Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hizbullah, Hariri, Syria, and the Saudis

In 2005, Lebanon's prime minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated, launching what some call the "Cedar Revolution" which forced Syrian troops from Lebanon. A few years later, a crisis over the distribution of power among the country's religious groups threatened to spark a civil war before the Qatari government stepped in to mediate. Now, the tribunal investigating Hariri's death may lead to a crisis:
"The Syrian president, Bashar al Assad, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are due in Beirut today, as part of a concerted diplomatic effort to head-off a brewing crisis in Lebanon.

"Fears are growing that a peace agreement between Lebanese factions, sealed two years ago in Doha, is in jeopardy following claims that Hizbollah, the Shiite Islamist movement, is to be implicated in the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

"The Hizbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has said he will not accept any of the group’s members being indicted by the United Nations tribunal investigating the killing, warning that the militants 'know how to defend' themselves. That stance could put his movement, once again, on collision course with supporters of the current Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, son of the murdered former premier."

I suspect this crisis will be averted by somehow holding Hizbullah blameless even if its members were involved in the assassination. National unity is too important to the main actors, and neither Saudi Arabia nor Syria wants another crisis to disrupt relations.

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