Lebanon's presidential election was postponed again for the fourth time as the Syria/Iran/Hezbollah faction and anti-Syrian March 14 faction continue to fail to pick a consensus candidate to succeed pro-Syrian president Emil Lahoud.
If the deadlock continues, Lebanon could devolve into chaos, with two separate governments fighting a civil war.
As I've written previously, Lahoud is a tool who's term was `extended' literally under the guns of the Syrian Army before they left Lebanon.Lahoud's been very valuable to Syria because he's been instrumental in blocking the efforts of the ongoing UN tribunal investigation into the murder of Lebanon's anti-Syrian prime minister, Rafik Hariri and others. That investigation has already found substantial evidence of the involvement of Syria in Hariri's murder that of other anti-Syrian figures. And the evidence implicates Basher Assad and the highest levels of the Syrian government.
In Lebanon, Parliament elects the president by a 2/3 majority,and what the Syrians and their Hezbollah and Amal allies have been doing to make sure that their control of Lebanon continues and the UN tribunal goes nowhere has been to block a vote while practicing their own version of `Arab democracy'.......killing off members of the anti-Syrian March 14 majority one by one to reduce the Siniora government's majority in parliament and send a message to the others that voting for the wrong man is not exactly a prescription for longevity.
The French, who helped set up Lebanon in the first place have been actively involved in trying to resolve the two factions. French Foreign Minister has been attempting to mediate, but with little success:
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who is mediating among the various factions in Beirut, said Monday that he was "less optimistic" than last week that a compromise candidate would emerge.
"I'm amazed, France is amazed, that something is stuck, something is blocked, something is derailed, and I would like everyone to assume their responsibilities," a visibly angry Kouchner told reporters after emerging from closed-door talks with leading Lebanese politicians.
He warned reporters that "France will let the whole world know who is responsible" for blocking steps to untangle the Lebanese political deadlock.
If the deadlock continues, the March 14 opposition is threatening to have a presidential vote with election by simple majority...which Hezbollah says it would consider a coup d'etat and a declaration of civil war. Or Syrian puppet Lahoud might simply extend his term unilaterally again, as an `emergency measure.'
What Hezbollah and the Syrians are pushing for is a `compromise' candidate who would leave the Siniora government with the official trappings of power but would give Syria and Hezbolah (and thus Iran) the real power in Lebanon. The man they want as president is Michael Aoun, a long time Syrian puppet.
Iran and Syria are hip deep in all this. Iranian Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, Syrian foreign minister Walid Mualem and French special emissary Jean-Claude Cousseran have been in active negotiations, and Iran and Syria have rejected a slate of six compromise candidates put forth by the March 14 group in an effort to avoid civil war...which is one reason why Kouchner was so livid.
Of course, this also makes a mockery out of UN resolution 1701, which called for the disarmament of Hezbollah. Had that been done, the situation in Lebanon would be very different today.
The Bush Administration has spent millions of dollars trying to prop up the Siniora government, which has essentially been paralyzed since the Hezbollah ministers withdrew from the government. If it comes to civil war, there's no question of the weakened democratic government of Lebanon being able to take on the rearmed and reorganized Hezbollah, especially since the Lebanese military is largely Shiite.
Lebanon's days as a free country may be numbered.