January 25, 2011


Hezbollah outmaneuvers everyone else (Mohamad Bazzi, 1/25/11, GlobalPost)

[H]ezbollah outmaneuvered Hariri and undermined his parliamentary majority, partly through the militia’s “show of force” last week. Hezbollah’s message was clear to most Lebanese: the tribunal has international support and the authority to issue indictments, but the real power lies on the streets of Lebanon — and Hezbollah dominates that arena with its overwhelming military superiority. The group was also sending a signal to Hariri, that support from the United States and other Western powers will not translate into a new reality on the streets.

In May 2008, Hezbollah proved its military might when it dispatched hundreds of heavily armed fighters into the largely Sunni areas of West Beirut. They quickly routed Sunni militiamen, seized their political offices and shut down media outlets owned by Hariri. At the time, Lebanon was in the midst of another long political stalemate, and Hezbollah acted in response to a government decision outlawing the militia’s underground fiber-optic communication network.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah has used the implicit threat of force and renewed sectarian conflict to persuade some Lebanese leaders that only it can offer stability. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a mercurial politician who had been allied with Hariri since 2005, announced last week that his parliamentary bloc would support Hezbollah’s candidate for prime minister. Jumblatt’s decision doomed Hariri.

On Tuesday, Hezbollah’s candidate — Najib Mikati, a Sunni billionaire who served as premier for three months in 2005 — secured a majority among lawmakers. Mikati won 68 votes, compared to 60 votes for Hariri. Mikati will now be tasked with forming a government, which could take weeks or even months. His selection set off protests across Lebanon by Hariri supporters, who called for a “day of rage.”

Each Lebanese faction accuses the other of serving external masters. Indeed, Lebanon is part of an ongoing proxy war in the region — pitting Iran and Syria (which support Hezbollah and its allies) against the United States, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab regimes (which back Hariri and his coalition of Sunni and Christian parties).

But while external players have a hand in the latest political paralysis, they do not deserve all the blame. The Lebanese need to find a larger political settlement of their own. Otherwise, the Sunni-Shiite rift in Lebanon could explode, especially since it has been fueled by years of sectarian bloodletting in Iraq.

Put it out of its misery.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 25, 2011 4:03 PM
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