Monday, May 19, 2008

Lebanese Talks Collapse in Qatar

The talks sponsored by The Arab League between Hezbollah and its allies and the Siniora government in an attempt to mediate between the two sides are being characterized by the Qatari prime Minister as at a dead end:

Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jaber al-Thani said Monday that talks in Qatar between rival Lebanese political factions ended in a 'dead end.'

'I regret to announce that we have a reached a dead end,' Sheikh Hamad said concerning the dialogue aimed at ending the Lebanese crisis, but added that 'efforts will continue until a solution is reached.'

The cause for the deadlock is a simple one - Hezbollah not only wants its man, Lebanese Army Chief General Michel Suleiman as president, but it wants a political surrender in place before he takes office.

What Hezbollah wants is new election laws enacted that would essentially give them majority representation in parliament - and a majority of the ministries in a new unity government.

The Arab League proposal called for the formation of a unity government of 30 ministers, with 13 from pro-government parties, 10 from the opposition and seven chosen by the newly elected president.

Hezbollah wants more than one third of the cabinet posts, which together with Suleiman's ministers would give them virtual control of the country. Or rather, their Iranian and Syrian masters. Hezbollah also refuses to consider any proposal that calls for them to disarm.The head of the Hezbollah delegation, Mohammed Raad, said on Sunday: "The issue of the resistance, its arms and capabilities is not up for discussion."

Pretty clear, I'd say.

And the Siniora government's refusal to acquiese to its own de facto demise is what's causing the deadlock.

As Michael Totten wrote Hezbollah was largely repulsed in its efforts to overrun the Druse stronghold in the Chouf Mountains. But they were largely successful everywhere else.

In the Chouf, where the lay of the land constitutes a natuarl defensive fortress, the Druse were able to prevail even against Hezbollah's heavy arms.But in places like West Beirut and Tripoli, Hezbollah was able to take control fairly easily, especially with General Suleiman and the army standing aside for them.

There are really only three ways this can end.

Assuming the first likely possibility, that Hezbollah refuses to disarm or compromise on its political agenda, it's back to hostilities...with the army likely to split up along sectarian lines this time, and perhaps even the Syrians coming in.

The other possibility is that Saad Hariri and the rest of the pro-government forces will capitulate and do what Hezbollah wants.

The third possibility? This is Lebanon, and anything could happen.

In essence, this is another proxy war between the US and Iran, just like Gaza. It remains to be seen how it will turn out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another proxy war between the US and Iran. The American governemnt needs to understand that the US has no "friends" here. Perhaps there is someone we should support based upon the axiom "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Unfortunately the US has no real "friend" here.

The Druse and others who are opposed Iran, Syria, and the Hezbollah proxy should seek closer relations with Israel. It remains to be seen whether or not they hate Israel more than they like their own survival.