Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lebanon's Doha Deal

Qatar has successfully brokered a deal to end the ongoing crisis in Lebanon. Two important elements are the election of Michel Suleiman as a compromise presidential candidate and the allotment of just over one-third of the Cabinet to the Hizbullah-led opposition. The latter will allow them to veto government decisions, such as the one to dismantle Hizbullah's phone network which was the spark for the recent spike in unrest. It will also play into future discussions of possibly disarming Hizbullah. Over at Joshua Landis's site, Qifa Nabki notes that there will also be changes to Beirut electoral districts, though I don't know anything more about that.

Most of the commentary I've read focuses on the international implications of this agreement. Yes, Hizbullah will have enhanced influence, which also subtly increases the reach of its Syrian and Iranian allies. (Did anticipation of a deal like this persuade Israel to open the Syrian negotiating track?) Hizbullah's most important supporters, however, are not foreign powers, but Lebanese Shi'ites who are disenfranchised under Lebanon's electoral system. Now, through Hizbullah, they will have enhanced power at the national level, though still not quite up to their weight in the population. As far as I can see, this deal won't create lasting peace because nothing can create lasting peace except for foreign domination or a complete overhaul of Lebanon's political system, which is both fed by and helps deepen jealousies among Lebanon's primary religious groups which are effectively forced to compete for influence and resources as blocks.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)



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