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Losing Lebanon

Samara Greenberg

While the media and Middle East analysts continue to focus on the Arab world’s revolts with the hope that democracy will prevail, pro-democracy forces are quietly losing in Lebanon, with grave consequences for the Lebanese people, Israel, and the U.S.

Yesterday, Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, once an ally of ousted U.S.-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said that Lebanon would have to either side with the Arab-Muslim axis or the Israeli-Western one in the near future, as being politically neutral is not a choice. Showing which side of the axis he fell on, Jumblatt exclaimed his support for Hezbollah, noting that their weapons were a guarantee against Israeli aggression.

March 14 leaders gather on Sunday before announcing the coalition will not participate in Najib Mikati’s government.

Following Jumblatt’s comments, Nabih Berri, the Speaker of Lebanon’s Parliament, also defended Hezbollah’s weapons, saying that Hezbollah was to thank for Israel’s pulling out of Lebanon. “We will continue to hold onto these weapons until (Israel) withdraws from the Shebaa farms, Kfarshouba hills and the Lebanese part of Ghajar,” Berri said.

Meanwhile, last week Lebanese Shiite authorities announced that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigating the 2005 slaying of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is no longer valid. “Therefore, the (Shiite) council calls (on the Lebanese government) to reject any cooperation with it (the tribunal) because it has bypassed the state, the constitution and the people,” Lebanon’s Daily Star quoted the Shiite elite as saying in a statement. Of course, there’s good reason to believe that newly appointed Prime Minister Najib Mikati will follow the call to reject the STL. After all, he may be Sunni, but he was handpicked by Hezbollah and Syria for that very purpose.

In fact, on Sunday, caretaker Prime Minister Hariri’s March 14 coalition officially rejected a former request to be a part of Mikati’s new cabinet, as that government will aim to eliminate the STL, according to the coalition. However, this will leave Hezbollah’s March 8 coalition without opposition in the new Lebanese cabinet under Mikati, once it is formed.

What is happening in Lebanon today is a complete reversal of all that the March 14 coalition and the U.S.-led international coalition accomplished in 2005 when Syria was forced to withdraw militarily. Going forward, American foreign policy towards Lebanon should be based on the actions of its new government. The Lebanese Armed Forces should not continue to benefit from the free lunch offered by Washington if they become a force that represents the wishes and demands of Hezbollah.