Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hizbullah brings Lebanon once more to the brink of collapse

The Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced on Thursday that he will resign next week if a Cabinet meeting scheduled for November 30th fails to agree to fund the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the UN-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Other ministers, such as those of the National Struggle Front, loyal to Walid Jumblatt, now say that they will follow Mikati in that event. These are honourable decisions, not only in their commitment to international law (Article 5.1 of Security Council Resolution 1757, signed and agreed by the Lebanese government in 2007, makes it unequivocal that Lebanon will provide 49 percent of the funding of the STL), but in their obvious justice – how, after all, can one Prime Minister of Lebanon be expected not to endorse the punishment of the murderers of a previous Prime Minister?  

As things stand, twelve of the thirty Cabinet ministers have confirmed they will vote for the funding – six on Mikati’s behalf; three on President Michel Suleiman’s behalf and three on behalf of PSP leader, Walid Jumblatt. Mikati’s task, therefore, is to persuade four more to join his side. This may not be impossible – indeed, An-Nahar has cited “informed sources” as saying that as many as five more will “most likely” vote with him (from the Tashnag, Marada and Lebanese Democratic Party seats) – but there are reasons to be pessimistic. Hizbullah, the most powerful faction in Lebanese politics despite having only two official seats in the Cabinet, has repeatedly denounced the entire tribunal as an American-Zionist conspiracy, a position that its Minister of State, Mohammad Fneish, described on Thursday as unchanged. And Michael Aoun, whose Free Patriotic Movement commands seven seats, has promulgated the absurd falsehood that Lebanon isn’t even legally bound to pay its share of the funding in the first place. These are forces against which the undecided members of Cabinet will not act without reluctance. 

If, then, the majority votes against funding, and Mikati keeps his word and resigns, the Lebanese government will once again cease to exist, and once again it will be the people who pay the price. According to “ministerial sources” quoted in the Daily Star, “it will be difficult if not impossible to form a new government” after this one, meaning that that price could be very extortionate indeed. The irony that this ‘March 8’ coalition was brought down for the same reason, by the same party, that felled its ‘March 14’ predecessor is one that should not be missed by the Lebanese people, who will have to suffer all over again for that party’s arrogant intransigence. For if the Cabinet puts its interests before the country’s and votes ‘no’, will it ever have been plainer that there cannot be a Lebanese government so long as there is a boneheaded gang called Hizbullah pulling the strings? A militia that exploits its illegal arsenal to negate the country’s obligations under international law; to insult the sovereignty of the national army; to recklessly endanger the lives of Lebanese civilians with its unilateral attacks on Israel; to force Islamic law on drink merchants in the south; and to show nothing but loathing and contempt for the democratic process in general? In a week that has seen their brothers and sisters in Egypt, Syria and Bahrain escalate their courageous struggle for liberation, it’s high time the Lebanese reassessed their devotion to the Mubaraks, Assads and Khalifas amongst their own purported ‘leadership’.

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