After five months of political stalemate, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced the formation of a new government on Monday. The cabinet, dominated by Hezbollah’s March 8 Coalition, was welcomed by Syrian President Bashar al-Asad and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. In the new government, March 8 and its allies hold 18 seats, up from 11 under former PM Saad Hariri’s government, allowing Hezbollah to more easily pass or block decisions.
In a true moment of clarity, Saad Hariri’s Future Movement issued a statement upon learning the news: “Experience has taught us that totalitarian parties begin their coup by introducing [to power] figures who appear independent, before those parties decide to take power through repression,” it read.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati
Washington, on the other hand, was not as clear. According to State Department spokesman Mark Toner, the U.S. will “judge it [the new government] by its actions… What’s important in our mind is that the new Lebanese government abides by the Lebanese constitution, that it renounces violence, including efforts to exact retribution against former government officials, and lives up to all its international obligations,” he said.
No mention of the fact that a terror organization now effectively runs Lebanon, or what would happen if the Hezbollah-dominated government doesn’t take the actions upon itself outlined by Toner. But why would Hezbollah? As of Monday, the U.S. has lost its leverage over Beirut. This is an enormous setback, as Washington has given $720 million in military aid to Beirut since 2006 in an attempt to strengthen it’s military in the face of Hezbollah’s forces.
The formation of an Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government signifies the official end of the first of the so-called Arab Springs, the one that took place in Beirut in 2005 when the Lebanese stood up and ousted the Syrian occupation from their country after 29 years. It should be a warning of what may come of the others.