Hariri to be PM in transitional government
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman asked Lebanese Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri, as well as other members of his party, to remain in their positions in a transitional government, Lebanese news sources reported on Thursday.
The Lebanese government collapsed on Wednesday after Hizbullah and its allies pulled out over differences stemming from the UN investigation into the assassination of Hariri’s father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
This would make sense, but not so fast according to Hezbollah:
Hizbullah told Lebanese President Michel Suleiman that it will not allow Hariri to continue as prime minister, according to a Thursday report by Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar.
"He is not fit to have this responsibility, as experience has proven," a Hizbullah source told Al-Akhbar.
Another Hizbullah source told Lebanese daily A-Safir that Hariri will not be prime minister anymore "because he is part of the problem, not the solution."
This is an ominous statement, something not missed by Catherine Ashton of the EU:
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement on Thursday, saying she was "concerned by the situation in Lebanon."
IDF troops in the North were on alert Thursday over worries that the political turmoil in Lebanon might spill over into renewed violence on their shared border.
A senior officer in Israel's northern command said commanders were following events in Lebanon very closely for any sign Hizbullah might try to heat up the already jittery northern border to deflect attention from the political turmo
"Things are liable to slip out of the hands of decision-makers," he said. "You never know in such a volatile and delicate situation, where everyone has a lot of weapons, a lot of resentment, a lot of frustration — you never know where it could lead."
More news stories are coming in:
Arabs Fear Civil War in Lebanon After Hizbullah Pullout
The resignation of 11 Hizbullah-allied ministers from the Lebanese Cabinet on Wednesday has sparked fears among Arab nations that another civil war is on the country's horizon.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa called on Lebanese lawmakers to put the nation's “supreme interest” ahead of their differences. According to Israel's Channel 10 television, Moussa urged the country's politicians to return to the negotiating table to restore its unity government, saying, “Only national agreement can save Lebanon from the peril of civil war.”
IDF troops on alert following collapse of Lebanon government
Israel Defense Forces troops stationed in the north were on alert Thursday over worries that the political turmoil in Lebanon might spill over into renewed violence on their shared border, following the collapse of the government in Beir
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group and its allies threw the already volatile Lebanon into chaos on Wednesday by pulling out of the government and causing it to collapse.
A senior officer in Israel's northern command said commanders were following events in Lebanon very closely for any sign Hezbollah might try to heat up the already jittery northern border to deflect attention from the political turmoil.
One may view this situation in and around Lebanon, and ask the question, "why is this a significant development in the region?"
The answer to that question is found in the quote below:
But in the current situation, Amidror said he would advise the military to cast aside all these learned assessments from me and others because the situation in Lebanon is so unsettled.
"Things are liable to slip out of the hands of decision-makers," he said. "You never know in such a volatile and delicate situation, where everyone has a lot of weapons, a lot of resentment, a lot of frustration - you never know where it could lead."
Israel's war with Hezbollah in 2006 was touched off by a Hezbollah border raid. Israel invaded Lebanon and Hezbollah retaliated with nearly 4,000 rockets fired into northern Israel in fighting that killed around 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis, according to official counts from each side.
In other words, it takes very little to spark conflict in this region, and what we see today represents a potential spark which could trigger a cascade of events. It has happened before.
Arab League fears Lebanon upheaval will spark civil war
Only a unity government can save Lebanon from spiraling into another civil war, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Wednesday, amid fears that a collective walkout by Hezbollah members of the Lebanese cabinet could trigger regional violence.
"Only national agreement can save Lebanon from the peril of civil war," Channel 10 quoted Moussa as saying.
The comment by the Arab League chief came as Israeli leaders were cautiously looking on at the political drama unfolding in its neighbor to the north, with Foreign Ministry officials saying they were "carefully following events."
Lebanese politicians had said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and Syria had failed to reach a deal to contain tensions over the UN-backed tribunal, which is expected to issue indictments soon over the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
At this point we are all in a "wait and see" mode, but Hezbollah holds all of the cards in this situation. They most certainly have a plan - a plan which hasn't been carried out yet. We know that the ultimate "end-game" is for them to have complete control over Lebanon, and these recent developments would seem to be part of this plan.
But all of this is in the early stages now, and has yet to play out to its completion. We can only see the plan as it unfolds. Many experts in the region do not believe that Hezbollah is yet ready to trigger conflict with Israel, while focused on Lebanon, and this makes sense.
However as many have pointed out, the region is such a powder-keg, that any new developments which create an environment of instability could rapidly lead to conflict. For now - we can only wait and see what Hezbollah has planned.
It should be interesting.
UPDATE: The EU sees this situation as more threatening:
Lebanon crisis raises risk of conflict on EU's southern fringe
Hezbollah is the main military force in Lebanon and has in recent years tried to establish itself as a legitimate political authority. But an anti-Hezbollah ruling would undermine its position by depicting it as the agent of foreign powers Syria and Iran.
A nightmare scenario could see fellow Shia militants Hamas launch parallel strikes on Israel out of Gaza. One independent expert on Hezbollah, Avi Issacharoff, a journalist for the left-leaning Israeli daily Haaretz, believes that Hezbollah also has agents in Europe ready to attack Jewish and Israeli targets.
"Hezbollah is putting a gun to our heads to take this trial away," an Israeli contact told EUobserver on a visit to the region late last year. "If there is a conflict, it won't come from just one side - all hell will break loose."