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NEWS DISPATCHES > Lebanon: Hezbollah's Creeping Coup

13 Nov 2006

The political storm gained strength last weekend with the resignations of five ministers belonging to Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian Shia Muslim block. Another Minister resigned Monday bringing the total to six (It requires the departure of eight Ministers to bring down the government). According to the accord signed in 1989 to end the civil war, Lebanon’s government must have representatives of all main sects in it. During recent multi-party talks, Hezbollah has been asking for power of veto for its minority block- a request rejected by the pro-Western majority coalition headed by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

The resignations have already prompted the Lebanese president Emile Lahoud to say that the current government lacks legitimacy. Hezbollah has threatened mass street protest (that could kick-off any moment from now) to bring down the government.

Seniora is now faced with a choice of continuing negotiations with Hezbollah from a weakened position with no hope of getting any concessions or appointing other Shia members into government and incurring the wrath of Hezbollah.

Observers of the Lebanese political scene are not surprised at recent developments. The Lebanese government was supposed to examine Monday, the draft proposal for the tribunal on the Rafik Hariri assasination presented by the United Nations Security Council. Hariri was the pro-Western former Lebanese Prime Minister that was killed in 2005. Investigations into the assassination have implicated Syrian officials. Many see the political maneuvers last weekend as part of a design to thwart any advance on the case. “The reason behind the resignation is the international tribunal.”  Said Akram Chehayeb, a deputy in the governing coalition.

Hezbollah (Party of God) is a political party cum Islamic militant group committed to an Iranian-style theocracy in Lebanon. Hezbollah receives its main financial and logistic support from Iran and Syria. Inside Lebanon Hezbollah usually allies with the mainstream Shia AMAL movement (Lebanese Resistance Detachments). Hassan Nasrallah, the charismatic leader of Hezbollah emerged from the recent conflict with Israel more confident of himself and more influential among ordinary Lebanese. He stands a better chance today than yesterday in wrestling power from the Seniora-led government. He has the financial and military clout to make this possible-be it legal or otherwise.

Lebanon seems to be heading for political upheaval that may get out of hand if not properly managed. The memory of the sectarian strife of the eighties is still fresh and nobody wants that scenario again in today’s already volatile Middle East.

Njei Moses Timah