Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Murderers to Ministers?

Amid the remarkable turn of events which have seen Hezbollah figures implicated in the murder of Rafik Hariri, only to end up with ever more power in their hands, Lebanon’s citizens are right to take to the street in protest and deserve greater backing from the West...

A Hezbollah-controlled government would "clearly have an impact" on relations between Lebanon and the US, said Hilary Clinton in response to Najib Mikati’s ascent to prime minister-designate.  You don’t say?  Hezbollah’s ongoing ascent to the status of a serious political force is nothing short of a foreign policy catastrophe for the US and its allies.
Lebanon’s ongoing political crisis has been fairly kind on Hezbollah.  In fact, considering that a number of its members have been heavily implicated in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, Hezbollah has come out of the situation pretty well indeed. 
In accordance with the Lebanese constitution which, by design, shares power between Sunnis, Shias and Maronite Christians, Mikati is, of course, a Sunni.  Yet, having ousted Prime Minister Saad Hariri earlier this month, Hezbollah has ensured that his likely replacement falls, as much as is possible, on their side of the fence in the Sunni/Shia divide.  Has this completed the terrorist’s transition from murderers to ministers?  Perhaps not just yet, but the rise of Mikati who Nasrallah himself termed a “compromise figure” is clearly a step in the right direction for Hezbollah and a stride back for the West.
And so Lebanon’s citizens should be saluted for their political activism in taking to the streets and making their voices heard.  Protests in Tripoli, in the north of the country, were the most intense as 20 people were treated for injuries and a satellite truck used by Al-Jazeera was set ablaze.  But in Beirut also, protesters blocked a road with burning tyres and rubbish containers showing their support for Saad Hariri.
Clinton’s timid response, on the other hand, is straight out of the diplomatic textbook, when really, stronger action is needed.  Lebanon’s protestors deserve more robust support.  But more to the point, tougher action is required on an issue which is a painfully uncomfortable for the US too.  Hezbollah’s rise confirms a distressing reality for the US and its allies: Iran’s (and Syria’s) growing influence in the already notoriously unstable region.  Does a Hezbollah-controlled government “clearly have an impact,” then?  Sure.  But I can think of far more sobering ways of putting it.
by Dane Vallejo

This blog was originally published by The Henry Jackson Society, accessed at

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