News / Middle East

Lebanon Tribunal Likely First Test of New Hezbollah-led Government

New Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, speaks after the announcing of the new cabinet, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, June 13, 2011
New Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, speaks after the announcing of the new cabinet, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, June 13, 2011
Margaret Besheer

After five months of political horse-trading, Lebanon finally has a government, cementing Hezbollah’s political dominance over the tiny Mediterranean country. Analysts say the new government’s fortunes and longevity could be tied to those of neighboring Syria, one of the group’s main patrons, but its political ascendance is unlikely to cause any dramatic geopolitical shifts in the region. The new government’s first key test could be how it responds to possible indictments from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The Shi'ite militant and political movement and its allies control 18 of 30 portfolios in the new cabinet, including key ministries such as Defense, Justice and Telecommunications.

Hezbollah has been a serious player on the Lebanese political scene for years, flexing its military muscle in a war with Israel in 2006 and challenging the pro-Western government during street battles in 2008.

In January, Hezbollah and its allies forced the collapse of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government over the issue of the United Nations-backed tribunal which is investigating the death of Mr. Hariri’s father, the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The elder Hariri and 22 others were killed in a massive truck bombing on the Beirut seafront in 2005. The tribunal is widely expected to issue indictments soon that could include Hezbollah members.

Paul Salem, the director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut, says the announcement will be a big political event in Lebanon if Hezbollah or Syrian officials, or security personnel are indicted.

“That will be a firestorm in itself, which the country as well as the government would have to deal with," said Salem. "That would be a very explosive and unpredictable set of events.”

Since Hezbollah and its allies toppled the previous government over the issue of the U.N. tribunal, analysts say it is unlikely the new government will authorize the continued payment of Lebanon’s 49 percent share of the court’s cost. They question whether there will be government pressure on the four Lebanese judges on the panel to quit. And there is also the issue of cooperation in handing over any possible indictees who reside in Lebanon.

Hezbollah-backed Prime Minister Najib Mikati has promised that Lebanon will respect its international commitments.  However, out-going Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar, who is part of Saad Hariri’s March 14 coalition, says he would be “very astonished” if the tribunal is included in the new cabinet’s policy statement, which lays out its agenda.

“The Hariri government has resigned or has been forced to resign because of the Tribunal and it would be really something unbelievable that the Tribunal would be a part of the new government’s commitments. I am sure it will not be," said Najjar.

But American University in Beirut political science professor Hillal Khashan argues that it probably will not matter who is in charge when the indictments are announced, because the end result will be the same.

“But there is a difference between announcing the indictments and acting upon them. Everybody knows that the Lebanese state is soft; everybody knows that the Lebanese government is incapable to take on Hezbollah, is incapable of apprehending Hezbollah members who are at-large," said Khashan. "So it does not really matter who is the prime minister: the behavior of Hezbollah vis-à-vis the government will be invariable.”

Carnegie’s Paul Salem says another concern the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah has is the outcome of the three-month-old anti-government uprising in Syria, which could change the group’s fortunes.

“This is a pro-Syrian government," he said. "If the regime in Syria survives and continues and regains its footing and influence, then this government will continue on. If within a few months, the government in Syria has been replaced or something dramatic happens, this government will probably be impacted by that.”

Professor Khashan agrees that Hezbollah is worried about Syria and the regional climate in general, which is not moving in its favor as the Arab Spring turns to summer.

“Hezbollah at the moment prefers to be left alone," he said. "They are playing very low key. They are nervous about developments in Syria and they do not want to be conspicuous. It suits Hezbollah at the present juncture in regional and Lebanese affairs to be unnoticed.”

That lower profile bodes well for Lebanon’s southern neighbor Israel, with whom Hezbollah waged a month-long war in 2006. Analysts say that despite their history, neither side wants to engage in another conflict.

Beyond the region, the United States and Europe are watching closely to see what route the new government takes. The United States lists Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and its rise to power could lead the U.S. to reevaluate its military and economic aid to Lebanon, particularly if Beirut cuts its cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

You May Like

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Video US Landmark Pushes Endangered Species

People gathered in streets, on rooftops in Manhattan to see image highlights that covered 33 floors of Empire State Building More

World’s Widest Suspension Bridge Being Built Over Bosphorus

Once built, Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge will span 2 kilometers with about 1.5 kilometers over water, and will be longest suspension bridge in world carrying rail system More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs