The world watched with indifference as Hizbullah first undermined and disrupted the government of Saad Hariri on the eve of indictments being handed down in the assassination of Rafik Hariri that was likely to pin the blame for the assassinations on Hizbullah, Syrian, and even Iranian officials.
Now, the world wakes up to a new reality in Lebanon. Hizbullah is hand picking the Prime Minister and the Druze are going along with this because it is in their interest to avoid a fight with the far stronger militarily-speaking Hizbullah, which has operated with impunity despite UNIFIL requirements for disarmament under UN SCR 1701.
Expect that the new Lebanese government calls for the withdrawal of UNIFIL and pursuit of claims that Israel still occupied Lebanon, despite UN reports noting that Israel has fully withdrawn from Lebanon.
Saad Hariri is calling this a coup d'etat, and he's not far off the mark. Hizbullah played the game better than anyone else and managed to overthrow the government and institute its own officials without so much as a fired shot (until today's rioting in response to the Hizbullah takeover), although protests have broken out in Sunni-dominated enclaves because of the Hizbullah-dominated process that put Shi'ites in charge:
After days of political wrangling, the candidate chosen by Hezbollah, Najib Miqati, a billionaire and former prime minister, won 68 seats in Lebanon’s 128-member parliament, enough to name the next government in a country as divided as it is diverse. His elevation was a clear victory for Hezbollah, which has ruled out Mr. Hariri’s return to power, and it marked the culmination of what was already accepted as a fact of life here: that Hezbollah is the country’s pre-eminent military and political force.
“What has happened is virtually a coup d’etat, a political coup d’etat,” Mr. Hariri said in an interview at his home near the seat of government that he and his team left only days before. “Me and my allies, we will represent the opposition.”
He blamed former allies and said he was filled with “lots of feelings of betrayal.”
The prospect of Mr. Hariri in the opposition could ensure prolonged instability in a country still haunted the legacy of its 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990.
Mr. Hariri represents Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim community in a system that rigidly divides power among its sects. A government without his participation would assuredly be viewed as Shiite-dominated and beholden to Hezbollah. That very prospect unleashed the protests Tuesday in Beirut, Tripoli and other predominantly Sunni towns.
“It is a day of anger against the interference of Iran and Syria,” Mohammed Kabbar, a lawmaker from Tripoli, told protesters who went on to burn a van belonging to Al-Jazeera, an Arab satellite channel thought to be sympathetic to Hezbollah.
Hizbullah's choice Mikati is an unusual one. He's a former Prime Minister, who presided over a caretaker government following Rafik Hariri's assassination, and was likely chosen by Hizbullah as a means to placate the Sunni population and rubber stamp their takeover. He's seen as pro-Syrian, which is another sign that Mikati may not have Lebanon's best interests in mind - particularly when Hizbullah's top priority right now is to undermine, destabilize, and thwart the tribunal looking into Hariri's assassination by any means necessary.
Politicians allied to Hezbollah have said the first priority of a government they form would be to cut links with the tribunal, which is expected to accuse Hezbollah members of involvement in the 2005 killing. Hezbollah denies any role.Lebanon deserves justice for the assassination of Hariri, and Hizbullah is doing whatever it can to block the culprits from being brought to justice.
The demonstrators in Tripoli called for Mikati, a telecoms tycoon who comes from the northern port city, to withdraw his nomination and said the investigation in Rafik Hariri's killing could not be blocked.
Hizbullah's growing and dominating effect on the Lebanese government may lead the US to cease providing foreign aid and assistance, and will require the Obama Administration to tip-toe around the issue of Hizbullah's terrorist infrastructure and involvement in attacks on the US and its strategic interests in the region.