The beginning of the end for Lebanon? Part 2Al-Reuters is now reporting that Hezbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Kassem said that Hezbullah and its allies will now "take to the streets" in light of the resignations of Hezbullah's and Amal's representatives from the Lebanese cabinet yesterday. From Beirut to the Beltway fills in some more details about what happened yesterday:
But most importantly, the resignation comes after the UN delivered a draft outlining the Hariri tribunal.The cabinet was expected to discuss the draft soon before sending it to parliament to pass as a law.Blogger Charles Malik says that the March 14 coalition is hanging tough:
The ministers said their resignation was due to the "authorities insistance on imposing pre-conditions and pre-determined results for the consultations." Of course this makes no sense, since Hizbullah and Amal are the ones who set the agenda and refused to discuss anything but their own demands on the negotiations table.
The news of the resignation interrupted a post I was preparing on the UN draft, which itself was subject to intense negotiations at the UN, with Russia reportedly succeeding in putting limits on the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
I have not read the draft yet, but Reuters quoted a "Lebanese official" as saying that the tribunal would "have no power to try or question heads of states as the killing would not be defined as a 'crime against humanity' or a 'terrorist attack'. "
The New York Times reported this differently, implying that the text is ambiguous on this matter.
The final draft stakes out no clear position on whether top leaders will be liable to prosecution by the court or whether they can claim head-of-state immunity.
Whatever it is, the failed Saturday talks were reportedly "very strained, particularly over the issue of the international tribunal." There were earlier rumors that suggested March 14 had agreed to giving Hizbullah and Aoun veto power in return for their endorsement of the tribunal's draft. Marwan Hamadeh denied those rumors, saying that the tribunal is "a moral — not political issue and Rafik Hariri's blood will not be sold on any negotiating table."
Today's resignation probably confirms that the intention was not so much a greater participation in the cabinet as much as it was to obstruct decisions on issues such as the tribunal. Jumblatt during those sessions often asked Hizbullah why they were so afraid of the tribunal, especially that former chief investigator Mehlis had not pointed the finger at Hizbullah, and Hizbullah's ally Bashar Assad seems to be off the hook after Russia's intervention.
The five Hizbullah and Amal ministers had suspended their membership in the cabinet for many weeks after the cabinet endorsed the formation of the tribunal. In their resignation statement today, they said they won't "cover what's against our convictions, and that hurts the national interest."
Many would argue that the rule of law can never hurt the national interest, but not Amal and Hizbullah, whose own interests seem to be at stake.
A brief phone call to the office of the Future Youth Organization yielded a determined response. The message was, basically, "Too hell with Hezbollah. They dragged us through a mess this summer. They're trying to do it again, but this time we are determined to stop them. We've got plenty of Shia we can appoint to fill their positions, and we'll give Aoun positions in the government if he wants them. That way, it will be the entire nation against Hezbollah and Amal."And Michael Totten (in case you were wondering) says that he won't even speculate what will happen next.
It sounds to me like Hezbullah may be busy trying to consolidate its position in Lebanon for a while, which may even give Israel time to regroup.
DEBKAfile ties this in to the results of the US elections this past week:
The crisis erupted when Siniora proposed convening the cabinet Monday, Nov. 13, to approve a bill for a special court to try suspects in the Feb. 2005 Hariri assassination. He intended to propose a panel of 5 Lebanese and 3 international judges to be appointed by the UN Secretary General.I actually would not complain if the war between the 'Palestinian' factions continued and they fail to reach a unity government. A curse on both their houses!
But the plan was generally expected in Beirut to run foul of Syrian President Bashar Asad’s resistance to seeing his close relatives in the dock. In line are his young brother Gen. Maher Asad, his brother-in-law and chief of military intelligence Gen. Asaf Shawqat and other high officers. Syria instructed its supporters in Lebanon to topple the government if necessary to block legislation for this tribunal.
The failure of the unity talks in Lebanon is seen as the first sign of fallout in the Middle East after the Bush administration’s election defeat this week over its unpopular Iraqi policy. Iran, Syria and the radical Hamas leaders in Damascus are moving fast to take advantage of the Bush administration’s policy setback to sow unrest in Beirut and instability in the Middle East to raise the ante for their cooperation on Iraq. Next, they are expected to stall Western efforts to bring the warring Palestinian factions into a unity government.