Two days after news outlets reported that the six-year investigation into former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s murder closed with “strong, solid, and conclusive evidence” that will “be difficult, if not impossible, to challenge,” Syria and Saudi Arabia are reportedly formulating a compromise offer in an attempt to prevent unrest in Lebanon following the expected indictment of high-ranking Hezbollah operatives by the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon, or STL.
According to two Lebanese newspapers linked to Hezbollah, Al Akhbar and As Safir, the compromise is aimed at preventing a clash between Hezbollah, Lebanon’s strongest militant group that also participates in the government, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Western-backed camp.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (L) with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in 2001.
The proposal reportedly holds that the Lebanese government would stop funding the tribunal and Hariri would make a statement rejecting the tribunal’s work in exchange for Hezbollah’s guarantee that it would not harm the prime minister and would avoid any overt military activities. Moreover, Prime Minister Hariri would be allowed to maintain his own security apparatus.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, however, Hariri is refusing to make a decision on the agreement at this time. Last week the prime minister denied a report in the Lebanese daily Al Diyar that he agreed to distance himself from the international tribunal.
Hezbollah and its main supporter, Iran, launched a campaign against the probe weeks ago, citing a violent response to any indictments against Hezbollah operatives. Earlier this month, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that the tribunal’s findings, whatever they may be, will be “null and void.” Hezbollah, for its part, blamed Israel for the killing and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said he will “cut off the hand” of anyone who tries to arrest a member of the militant group.
The Syrian-Saudi deal will not strengthen Lebanon, as it purportedly intends. Rather, it will only strengthen Hezbollah, as it forces Beirut to acquiesce to the militant group’s threat of an armed uprising. The U.S. and Western world should support Prime Minister Hariri in standing up against Hezbollah and in support of justice, for the sake of the country and its ability to remain an independent nation.