Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah has stated that in seeking to reform the Lebanese government he will honor the tradition of unity leaders and institutions, rather than make a more extreme decision to form a government dominated by Hezbollah, according to this Al Jazeera article. Expect Hezbollah’s pick for the next Prime Minister to come in the next few days, but do not expect it to be Saad Hariri, whose insistence at getting to the bottom of his father’s assassination caused the parliament to dissolve in the first place.
BBC News is reporting that the ministers from Turkey and Qatar are heading home after several days of failure to make progress. The deal that they were working on, which derives from a plan by Syria and Saudi Arabia, involves dissolving the UN tribunal investigating the Hariri assassination in exchange for Hezbollah offering “guarantees” about its weapons. The main concern is still this:
Correspondents say a protracted crisis is likely to follow, and there are widespread fears that it could lead to the type of sectarian violence last seen in May 2008, which left 100 people dead and brought the country close to civil war.
According to this Al Jazeera article, Saudi Arabia will no longer endeavor to solve the problems plaguing Lebanon. The Kingdom had been working with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The countries stepping in to fill the diplomatic void are Turkey and Qatar.
The article also includes some colorful quotes from Iranian President Mahmood Ahmadinejad, addressing the United States and other Western interlopers:
“You are on a rough downhill path that will take you into a deep valley and your actions show that your decline is on a fast track,” Ahmadinejad told a cheering crowd in the city of Yazd in a speech broadcast live on state television.
“With these actions, you are damaging your reputation. Stop your interference. If you don’t stop your sedition [in Lebanon], then the Lebanese nation and regional countries will cut your nasty, plotting hand.”
The UN Tribunal has issued sealed indictments for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. BBC News discusses the process that will now occur before the confidential information is made public. A pre-trial judge will now review the indictments and determine whether or not to issue warrants for arrest. This process could take two to three months. It is largely believed that members of Hezbollah will be implicated. In related news, Hezbollah has announced that they will not support caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in forming a new government in Lebanon. Talks will begin today to start the process of forming a new government.
All the major news outlets are reporting on the resignation of 11 ministers of Hezbollah from the Lebanese national unity government, dissolving the government in the process. This NY Times article provides details and analysis of the largest crisis in Lebanon since 2008 when sectarian violence brought the country to the brink of civil war. This current crisis is believed to be caused by the impending ruling of a UN tribunal in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Many believe that Hezbollah will be implicated in the assassination. It is feared that the UN tribunal’s ruling could have dire consequences.
Many here fear that “unknown” could turn bloody with street clashes in which Hezbollah is likely to prevail. An outbreak of violence might enable it to effectively seize control of the government and force a new reality on the streets of Beirut, at least until a new agreement can be reached under the auspices of foreign powers, who have long played an outsized role in the country’s domestic affairs.
BBC News reports that Israel, Syria, Egypt, and Lebanon are all feeling the effects of a massive storm today:
Waves of up to 10m (33ft) battered coasts, damaging fishing boats in Lebanon. In Syria, snow blanketed the streets of the capital, Damascus, and closed roads.
A ship sank off the coast of Israel, and Egypt’s ports and the Suez Canal were disrupted.
I came across an interesting portrait of the emir of Qatar - Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani - in the Independent today. Qatar, of course, is very much in the news thanks to its winning World Cup hosting rights in 2022. In the link to the article, you’ll see a photo of the smiling emir with the World Cup trophy. An interesting guy he is. Did you know a meeting he held with Dick Cheney lasted a mere seven seconds before he stormed out? In fact, sitting on the sidelines isn’t his thing – he’s inserted himself into regional issues in Israel, Lebanon and Egypt, using the television network Al-Jazeera as a bargaining chip to advance Qatar’s interests. That’s caught the ire of many of his neighbors or allies - from Iran to the United States. The article is full of rumor and conjecture, but it’s a fun and gossipy read. For better or worse, thanks to Wikileaks, that manner of news is undoubtably in vogue.
This brief Al Jazeera story reports that the rhetoric following Israel’s unilateral withdraw from Ghajar was not ideal:
The parliamentary speaker in Lebanon has said that Israel’s withdrawal from a disputed border village will do little to assuage “resistance” against the country.
The word “resistance” is often used by politicians in Lebanon to refer to the military wing of Hezbollah, the political and military group primarily based in southern Lebanon.
Link function not working currently, so: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/11/20101118133429610900.html
Israel is withdrawing from the small town of Ghajar, located along the Lebanese border in the Golan Heights. As the New York Times story explains,
The Lebanese government and others, including the United States, have been keen to settle the issue of Ghajar, in part to deny Hezbollah any justification for attacking Israel on grounds that it is occupying Lebanese territory.
So follow the link for a more detailed history of the small town and its people (mostly Alawite). The article mentions that Israel still has not reached a decision on the deal the United States offered for a 90 day settlement freeze that we covered several days ago.