In it, Feltman says, “Saad is not Rafiq. The expectations that he could immediately assume the role of his father inevitably led to disappointments.”
One Future loyalist describes the movement’s quandary as follows: “We are living through two crises for which there appears to be no solution.”
On the general political level, the source explains, “We are in a state of suspension waiting for something to happen. What? We don’t know. The Syrian regime will not fall anytime soon…and the election law being cooked up for the parliamentary elections does not favor us.”
At the level of the Sunni sect in Lebanon, the inside source says there is a widespread “feeling of defeat, strangely mixed in with a sense of excess power due to what is happening in Syria. But this overconfidence cannot eliminate the demoralization among Sunnis as long as Saad al-Hariri is their leader.”
The Future Movement’s greatest challenge is the growing power of Salafis, particularly in Lebanon’s second largest city, Tripoli. Most opinion polls suggest that they represent no more than 4 percent of the population there, but nevertheless have managed to control the streets.
This is justified by some in the movement who argue that raising the bar rhetorically allows them to confront the Salafis and “pull the rug out from under their feet.” In fact, Hariri’s “moderate current” is increasingly being drawn into the al-Nusra Front’s orbit instead.
One of the movement’s ideologues once said that the “Cedar Revolution” that broke out after the assassination of Hariri is buttressed by three important elements: the March 14 coalition, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and the Maronite Patriarch.
Today, Saad stands alone in the face of the multiple crises. His royal Saudi patrons no longer back him like they used to, with some suggesting that he is not “the Sunni’s sole representative in Lebanon.”
Despite all this, he remains the number one man in his sect. As one party loyalist put it, “no one is challenging us on our turf. [Prime Minister] Najib Mikati does not want to succeed us. If he had any such ideas in 2011 [when he became prime minister], today that opportunity has long been lost.”
On the Road to Bankruptcy
The Hariri family inherited billions of dollars from the late Rafik Hariri, including construction companies, financial institutions, and a vast real estate empire in both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, the two countries of which the family are citizens.
Today, most members of the family are drowning in debt due to corruption, mismanagement, and failed business deals. To cover their debts, they have put their companies up as collateral and sold off vast tracts of real estate.
The money will be used to block gaping holes in the family’s finances such as the losses incurred after the family purchased a $28 million stake in the Arab Bank, whose shares consequently lost 72 percent of their value.
This is while Hind Hariri, Saad’s younger sister, has put up for sale most of her real estate holdings in Lebanon, according to a power of attorney she submitted to the Lebanese consulate in Jeddah on 19 September 2012.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.