Hizbullah Holds the Key to Lebanon’s Future

Posted in Broader Middle East | 10-Jul-05 | Author: Dieter Farwick

Martyr Rafiq Hariri's funeral on February 16, 2005, in Beirut.

The “new” Lebanon was brought to life by a terrorist attack: The murder of Rafiq al-Hariri – killed in a car bombing in February 14, 2005. Observers believe that Syria or Syrian-backed terrorist forces were behind the attack that killed the strongest man of the anti-Syria opposition. In hindsight, this murderous attack was the date of birth of the “new” Lebanon.

The following “Cedar Revolution” changed Lebanon fundamentally within four months: The withdrawal of Syrian forces after almost 30 years of occupation, a dramatic loss of visible Syrian influence, the first free elections in Lebanon ending with a clear majority of the anti-Syria “Future Movement.”

The winner was Saad al-Hariri – son of the murdered former President Rafiq al-Hariri. Winning an election in Lebanon seems to be easier than forming a stable government. To some surprise on July 1 Fouad Siniora, a former finance minister, was nominated and elected by 126 out of 128 members of parliament - a clear mandate.

Being prime minister of Lebanon is like being a juggler keeping many balls in the air. Influence from abroad, about 18 religious groups, different ethnic groups and quite a few powerful families – clans – must be satisfied, compromises have to be found and the equilibrium of the top positions must be maintained. Pro-Syria President Emile Lahoud and pro-Syria Speaker of parliament Nabih Berri will limit the chances for success and the leverage of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. They will try to play the Syrian card. Lebanon is at a crossroad.

One road might lead back to domestic chaos if and when the interests of the many groupings are stronger than the political resolve to transform Lebanon into a robust and viable democracy.

The second road might lead Lebanon to a new lightning house in the “Broader Middle East”, in which context the future of Lebanon has to be seen. People in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in Israel and Palestine will closely follow further developments. Hopefully there will be more hope than despair.

A key role will be played by Hizbullah – “God’s party” – backed by Syria and even more importantly by Iran with its newly elected hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The key question will be whether or not Hizbullah will disarm itself following the Taef Accord from 1989.

All countries and alliances that are interested in a democratic Lebanon should try their very best to pave the way to a better future. There is a need for immediate financial and economic support. The US and the EU should define common aims and objectives and orchestrate their actions.

It is not the question of imposing a Western style democracy in Lebanon, but to help this new and young democracy to choose its own style and way.

We have covered the situation in the Lebanon prior to the elections with several newsletters contributing to a better understanding of this important development – important for Lebanon and the “Broader Middle East” which plays a vital role especially for the security around the Mediterranean Sea.

Our present newsletter “Taming Hizbullah,” that we have borrowed from the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, deals in-depth with the decisive issue of Hizbullah.