Another Fine Mess: Lebanon on the Brink


I found that this piece in the Economist captures well the fragility of Lebanon’s current political order. I recommend reading it.
Here’s a section I found compelling:

Such conundrums point up the peculiar make-up and intractability of the opposing forces. Mr Siniora’s coalition includes Druze and Christian warlords, much of the business elite and the bulk of Sunni Muslims, including extreme fundamentalist groups that see more menace in Shias than in an alliance with America. Hizbullah, aligned with and armed by Syria and Iran, and doctrinally loyal to the latter, has found allies in old-time leftists, Arab nationalists, Syrian-backed feudal lords and the Peronist-style Christian populists of Michel Aoun, a former general who led a bloody and quixotic revolt against Syrian forces during the civil war.
What is missing is a leader who might rise above the mudslinging. Mr Siniora has valiantly tried to stay calm under pressure and has offered compromises just short of his opponents’ maximal demands. But he has failed to project a grand vision that would have to include, for example, fresh elections under a fairer system.
Some weary Lebanese now pin hopes on foreign mediation, with much interest stirred by a flurry of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the region’s main Shia and Sunni powers respectively. But a sense of disillusion is all the more sharply felt because it is less than two years since a massive, peaceful and joyous movement promised a better deal for all, following the exit of Syrian troops from the country.

It’s remarkable that we aren’t talking to the Syrians. We need to.
There is no way that Lebanese stability can be preserved or a viable Palestinian state established without engaging Syria and moving it out of the international dog-house on a Libya-like track.
It’s just nighmarish what a tinder box the Middle East is right now — and the White House and leadership in Tehran seem to be provoking each other into which side will light a match.
For another interesting take on Lebanon and Hezbollah, go back and read my friend and colleague Nir Rosen’s piece from last October, “Hizb Allah, Party of God.”
— Steve Clemons


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