There should be no doubt in anybody's mind that Michel Aoun is finishing what Bashar Assad started when he sidelined, then killed Rafik Hariri. Post-Taef Lebanon was meant to be a Syrian satellite, but when it appeared that Hariri and potentially the council of ministers—the land's executive authority—were going into a different orbit, the decision came to kill the former prime minister and weaken the country's main institution.
When Aoun--and through him Hizbullah and the Assad regime—declares he wants a consensus prime minister from outside March 14 and the Future movement, he's essentially carrying the Assad banner: Lebanon is not allowed to have an independent executive authority, with a powerful Sunni prime minister.
A powerful Sunni prime minister in Lebanon was always the Alawite regime's worst nightmare. The regime fought Hariri tooth and nail since the start by creating every imaginable obstruction when he was prime minister. The system of checks and balances the regime had in the country meant that Hariri would never be allowed to succeed in rebuilding the country (that's not to say Hariri was faultless). The Syrians played the Christians against him and succeeded—we all remember how even LBC turned into an anti-Hariri tool when Franjieh controlled its news agenda. And they played the other Sunnis, especially the extremist elements, including al-Ahbash and other fundamentalist groups that were farmed in the country by the mukhabarat.
After March 14th 2005, the Assad regime brought Aoun back. Aoun, an insane man with illusions of grandeur, was the perfect antidote to the short-lived March 14th spirit. The March 14 alliance was strong as long as the Christians were united. The Sunnis alone, after the Hariri assassination, could not pull it off alone, and they didn't.
Today, Aoun is demanding an interim presidency until a new parliament is elected, an agreement over the identity of the next army commander, and a future cabinet that gives him, Hizbullah and Syria representation that is proportional to that of the parliament after the assassination of some of its March 14 members. Aoun claims that his demands are to restore lost Christian rights, but in truth Christian privileges are hardly regained by rejecting the Taef agreement and with a cabinet that is controlled by a foreign power that has killed and maimed Christians. Sadly, Aoun has easily slipped into the role of the ultimate tool to destroy Christians he doesn't represent anyway.
The tragic mistake the French committed in Lebanon was turning Aoun into a kingmaker, thinking this would serve as a consolation prize for the aspiring president. The former general had suffered a considerable defeat in the Metn by-election after losing the Maronite vote. Despite that, Sarkzoy and Kouchner thought they were doing the country a favor by pushing Hariri to meet with Aoun, and offering the latter a greater say in the identity of the president, at the expense of the parliament's majority and the constitution. Today, Kouchner is reportedly back in Beirut to mediate between Aoun and March 14, and to offer Aoun guarantees he doesn't deserve.
Hizbullah and the Assad regime, meanwhile, are enjoying the show. With Sarkozy constantly phoning Assad about Lebanon, and the US at least unwilling to deal with the dictator next door, the regime and its allies look set to maximize their gains.
Amid all that, one wonders what the army commander must think. After reportedly rejecting Aoun's conditions, he found himself rejected by the very forces that supposedly wanted him president, after it became clear Hizbullah only expected him to fulfill a limited function, and not become a president for six years, as March 14 offered him. With parliament paralysed, and the possibility of an election this week unlikely, Suleiman may find himself flirting with the idea of reaching Baabda via other, less democratic means. He may even find a few takers. After that, Lebanon's future will no longer belong to Aoun or March 14. The country will be at the mercy of an army general free of political commitments, and with an agenda of his own that is not necessarily Lebanese.