.

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