21/01/2011

Period of political uncertainty in Lebanon

Lebanon is currently experiencing a serious institutional crisis in a context of conflict on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) charged to try the assassins of Rafiq Hariri. The resignation of eleven members of the national unity government, from the opposition parties made up of Hezbollah and its allies, has weakened the institutions and the stability of the country. However, this crisis is not a surprise given the many subjects of disagreement that has existed within the government since its formation, the main concerning the STL. While Hezbollah and its allies are questioning the impartiality of the Tribunal and consider it as a political instrument in the hands of Western powers to destabilize the Middle East and rein in the Shiite parties who are taking importance in the region, the majority parties refused to disown it by withdrawing lebanese funding.

The situation created by this Tribunal and the publication of the indictment is even more nervous as it involves many regional and international actors who have interests in the country. Syria and Iran, for example, have an interest in securing their alliance in Lebanon and would be affected by a questioning of members of the Party of God while Saudi Arabia is seeking to perpetuate its alliance with Saad Hariri. Finally, the United States and Israel want the disarmament and neutralization of Hezbollah, the only political force in Lebanon capable of coping with Israel. Internally, each is also trying to earn points in the perpetual balance of power that oppose the two coalitions.

With the failure of Syrian-Saudi mediation, due to U.S. pressure, and with the forthcoming formalization of the indictment of STL, the collapse of Hariri government was inevitable. In addition, the weak institutional structure of Lebanon plays the game of regional and international powers, which find in Lebanon a propitious field of confrontation. Under these conditions, the indictment which will probably target members of Hezbollah, is likely to be welcomed into a situation of institutional vacancy, given the difficulties in forming a government and contradictory pressures. The question now is whether this political tension could turn into violence and then plunge the country into the worst hours of its history.

Iman Bahri