- Two recent articles discussed Lebanon's present turmoil
in detail, accessed through the following links:
- Conditions there remain fluid. Key was a Washington/French
pressured UN-backed Special Tribunal's sealed January 17 indictment of
those allegedly responsible for former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's February
14, 2005 killing, preceded by Hezbollah's January 12 pulling out of Lebanon's
coalition government causing it to collapse. The above linked articles
explain both events in detail, including who, in fact, likely killed Hariri,
and implications going forward.
- Two blocks comprised Lebanon's misnamed "national
- -- the opposition March 8 alliance, including (Shia)
Hezbollah, (Shia) Amals, and (secular, mainly Maronite Christian) Free
Patriotic Movement and with 57 seats; and
- -- the majority March 14 Sunni/Phalangist Christian coalition
(including independents, lead by now caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri)
- Walid Jumblatt's secular, officially non-sectarian Druze
Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) 11 seat bloc holds decisive balance of
power in Lebanon's 128 seat parliament. On January 21, he chose sides,
Al Jazeera headling, "Lebanon's Jumblatt backs Hezbollah," saying:
- His decision "could give (Hezbollah) and its allies
a veto over who becomes the country's next prime minister," Jumblatt
saying he wished only to preserve Lebanon's stability, adding:
- "I am announcing the right political stand....by
assuring the steadfastness of the (PSP) alongside Syria and the resistance
- The previous day, Hariri said he'd seek to form a new
government despite strong pressure for him to step down. Michel Aoun, a
Christian leader allied with Hezbollah explained, "We said Hariri
should not come back, and yes he should not come back."
- Hariri agreed to accept the result of January 24 discussions
with President Michel Suleiman who called for consultations to choose a
new prime minister based on who's most strongly backed. Hezbollah is expected
to nominate former prime minister Omar Karameh. Under Lebanon's confessional
system, prime ministers must be Sunni Muslim, presidents Maronite Christian,
and parliamentary speakers Shia Muslim.
- On January 22, Lebanon's Daily Star headlined, "Jumblatt
redraws PM battle lines,' saying:
- Besides backing Hezbollah (and Syria), he "slammed
the UN-backed Special Tribunal (STL) as a tool for 'political blackmail"
that threatens the country's national unity and security." Its Hariri
killing investigation caused tension between the two blocs, now heightened
after announcing release of its sealed indictment expected to name Hezbollah.
However, it will be late February or early March before it's known for
- Saying Lebanon stood at "a dangerous crossroads,"
Jumblatt's decision gives March 8 bloc parties an edge, though how many
of his 11 members will vote with him isn't sure. According to an unnamed
alliance member, he promised at least seven, saying:
- "The opposition has secured a majority in Parliament.
But holding the parliamentary consultations on time remains uncertain,"
explaining that Arab and international attempts for compromise could delay
scheduled discussions. When held, Suleiman will choose the most popular
new prime minister based on choices of all parliamentary members. Both
sides are now scrambling to prevail.
- Jumblatt, a former March 14 member, split and now backs
Hezbollah and Syria, saying:
- "The international tribunal has assumed a political
dimension par excellence, threatening the national unity and national security.
This tribunal's path has become a tool of sabotage and deviated from the
path of justice to enter a political bazaar and political blackmail."
- He added that a Saudi-Syrian attempted compromise proposed
ending Lebanon's links to the STL by canceling further cooperation, halting
funding, and withdrawing Lebanese judges. He initially supported the effort
"because it provided a solution for the current crisis," and
was endorsed by all parties until (Washington/French) pressure corrupted
- "International powers did not agree or accept a
Syrian-Saudi rapprochement through which an inter-Lebanese settlement could
be reached to negate the ramifications of the tribunal and its indictment
which is in theory secret, but has been announced by all the media outlets.
This matter has undermined the tribunal's credibility and confirmed that
it is politicized."
- Jumblatt's decision came a day after Turkey and Qatar
abandoned efforts for a solution, warning partition or possible conflict
- A Final Comment
- Expect parliamentary consultations delayed so Washington
and France can apply intense pressure, intimidation and coercion to force
enough Jumblatt bloc member backing for Hariri, letting his March 14 coalition
retain its majority.
- Which side will prevail isn't clear or whether sectarian
strife will result either way. In Lebanon, resolution isn't simple. Hezbollah
wants no street violence, but won't accept a Hariri-led government. Washington,
Israel and France won't tolerate a Hezbollah-led one. Battle lines are
clearly drawn. Some fear political stalemate followed by Mossad assassinations,
car bombings and other violence wrongfully blamed on Hezbollah as was Rafiq
- Going forward, resolution depends on dissociating Lebanon's
government from the corrupted tribunal and political compromise, but don't
expect it under a Hezbollah-led government. Most often in Lebanon, what's
next remains unknown.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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