Friday, January 21, 2011

Lebanon Headed for a Showdown?

The current state of things reminds makes me reminiscent of an old ELO song line: The weather is fine, but there may be a meteor shower...

All the factions, small and large, are positioning themselves for the final showdown. Currently its a conflict of words, taking a form of parliamentary negotiations. Hizballah is set to topple the Hariri government, over its decision to collaborate with the STL. Saudi-Arabia and Qatar, the external mediators have already packed their peckelach and took of. From Jocelyne Zablit:

The standoff pitting the Saudi- and Western-backed Hariri against the Iranian-and Syrian-backed Hezbollah is linked to a dispute over a UN tribunal probing the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father, former premier Rafiq Hariri.
Turkey and Qatar this week abandoned efforts to break the deadlock, after Saudi Arabia also threw in the towel, raising fears of an escalation.
Set to play kingmaker in the dispute was Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a former key ally of Hariri who was expected to announce his allegiance to Hezbollah later on Friday.
The Druze chieftain has 11 deputies in parliament, including five Christians and a Sunni. If he garners the backing of enough MPs, he would guarantee Hezbollah and its allies can impose their candidate for the premiership.
Hariri's coalition has 60 seats in the 128-seat parliament against 57 for Hezbollah's camp.
The militant party, blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Washington, needs to secure the backing of eight deputies outside its alliance in order to come out the winner.
"It is clear that Jumblatt fears sectarian violence and has no other choice but to back Hezbollah," said one official close to his parliamentary bloc.
"We are hanging by a thread and maybe if Hezbollah has its way the situation won't escalate into violence," he added, requesting anonymity.
Acting Energy Minister Gebran Bassil, whose Christian Free Patriotic Movement is allied with Hezbollah, told AFP it was out of the question for Hariri to serve another term.
"I can't tell you who will be premier but I can tell you who it definitely will not be -- Hariri," Bassil said. "It is clear that we cannot go on with the same majority in the cabinet and the same premier."
He added that the Hezbollah-led alliance would nonetheless invite Hariri's coalition to join the new cabinet.
"We have no intention of sidelining anyone," Bassil said. "It is better, given the current situation, to form a unity government but with a different majority and a different premier."
But Ahmad Fatfat, an MP with Hariri's bloc, said his camp would not join a government led by the opposition.
"We are still confident we can garner the majority in parliament to nominate Hariri but in the event the other side manages to win, I don't believe we will take part in such a government," he said.
Hezbollah and its allies are widely expected to nominate veteran politician Omar Karameh, who has already served twice as premier, for the top government post.
According to Lebanon's power-sharing system, the president must be a Maronite Christian, the premier a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shiite Muslim.

Well, things in Lebanon are always confusing, but this situation is about to explode. A little later, Jumblatt did in fact declare his allegiance to the Hizballah lead opposition. 

More on that, when things start to unravel.


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