Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Syria

No Deal on Lebanon Tribunal: Opposition Set to Bring Down Hariri Government

NOTE: This piece is being updated as the story develops. Updates will be added to the bottom of the post. See below.

The Lebanese opposition led by Hizbullah is expected to resign from PM Saad al-Hariri’s cabinet later today. Coupled with the resignation of one additional “neutral” minister, the Hariri government would be brought down and replaced by a caretaker cabinet until such time as a new premier and cabinet are selected. If history is any judge, such a process is liable to take months, under the best circumstances.

The current crisis has its roots in Hizbullah and AMAL’s cabinet walkout of late 2006, which led to over a year and a half of government paralysis, a huge downtown sit-in and protest, escalating street violence, the May 7 clashes, and, eventually, the Doha Agreement. The opposition’s principal demand at that stage was greater representation in cabinet — the so-called “blocking third” — so as to be able to meaningfully block legislation proposed by Hariri’s majority March 14 coalition. More fundamentally, the opposition was seeking a “nuclear option”: the ability to bring down the government in precisely this kind of situation, whereby Saad al-Hariri and his allies would remain committed to supporting the Special Tribunal for Lebanon all the way until the release of indictments.

If the opposition resigns later today, they will have finally exercised the option that they fought to gain between 2006 and 2008.

Many questions come to mind:

  1. Why now? What prompted the breakdown of the Saudi-Syrian initiative that was supposedly drawing close to some kind of temporary solution in Lebanon? Did the negotiations fall apart as a result of US pressure (as some are suggesting) or was the whole thing a charade from the beginning?
  2. Where do the local parties go from here? Will the opposition call for protests and strikes in an effort to display popular support for their call to end Lebanon’s cooperation with the STL? How will March 14th respond?
  3. When will the STL release its indictments? Rumors suggest that this could be imminent, but we are unlikely to learn the content of the indictments for weeks, given that the pre-trial judge will probably review them privately.
  4. Finally, and more crassly, who will come out on top in this confrontation between March 14 (and its allies in Washington and Riyadh on one hand) and March 8 (and its allies in Damascus and Tehran)? Are we headed for a “Doha 2″ agreement?

Let’s not jump the gun. The opposition still needs to make good on its threat. Until then, the floor is open for discussion.

PS: I’m current traveling and will try to follow the story from the road, but I’m counting on the QN readership to post relevant news items in the comment section in case I am late to provide updates.

**

Update [5:30PM]: The deed is done. Lebanon’s cabinet opposition has resigned. The eleventh minister (Adnan Sayyed Hussein) is reportedly on his way to Baabda now to tender his resignation to President Suleiman. This was the way that the blocking third mechanism was supposed to work.

It’s a little bit early to get into the speculation game, but my sense is that the  opposition’s maneuver was premature. They probably timed it to happen when Saad Hariri was meeting with Obama, so that the symbolism wasn’t lost on anyone. But if that was really the rationale, then I think it was a bit of a boneheaded move. One would have imagined that the opposition would have tried first to pressure Hariri by mobilizing a major public demonstration against the STL in order to give their demands a veneer of popular support, before withdrawing from the government. As is, all they’ve done is ensure that when the indictments do become public, there will almost certainly be no Lebanese government in place to formally denounce them.

More later.

 
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Discussion

109 thoughts on “No Deal on Lebanon Tribunal: Opposition Set to Bring Down Hariri Government

  1. I personally blame the Syrian football squad for this. they should have taken one for the umm..team..and lost the game.

    on a more serious note, anything regarding the failure of the Syrian-Saudi talks will be pure speculation before a) the opposition follow through on their threat and b) we start hearing the blame game from the respective parties mouth pieces (i.e. the press). somewhere between the lines we might be able to understand what really happened.

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | January 12, 2011, 10:17 am
  2. tracking lebanese tv will post any news fruitful news.

    I am surprised that m8 hasn’t forced jumblatt to choose sides. Looks like they aren’t forcing him into any corners just yet and will be relying on Sleiman’s Shiite minister to reach 11 ministerial resignations.

    Posted by tamer k. | January 12, 2011, 10:31 am
  3. It is obvious that the US casted a veto on the deal ,and won so far ,

    No winners or losers is the problem that makes the Lebanese problem a chronic one , it is time to make the disease acute and live or die fighting .

    Cure or Death

    Posted by norman | January 12, 2011, 10:49 am
  4. I do think the SS so called initiative was nothing but a series of leaks about nothing. I mean what on earth would they be mulling about? HA/Iran & Syria to some extent have declared STL as null and void…SO it makes sense as indictments are imminent that they would force the M14 hand. I did mention this numerous times before from 2006 to present that trying a band aid (Doha) agreement would be temporary as HA will NEVER (even if the ayatollah regime is destroyed in Iran) relinquish its weapons and attained mini state of Hizbistan!

    As to the three other points I think that the M14 has been ready as before to let the chips fall where they be…with foreign intermediaries arriving daily supposedly trying to mend fences until the indictments are made public; even if it takes a whole year. Soon we might hear the King poo pah SYN declare that he is ready to go to elections; circa 2006 declaration (off course when his side lost he reneged on his amazing promise)that the winner should govern with no interference (Yes Nasrallah is honest and always keeps his word…NOT)!

    Posted by danny | January 12, 2011, 10:56 am
  5. Norman,

    Would the Syrians be ready to subscribe to your utterance or do you want only Lebanese to kill each other while your dictator laughs all the way along with Bibi!!

    Posted by danny | January 12, 2011, 11:00 am
  6. The opposition ministers have just offered their resignation, Jebran Bassil Energy minister presented the resignation and responded to all the subsequent questions. Lasted about 7 minutes and its over now. 10 Ministers offered their resignation and Saad Hariri is still Prime Minister of Lebanon pending another resignation from another minister.

    Posted by tamer k. | January 12, 2011, 11:16 am
  7. Danny ,

    Lebanon has had the same problem since 1860 and Syria’s policy in Lebanon was and still no winners , no losers , that brought to Lebanon a chronic problem where people are not equal and have no chance of being everything they want if they are not related to certain tribe , I would never like The Lebanese to kill each other but they are stabbing each other in the back all the time , they just have to do it once and for all then put the pieces back together so people are equal .

    Posted by norman | January 12, 2011, 11:24 am
  8. Rumor has it that minister Adnan As Sayyed Hussein will also join in and resign. Yalla we might see the downtown camping site revived.

    Posted by Marillionlb | January 12, 2011, 11:34 am
  9. AFP: PM Saad Hariri meets US President Barack Obama at moment Hezbollah resigns government

    It appears that Saad Hariri beat the opposition to the punch and did not give them the satisfaction of making him the former PM of Lebanon before meeting with President Obama.

    Posted by tamer k. | January 12, 2011, 11:36 am
  10. Yep it is done minister Adnan As Sayyed Hussein, just resigned !

    Posted by Marillionlb | January 12, 2011, 11:40 am
  11. I don’t recall who, several QN posts ago, suggested that HA will present its conclusive evidence to the court when the proceedings start.

    And yet all I see the Opposition fighting for is the dismantlement of the STL and removal of Leb judges.

    What is the Opposition afraid of?

    Danny, I agree with you. I think the whole thing was a charade from the beginning. That much should have been obvious from the beginning, as no deal that has come to pass to date has ever been done with good intentions, and honesty.

    Even if the US “put pressure”, I don’t see that pressure being a bad thing at all. The courts simply must go on and the evidence has to be presented.

    Posted by Gabriel | January 12, 2011, 12:00 pm
  12. Watching Lebanese politics is like watching a car crash in slow motion. This is a sad but expected outcome.

    If you want some optimism, one can say that the Hariri tribunal has already worked wonders. Assassination is not being used as a weapon anymore. The ability of Syria and Hezbollah to intimidate has gone down significantly.

    Posted by AIG | January 12, 2011, 12:15 pm
  13. AIG,

    You are joking right?…when you say:”Hariri tribunal has already worked wonders. Assassination is not being used as a weapon anymore”…
    Most of the bombings and assassinations did come after the investigation commenced. Unless you have inside information; the history suggests that the assassinations and bombings along with “security incidences” will soon commence.

    Norman;
    Syria could have chosen to stay neutral and keep all factions disarmed but on the contrary it chose to arm HA to create friction and imbalance. Syria could have strengthened the LAF and ISF instead during Syria’s occupation of Lebanon the LAF turned to a very well dressed marching band!

    Again the B’s (Bibi & Bashar) have accomplished their desired solution. Having Lebanon in total chaos and conflict! Now they can rest easy as the stupid Lebanese go on the task of killing each other.

    Posted by danny | January 12, 2011, 12:25 pm
  14. The indictment will determine Lebanon’s future.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | January 12, 2011, 12:32 pm
  15. Danny ,

    Israel was occupying south Lebanon and that was the justification , now equal right is what is needed .

    Posted by norman | January 12, 2011, 12:39 pm
  16. Danny,

    I think Syria and Hezbollah did not believe that the STL could obtain good evidence, but now that indictments are forthcoming, they are not willing to risk further assassinations. It has been quite a while since they have attempted to intimidate using assassinations and I think it is because they realized the price/benefit consideration was not in their favor.

    Posted by AIG | January 12, 2011, 12:40 pm
  17. Soo much Drama! This is insane why does it all have to be so over the top. Kiss ikht el waldani. Once again I am reminded why I am immigrating and trying my best to leave this place.

    Posted by Tarek | January 12, 2011, 12:47 pm
  18. Norman,

    Do you subscribe or believe in that “justification’? …as a better deterrent would have been a strong unified LAF!!

    Posted by danny | January 12, 2011, 12:57 pm
  19. The time is not far off when the powers-to-be act on the realization of the necessity of removing the Syrian regime, such as by a military coup or some other covert operation. Bashar screwed up not only with SA but also with his best hope, the French.

    Norman’s scenario will then become feasible.

    Political assassinations may come back again to Lebanon even after indictments are issued.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 1:00 pm
  20. Regular Arab armies proved not able to face Israel , you can see that in The Golan , but Hezbollah forced Israel out without any concessions , I would rather have Hezbollah on my side than any regular army including the Syrian army , after a peace treaty with Israel and an understanding of equality between the Lebanese , Hezbollah should be the Lebanese national Guard / Reserve for Lebanon .

    Posted by norman | January 12, 2011, 1:03 pm
  21. Norman,

    If Syria thought Hezbollah was such a good idea, they would have created a Syrian one also and used it to try taking the Golan back.

    Hezbollah is just another tool for Syrian influence in Lebanon.

    Posted by AIG | January 12, 2011, 1:11 pm
  22. I think Hizballah has moved beyond being a Syrian tool.

    Ahmedinajad’s visit made that very clear.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | January 12, 2011, 1:20 pm
  23. Norman, wouldn’t it be better to model a national defense on Hizbollah rather than entrusting a political party to do an army’s bidding?

    PiD, Hizbollah has from the start owed its allegiance to Iran, regionally speaking. Of course, as has been said many times here and elsewhere, Hizb and Syria need each other. Unfortunately for Iran and Hizb, Iran and Lebanon share no border.

    What happens now? What does the constitution say? Is it up to the president to appoint a PM? What if Jumblatt’s parlamentarians side with the opposition? That would make the current majority the minority, no? The new PM would then come from the opposition. Good luck with the sunnibase!

    Posted by Pas Cool | January 12, 2011, 1:32 pm
  24. Pas Cool

    I will have a piece in Foreign Policy tomorrow that addresses what comes next. Stay tuned.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 12, 2011, 1:34 pm
  25. In a nutshell: without Jumblatt’s MPs, Hariri only has 60 men in parliament. That’s less than 50%. If Jumblatt can be leaned on to join the opposition, they will be the majority. Hariri will still be appointed the head of the caretaker government, but the President will not be able to appoint him the new premier because he will be consitutionally bound to hold binding deliberations with Parliament. They will make it very difficult to reappoint Hariri, and will certainly condition his appointment on the agreement to sever Lebanon’s relations with the STL, withdraw Lebanese judges, etc.

    At that point, Hariri has 1 of 2 options.

    (1) Either he plays the Hizbullah card and claims that any other Sunni PM would not represent the Sunnis of Lebanon (which was the implicit logic behind Hizbullah and Amal’s walk-out in 2006).

    (2) Or he decides to sit in opposition and lets March 8 form its own majority (non-national unity) government, and try to scuttle the STL by themselves (i.e. without his help).

    My guess is that he’d opt for the latter, if it were up to him (although who knows what his foreign allies will “advise” him to do). Then we’d be in for a long game of chicken.

    His decision will obviously depend on what the STL reveals. If the indictments seem inconsequential and not really backed up by substantial evidence, then he may be amenable to doing the opposition’s bidding and just turning the page. If the indictments indicate some kind of a vast plot with strong and compelling evidence, then he will probably just sit back and let the thing hang in the air as long as he can.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 12, 2011, 1:41 pm
  26. Mabrouk QN

    Here are my five cents. If that were indeed the case, that Jumblatt in a government to come would switch sides, then the new PM would have to be from the political middle.

    I’m sure the current opposition already has eyed several potential candidates for this job. Hariri could then continue his anti-STL stance from the sidelines.

    ‘Cause I don’t think Hariri will take a definitive distance from the STL. That would amount to political suicide for him and his Christian allies, the latter who might then want to oppose the government if Hariri were to make that move.

    And that is probably the only thing Hariri can do to keep being the PM, but he won’t. Unless that pack of cigarettes turns out to be a way to build a state. Hariri’s blood would then not have been for nothing. That would have to include a disarmament of various groups, honing to some degree the Taef and some other measures that sees Hariri coming out of this looking like a statesman. Only then can he sell his turning on the STL. But I don’t think that will happen.

    So, it is interesting to see what the constitution says. If the pressure is on Sleiman to find a PM then I do not fancy the position he is in.

    But, an independant PM is probably not enough. Hizb doesn’t need a Leb govt to say that the STL is wicked, he needs Hariri to say it.

    A big card for the opposition to play now is the funding of the STL for 2011.

    Posted by Pas Cool | January 12, 2011, 1:48 pm
  27. QN #25

    I see a risk that Hariri and his allies might not take so lightly upon, if your option # 2 were to happen.

    Hiz and their allies would then control the country through the ministries. That would enable them to bend Lebanon their way. ‘Cause in the end this is just a long battle in which camp Lebanon is to be in, the more pro western or the Iranian orbit. And with Lebanon being on the UN Security Council for another year, this is no small matter.

    Secondly, I don’t think an oppposition with Hariri and his Christian allies would hold up the state’s functions in the same way as the current opposition has been doing. With the state functioning smoothly people might actually be pleased to have 8 percent growth and a functioning government. Some important segments of the population could sway Hizb and their allies’ way.

    Then again, I still think that Hizb needs Hariri to oppose the STL, not just forming a govt that does.

    Posted by Pas Cool | January 12, 2011, 2:01 pm
  28. QN,

    I would be surprised if Jumblatt joins the opposition and supports a premier other than Hariri. He would become a persona non-grata in the west if he does and he would not be able to guarantee the safety of his sect in another Israel-Lebanon war. Most likely he will “join” the opposition but demand Hariri be PM. It is one of those moves only Jumblatt knows how to do.

    Posted by AIG | January 12, 2011, 2:03 pm
  29. AIG

    Of course that is the most likely scenario (I’d say 95% likely). But there is a difference between what Jumblatt says publicly and what he demands privately. He is going to insist publicly that Hariri be re-appointed PM, but he will probably line up with the opposition privately when it comes to their demands about the STL. Or, at the very least, he will fall in line with the opposition on preventing Hariri from being able to form a majority government. This puts Hariri in the exact same position… so he may elect to just sit in opposition.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 12, 2011, 2:13 pm
  30. Well, looks like so far, this looks pretty much as I expected. More of the same. We’re back to 2006-2008, give or take a few lost lives, but who’s counting…

    I continue to be glad I left that godforsaken shithole many years ago…

    Having said that, i can’t imagine QN’s prediction of Hariri letting HA form its own government. Show me one case in the past 60 years where a Lebanese government governed unilaterally…That’s not the Lebanese way. I’d love nothing more than to see M8 (or M14) be in full govt, while the other side sits in full opposition for once. But I’m not holding my breath.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 2:17 pm
  31. The problem in Lebanon is the constitution that has set aside and quotas , that constitution needs to change ,

    Hariri will fight tooth and nails to stay as PM , he is very worry about Auon getting the Justice ministry and starting the investigation about the time Father Hariri was in power and how he got all that money while Lebanon in so much debt .

    Hezbollah will be the core for a national defense strategy and it’s ideology can be implemented in all Lebanon and all Lebanese , but for that to take place , one man one vote has to be the rule ,
    At that time faith in the political process will be there ,

    And people who ask Israel to attack the Muslim areas and save the christian ones can be tried for treason as in any western country .

    Posted by norman | January 12, 2011, 2:21 pm
  32. QN,

    I don’t understand, how would Hariri be in the opposition if Jumblatt would only vote in parliament for a government headed by Hariri? Seems to me like the usual Lebanese stalemate. Hariri will remain caretaker PM for a long time.

    Posted by AIG | January 12, 2011, 2:22 pm
  33. Jumblatt and Aoun are banking that the evidence will be flimsy and not solid enough.

    It will be interesting to see their positions if the evidence turns out to be solid.

    Hizballah are not the only ones that have a lot to lose from the STL.

    Both Jumblatt and Aoun will be wiped out politically if the evidence holds.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | January 12, 2011, 2:25 pm
  34. Both Jumblatt and Aoun seem to be under the impression the US will re-sell Lebanon to Syria to implement their regional agenda as they did during the Kuwait war.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | January 12, 2011, 2:38 pm
  35. Hariri can’t “pull a Hzb” card, ’cause if he does he will indirectly imply that the Siniora govt of 2006 was unconstitutional and thus the STL was formed unconstitutionally.

    Hizb however can form a govt and find the number of sunnis required. It wouldn’t be unconstitutional in the same way as it actually includes sunnis, just not sunnis politically inclined towards Hariri.

    Jumblatt could be part of Sleimans ind group.

    We might not know if the evidence is solid until the trial actually begins and makes headway. If there is a trial, as I’m not sure about the funding for 2011. Not sure what the caretaker govt can decide on. It’s the same makeup as the one that just resigned?

    The battle is for Lebanon and for Hizb it is a battle of public opinion. If they need to form their own govt they will, but it is not their best option.

    Posted by Pas Cool | January 12, 2011, 2:42 pm
  36. Saudi Arabia will foot the bill if Lebanon won’t.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | January 12, 2011, 2:46 pm
  37. So they did it! What does the opposition stand to gain from the resignations other than as QN put it there will be no Leb government to deal with the indictments once issued. Add chaos to chaos? Terrible formula. Is there a possibility that this could create a diversion in terms of the worldwide general public’s seemingly short attention span?

    Posted by Douna | January 12, 2011, 2:47 pm
  38. Peter,

    I don’t see Jumblatt and Aoun losing any popular support. I think the lines are already drawn and very few people will look at the evidence rationally, the sheep are supporting their camps, ANYTHING less than a smoking gun IE video or Confession is meaningless, the m8 PR machine is too strong, and the tribunal has been too slow in this 24 a day new cycle world, no one really cares about justice.

    Hariri is looking really weak right now. Why he is stopping in Paris for further consultations is beyond me, he needs to get to Beirut asap and show everyone who is in charge. His attack dogs fatfat and allouch won’t cut it, and they are swimming against the currents, he needs to be a leader right now.

    As far as m8 supporters are concerned the STL was formed without formal authority of the Lebanese government, any evidence is tainted by Israel’s infiltration into the telecom network, holding the 4 generals as political hostages, and Mehlis embarrassing reports ruined any credibility that the International Tribunal thought it had.

    Aoun and Jumblatt are probably giggling right now.

    Posted by tamer k. | January 12, 2011, 2:52 pm
  39. I might be wrong, but I don’t think the Iranian funded doctrine has much of a future.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | January 12, 2011, 2:55 pm
  40. Why doesn’t the so-called STL release its findings and put us all out of our misery once and for all (or is it start the real misery)?

    Posted by EHSANI2 | January 12, 2011, 3:22 pm
  41. The Iran funded doctrine has been pretty successful in sabotaging any US progress in Iraq and to a limited degree in Afghanistan. After 7 years of western support what does m14 have to show. They are left weaker without Jumblatt, western politics does not work in the middle east or in a sectarian lebanon. This is a land of contradictions (hizb aoun alliance), conspiracy theories (i can’t tell you how many people still believe the US was behind 9/11, bin laden himself took credit and they still won’t give it to him).

    m14 card about may 7 is old and overused, their call for justice is old and overused, their fear mongering over real estate purchases by shia is not going to gain any traction.

    m8 had the POPULAR majority in the elections, they probably have a majority in parliament now. Hezbollah never left, and Lebanon never left the Syrian/Iranian axis because if it did m14 would not have failed, despite a parliamentary majority and western support.

    Hariri needs to cut his losses and as zaim of the sunni community needs to save face and strike a deal.

    Posted by tamer k. | January 12, 2011, 3:26 pm
  42. It is clear that the Doha accord has failed. The Government has collapsed as a result of the opposition ministers’ resignation, and the resignation of one of the president’s ministers.
    It is not likely that Hariri will be the next PM (not sure He wants to be one now), nor is it likely that both sides would agree to a transitional government at this stage. A transitional Government could not offer any solution to the pressing issues at hand. The crisis is too serious to be managed by a weak transitional cabinet.
    What is the likely hood of the president resigning now? Well, He was elected as a result of the accord agreed upon at Doha. President Michel Suleiman was generally accepted as being the only possible candidate and as a unifying candidate. His election, constitutionally, was doubted by many legal experts, but He was elected, and was sworn in to be the unifying men, as a result of regional and international agreement. This whole agreement has collapsed now.
    He can no longer play both sides of the fence. Unless he decides to take sides, the president has nothing left to do. No more dialogue tables, No more cabinet negotiations, No more the unifying president He was elected to be. His game is over.
    He might be pressed to resign and appoint a military government headed by the army commander.
    Long shot speculation on my part, but no other scenario makes any sense now.
    It is not the most ideal way of making such a change, but Ghassan Karam’s wish of getting ride of all Lebanese political team might unexpectedly come true .
    I will be ducking all the bullets coming at me now, lol

    Posted by prophett | January 12, 2011, 3:50 pm
  43. Tamer,
    Remember President Ahmadinejad’s reply to Stephanopolous’ insip question regarding the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden? He shot back that since OBL was once America’s boy in the region, he assumed he was hiding somewhere in Washington (and not Tehran, as Stephy was alluding to).

    Posted by Pirouz | January 12, 2011, 4:07 pm
  44. What Hezb accomplished with AK-47s on the streets of Beirut a couple of years ago, it is now accomplishing through legitimate political maneuver.

    Progress.

    Posted by Pirouz | January 12, 2011, 4:11 pm
  45. AIG said:

    “I don’t understand, how would Hariri be in the opposition if Jumblatt would only vote in parliament for a government headed by Hariri? Seems to me like the usual Lebanese stalemate. Hariri will remain caretaker PM for a long time.”

    The long-term caretaker cabinet scenario is highly likely. But my point was that while Jumblatt will probably publicly throw his support behind Hariri as a repeat PM, he’s not going to line up with March 14 on all of its demands, which will include:

    (a) Another majority in cabinet
    (b) No change in the govt’s policy on the STL.

    Jumblatt is more likely to adopt some kind of mediating stance between Hizbullah’s demands and Hariri’s. Hariri can’t depend on Jumblatt for a carte blanche vote. So if the two sides can’t agree on the next government’s STL policy, Hariri will not be re-appointed PM.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 12, 2011, 4:20 pm
  46. Tamer K. # 38

    “As far as m8 supporters are concerned the STL was formed without formal authority of the Lebanese government, any evidence is tainted by Israel’s infiltration into the telecom network, holding the 4 generals as political hostages, and Mehlis embarrassing reports ruined any credibility that the International Tribunal thought it had.”

    That’s all nice and dandy for the supporters of m8, but if that were enough this situation of today would not have arisen. The leaders of m8 know they need more.

    They need Hariri to disavow the STL or at least second best option, which would be more or less everybody but Hariri to disavow STL.

    Why is the STL so darn important anyway? Because it can cast a shadow on Hizb and seriously taint their image as a bulwark against Israel, as a resistance movement. Hizbollah needs political backing, continouosly.

    One thing that can distract people’s attention is a confrontation with Israel. The resistance axis is guaranteed a large share of public opinion due to them being against Israel with weapons in hand.

    But Hizb is being squeezed. Even their political manifesto talks of a defensive posture. How many acts of resistance have they done since 2006? None! How long can it go on like that until people start taking notice? What do they need their weapons for? A showdown with Israel over Sheeba? No. It’s about taking Israel off the map, and being part of a regional resistance against Israeli ambitions.

    The STL is in their eyes just another really bad thorn in their eye. Someone further up was mentioning that M14 had more or less lost. I think Hizb has lost a lot as well over the years, expecially their maneuverability, and the STL constrains them even more, as they are in need of public opinion, not only in Lebanon ut elsewhere as well.

    Being put on trial in absentia for killing a sunnileader in the heart of a sunnimuslim world is not good for them at all.

    Posted by Pas Cool | January 12, 2011, 4:42 pm
  47. My two cents worth.
    QN, you are again underestimating Hariri’s options. He will not go for option two and neither for option 1. He will do what the Shias did when they wanted Berri as a Speaker. The Mufti; Qabbani will shortly announce that he supports Hariri or Future’s choice as PM or the “aaish el mushtaraq” will be broken. This stalemate will take as long as it is needed for the STL to function. I will dare to ‘assume’ till the next parliamentary elections or an Iranian West/Israeli collision.
    WJ is irrelevant! He will insist on a consensus PM the same way he did with Sly-man!

    Posted by danny | January 12, 2011, 4:49 pm
  48. QN,

    While Hariri cannot count on Jumblatt for support, he can rest assured that Jumblatt will not vote for a government headed by someone not from FM or approved by FM. So there is no option where Hariri finds himself in the opposition.

    Hariri is just going to let the STL play out until his or anybody’s actions towards it would be irrelevant. And then it will be time for Doha II which will just mean another election and then another 6 months of maybe getting a government. Hariri could be caretaker PM for a very, very long time.

    Posted by AIG | January 12, 2011, 4:50 pm
  49. Prophett #42,

    You’re dreaming. You think that just because president Suleiman’s role is obsolete, he will go away and resign?
    Since when has any lebanese leader given up just because his job was useless? Countless “leaders” have held positions while doing absolutely nothing but twiddling their thumbs.

    Just sayin…

    I still disagree with Ghassan’s overall assessment that we are at a crossroads. It may seem like big upheaval at the moment, but so did July 2008, and many other dates before it. In the end, it will be more of the same, no matter what dress it’s wearing. More “agreements” that don’t really commit anyone to doing anything. More paralysis. This is really 2006-2008 all over again. And the outcome will be the same as it was in 2008, in a sense (even if it’s a different face in the PM seat, or a different wording). In the end, it will still be some kind of government with a bit of everyone thrown in.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 5:21 pm
  50. I am glad that the Hezbollah bloc decided to resign from the cabinet. This is the way democracy works. There is nothing wrong with this, actually it is far more superior to staying in the cabinet and yet opposing every possible initiative, The “national unity cabinet” was a fiasco if there was ever any,The next step is very clear. Consultations should provide an indication about who has the most support to form a cabinet and that is the way it should be. It is time to forget about a Doha agreement, an SS initiative, an Smerican veto or a French plan. It is time to act as an independent country and dismiss once and for all the notion of La Ghaleb wa La Maghloob. I do think that this development is the best of all possible worlds.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 12, 2011, 5:25 pm
  51. I think AIG #48 pretty much got it right.
    It’s the “lather, rinse, repeat” formula. Doha II, another 14-18 months, Doha III, more of the same, Doha IV, etc…

    Note: “Doha” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in Doha..Just using the word to mean some kind of deal enforced on the Lebanese idiots.
    After all, that’s what Taif was before that. Lausanne, Geneva, Cairo, ad nauseam.

    This really IS the status quo for Lebanon: A state of perpetual paralysis.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 5:25 pm
  52. Here’s my two cents,

    Those who are counting on Jumblatt, the guy is inconsequential. According to QN, Hariri MP head count is 60. He is short 5 for a majority. Jumblatt can only count on 4 MP’s within his block if he is forced to join the opposition. The remaining 8 or 9 will go Hariri and they already have been given that option by Jumblatt himself when he made his famous detour. They also made it clear they will never vote with Jumblatt against M14.

    If a new government is born it will be Hariri or Seniora as a PM and a one-color cabinet. No other Sunni figure would take an offer at the cost of his demise. Otherwise it will be a caretaker government until new elections. Also, the possibility that no elections will take place in 2013 is very real

    Right now I am inclined to think the STL evidence is more solid than ever thought. Once revealed Aoun will be crushed, but Jumblatt will survive and find another means to make another detour.

    If the STL indictment includes Syrians, then Syria is up for hard choices to make. It will be forced to comply with STL requests or face a new round of international isolation also aimed at further isolating Iran. Eventually Iran will be forced to give up on its HA connection and its relations with Syria will be severely strained. FYI, Iran offered HA’s head to the Bush administration on a silver platter in return for normalization and other things. The Bushies declined for reasons of their own. It is more likely they will offer HA plus other many things in light of current sanctions. A Najjad recently sacked 14 members of his cabinet. Khamenei is becoming a pariah among the establishment with many high ranking figures calling for his ouster from the Wilayat. Have your eyes fixed on Rafsanjani.

    I still think some kind of covert operation to remove the Assad regime is the cheapest, quickest and most beneficial to the whole region.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 5:29 pm
  53. It really seems like the best outcome for Hariri. Problem solved.

    http://newsfromsyria.com/2011/01/13/hizbollah-leaves-the-unhappy-marriage/

    Posted by Sasa | January 12, 2011, 5:50 pm
  54. QN,

    I think any mobilization by M8 for a major public demonstration would be demonised and labelled as violent riots by the Western press. M8’s decision not to use the street is to avoid such bad press, and it also means they think they can get what they want without resorting to the street. They want to keep it a strictly political, constitutional, process.

    The speed of the resignations makes me think M8 has a plan to quickly set up an M8 government and that they think they can implement this plan, which means Jumblatt is on board.

    Its either that, or they’re playing a crazy game of chicken with Hariri.

    Posted by RedLeb | January 12, 2011, 5:51 pm
  55. Ghassan,

    While I wish nothing more than for what you described. HA resigning from the cabinet does not mean they are following demoratic principles. Nor does it mean the parliamentary consultations will result in a one-color cabinet.
    I can GUARANTEE you (and i’m willing to eat crow and put a nice bottle of wine or whatever else you may enjoy behind this) that the resulting cabinet, when it eventually sees the light of day, will still involve a mix of M8 and M14 and a “president’s share”. The proportions for each might be different, but the chances of seeing an all-M8 cabinet (or all M14 cabinet) are NIL.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 6:04 pm
  56. anon,

    that is a lot of wishful thinking.

    Regarding Jumblatt’s bloc of I find it hard to believe that m8 forces would move without a good idea of where they stand.

    m14 leadership failed, I find it hard to believe that m8 would have made the political mistakes had they had the majority of parliament at the end of the 2009 elections.

    For or against m8 you have to applaud their cunning political tactics. Hariri should have seen the writing on the wall with Jumblatt’s 180 degree turn, the buck stops with him. His lack of leadership failed the once proud majority. I really question his political prowess, I question his advisers, I don’t see why he is going to Paris, he should be heading straight to Beirut, has he not learned anything yet?

    Are Hariri’s constituents in Riyadh, Paris, Washington or Damascus? Come back to Beirut former PM

    Posted by tamer k. | January 12, 2011, 6:06 pm
  57. RedLeb,

    The initiative was and still is in Hariri’s hand. It all started with his interview and ended with a phone call from NY to Bashar telling him in plain language there is no deal.

    The decision to resign was forced on them.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 6:08 pm
  58. RedLeb I can’t agree more, I think m8 (specifically aounies) are against any street demonstrations because m14 propoganda machine will spin any demonstration as a “Hezboillah rally” and that is the last thing they need or want in terms of press coverage.

    It was no accident that the resignation of the opposition took place under the auspices of Aoun in Rabieh. Like him or not Jebran was effective, succinct and threw a couple of great jabs. Compare that to m14 press conference and boutros harb’s response (i thought he was a sleiman minister) and you can clearly see that m14 is missing much needed leadership.

    Posted by tamer k. | January 12, 2011, 6:13 pm
  59. tamer,

    You just need to look at Aoun’s face lately to know who is reading failure on the wall.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 6:15 pm
  60. Wow. Some of you guys really have some wild ideas. Covert operations to take out Assad. Iran giving up on its HA connection? An all M8 cabinet?

    Chances on all 3 is 0%.

    I’d like to hear what thinking and historical precedent in the region leads you guys to think this kind of thing even remotely likely, as opposed to the perpetual status quo.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 6:25 pm
  61. BV,

    Correct for now….Until STL issues the indictments and how damaging might be any evidence against the culprits especially if they were ranking HA/Syrian operatives! After that all bets could be off with that “still water” scenario.

    anon; IDF could have and still can eliminate Bashar at will! Why would they? Why covert? Bashar is Israel’s best friend and ally LOL.

    STL (along with any military conflict with Iran) will be the ultimate game changer!

    BV, the situation will not stay the same if HA was fingered as the assassins.

    Long year ahead for the residents of Lebanon!

    tamer, WJ has control over PSP Mps not the rest!

    Posted by danny | January 12, 2011, 6:38 pm
  62. Out of curiousity, for anyone who may know, are there any independent polls done in Lebanon to show what public support of the STL looks like?

    Posted by Gabriel | January 12, 2011, 6:44 pm
  63. Hizbullah doesn’t need the government to poopoo the STL. Time and again the Party has given every indication, through deeds and words, that it “tolerates” this government for the good of the country and not because it regards it as legitimate. Moreover, I would have thought that the Party’s action / inaction since 2005 scream like a megaphone that its leader cares little, if at all, about the US or the international community’s opinion.

    Roles seem to have been completely reversed. Leaving aside the Palestinian issue, in 1975 you had a self-absorbed and arrogant Maronite community believing it could rule over the country through Washington and Paris. Since 2005, Lebanon has had a self-absorbed Sunni community, lead by a blundering, arrogant bovine who believes he can rule it through Washington and Riyadh.

    Unfortunately, he and his close religious cohorts have whipped the Sunni community into such a frenzy that conflict is not entirely unthinkable. If the Sunnis continue on this destructive path, lead by their General Custer from his armchair in Riyadh, it may find that what it gained in 1990 will be transferred to the Shia. Moreover, if Obama and Clinton have promised their leader that the US and Europe will intervene, then he would do well to consult Geagea, who, 36 years later, is still waiting for US intervention to crown him King.

    Posted by GG | January 12, 2011, 6:45 pm
  64. RedLeb

    I doubt that M8 has a plan to set up a non-unity government. They’d be biting off way more than they could chew by trying to pull off such a stunt, and it wouldn’t really gain them anything vis-a-vis the STL.

    The simplest explanation is the most logical: the Saudi-Syrian negotiations hit a wall, and one side or the other got sick of chasing their tail so they pulled the plug. That’s when the opposition walked, which is what they’ve been wanting to do for months. They would have done it a long time ago had there not been pressure from Damascus to sit tight. (I have this from a very good source.)

    The trouble is that even a majority M8 government would not solve the problem that they were hoping to avoid all along. In fact, by deep-sixing Hariri’s government, they’ve deprived themselves of the only thing that Hariri could have ever given them: a disavowal of the STL by the slain man’s son and the leader of Lebanon. He was never going to be able to stop the STL. That train left the station a long time ago. The most he could have done was to renounce the court and call it politicized and move to end Lebanon’s financing. Now he can’t even do that.

    They’ve given him the perfect opportunity to whip up the haqiqa cult again and mobilize his base against the Syrian-Iranian conspiracy.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 12, 2011, 7:16 pm
  65. BV #55
    I do admit that if the events of the past are the only indication of what the future will be then you are 100% correct. Most and arguably all prognostications eventually go wrong because they are built on the assumption of a “surprise free hypothesis”. That is not how the world works, just ask the three Nobel laureats who blew up Long Term Capital and almost blew up the whole world economy with it. The same can be said of the recent economic meltdown. In the language of Nassim Talib Black Swans eventually make an appearance and win.
    I am on weak grounds, I know that. Yet I strongly believe that rational people will not want to tempt the Gods by forming an ineffective, unworkable, hodge podge of a cabinet that resembles the tower of Babel for a third time.
    Was it the intention of HA to use the democratic principles or were they trying to embarass Hariri is not important. What is important is that they have resigned and helped put an end to a monstrosity that had no chance of ever working.
    whi is to form the new cabinet? As well as you know, I am not a fan of either group, but if I am to guess I would say that the new PM is much more likely to be from the March 14 group rather than March8.. March 8 could drag out Karami one more time or they could tempt Safadi. Both are bad choices under the current circumstances and I do not see anyone else who could step in to form a cabinet from the March 8 side.
    I will be willing to eat my Beret for the umpteenth time if Lebanon does not end up with a single colour cabinet next time around.:-)

    Gaby,
    There are no major reliable public opinion polls that are regularly conducted in Lebanon. The few that exist suffer from a methodological bias. I am not sure that there are adequate records to formulate a truly random representative list.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 12, 2011, 7:25 pm
  66. I just found this online. Not sure if someone posted this earlier. From the IPI.

    http://www.ipacademy.org/news/general-announcement/209-iran-lebanon-israelis-and-palestinians-new-ipi-opinion-polls.html#

    They claim their polls are within a 3% margin.

    Apparently, support for the STL sits at 60%.

    But they also cast doubt on whether the M14 crowd would win an election, showing their popularity drop to around 30% over the last 2 years.

    Posted by Gabriel | January 12, 2011, 7:29 pm
  67. QN
    Why did my colour change to blue from red. Is there an artificial intelligence machine behind the scenes that determines the colour os each post?:-) Nah.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 12, 2011, 7:29 pm
  68. Khaled Saghieh’s opinion piece today encapsulates the M8 position. He basically argues that al-Hariri is deluding himself into imagining that American support for Lebanon really translates into on-the-ground power.

    His final paragraph is quite clever, even if it misses the point, I think:

    ما لا نفهمه هو أن يظنّ الحريري أنّ لبنان 2011 أكثر أهمية للإدارة الأميركيّة من لبنان 2005، وأنّ القرار الظنّي أقوى من القرار 1559، وأنّ «ثورة الأرز» لا تزال تلهب قلوب الجماهير.

    Trans: “What I don’t understand is how al-Hariri thinks that Lebanon in 2011 is more important to the American administration than Lebanon in 2005, or that the STL indictments are more important than UN resolution 1559, or that the “Cedar Revolution” still inflames the hearts of the people.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 12, 2011, 7:42 pm
  69. BV,

    Short of self flagellation the only option we’re left with is to allow our imaginations to run wild. Give a a chance, please.

    Think again about it. danny made the humourous observation which many believe to be true. Assad is the perfect ally of the IDF. I am not sure if danny’s other prediction about a military confrontation with Iran will ever materialize. I am also not sure who will be attacking Iran according to this scenario. Is it IDF? US? combination of both? Plus others may be? In all cases it makes perfect sense to remove Assad by any available means before taking on Iran.

    But, I am more inclined to think that the Iranian regime will buckle and give in to what it is asked to give. Among these things will be HA’s head. That will happen whether the current Iranian regime survives or is replaced by another one.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 7:52 pm
  70. QN,

    Your link to Saghieh doesn’t work.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 7:57 pm
  71. This is a specious argument if there ever was one. Are we caertain that Saad Hariri has taken his decisions based on US instructions. I hope not. Are we sure that there is a matter of corespondence between 1559 and the STL? I would suggest that these are completely different issues and that the STL indictments are going to be forthcoming with and without a possible domestic agreement between the parrties. I would also suggest that yeas it does appear that the STL indictments are having a bigger effect on the potential behaviour of Syria and its allies in lebanon. As for the Cedar Revolution I agree that it was a creation of the media.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 12, 2011, 7:58 pm
  72. 1) Ghassan,
    I know that looking at the past is no way to predict the future 100%. But I am still quite convinced that we’re simply looking at another hodge-podge govt that will include both M8 and M14 ministers. Doesn’t matter who PM is. And more of the paralysis we’ve seen for the past 10 years will continue.

    2) anonymous,
    The Iranian regime cannot give HA’s head for the simple reason that HA IS the Iranian regime and vice versa. The 2 are manifestations of the same thing. Either they both go away. Or they both stick around. Any belief to the contrary is delusion.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 8:03 pm
  73. BV:

    A few weeks into following QN, and I am still not convinced by the general sentiment expressed by many that the STL is a fait accompli, and that it will go on regardless.

    I can’t imagine that without a backing within Lebanon itself that a trial could really take place. At that point, the STL may just as well simply release its findings.

    And even if the trial does go on without Lebanese support. All its findings would simply be dusted under the carpet anyways.

    So does it really not matter who PM is? Especially if such a PM does not have a personal stake in the matter (death of a father). Maybe a different PM would prove more malleable to Opposition pressure?

    Posted by Gabriel | January 12, 2011, 8:12 pm
  74. You’re missing my point. What you said actually confirms my point.

    When I say it doesn’t matter, I don’t mean in terms of what happens with the STL. I mean the situation on the ground.
    The short of it is, despite the topics du jour having varied a lot since 1975, the real situation on the ground has not changed one bit. The same guys still run the country. The country is still a failed state with no accountability. The ruling class bickers amongst itself, but ultimately, it just go around and around and the same people resurface again and again. There has NEVER been a clear “Winner and loser”.
    Think of it this way: Under Syrian tutelage days, you still had M14 types in the cabinet. And post-2005, you still had the likes of Frangieh and Bassil and HA in the cabinet. It never really mattered to the rest of the world or to the Lebanese populace because it was all different faces of the same crap.
    My guess is we end up with yet another cabinet that’s called something fancy like “National Salvation” or whatever that still incorporates the Bassils and Frangiehs and Hariris and Al Khalils with different portfolios, who will then insist on not governing and not getting anything accomplished. In other words, more of the same.
    While they go on bickering about the STL or the issue du jour.
    The rest of the world will move on without us. At some point there’ll be another war with Israel and we’ll be back to 2006.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 8:32 pm
  75. I think my point though is that the STL should represent something a lot bigger.

    Putting aside what one may think of Hariri, his governing, his political views. If the only thing that he accomplishes is seeing the STL through, then I think Lebanon would have made a giant leap forward. (If the STL can successfully demonstrate credible evidence).

    Posted by Gabriel | January 12, 2011, 8:36 pm
  76. First reaction from Jumblatt: a visit to Bkirky. He also seems to be privy to information that issuing indictments is in a race with time – could happen any minute. He is the ulimate survivalist.

    Saghieh’s last paragraph (most important piece of his analysis) refers to decision 1559. He thinks indictment statement may not be as powerful as 1559.

    It looks like this is exactly what Syria was hoping to accomplish through its French connection. In other words, Sarkozy was to convince Obama to overlook 1559 in return perhaps for some kind of cooperation from the Syrians with regards to STL. We may then assume that Sarkozy was unable to accomplish his mission with Obama.

    That would indicate that the US policy towards Lebanon has not changed since 2004 when 1559 came into being.

    I wonder why he (Saghieh) chose this time to publish his opinion in none but al-Akhbar. Most often his analyses appear in such media as al-Hayat, Annahar, Al-Arabiya or other similar media. One could say only al-Akhbar found merit in his piece. All of al-Akhbar spins of the last four months turned out to be dust.

    Some are floating the idea that a new government may form based on the formula of trading the army/resistance duality philosophy (or nonesense) with the STL.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 8:55 pm
  77. The only way the STL ends up mattering to LEBANON (as opposed to how it’s seen from the rest of the world) is if it actually changes the situation on the ground, ie, brings people to justice or causes a change in the system somehow.
    I don’t see either of those things happening.

    It’s a typical scenario of “Does the tree make a noise if it falls in the forest and there’s nobody there to hear it.” if you wanna think of it this way.

    If the tribunal leads to some kind of forceful action (let’s hypothesize here for a moment) where it results in military action and arrest of the culprits for example. Then ok. Fine.
    But if it’s just a piece of paper published in The Hague, that causes much talk and discussion in Lebanese salons, but sees no concrete changes on the ground, then it accomplishes nothing in Lebanon. It may accomplish things abroad (sanctions against Syria and Iran) and possibly offer some kind of legal cover for the next HA/Israel war. But in the day to day affairs of Lebanon, it will have zero impact.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 8:59 pm
  78. @anonymous:
    “Some are floating the idea that a new government may form based on the formula of trading the army/resistance duality philosophy (or nonesense) with the STL.”

    Again. Not gonna happen.
    Have you not heard what HA’s mouthpieces have said over and over and over and over and over for 5+ years now?
    NO ONE WILL TAKE THEIR WEAPONS.
    NO ONE WILL TAKE AWAY THE RESISTANCE.

    There is no quid pro quo on that one. No STL will change that.

    I do not understand why people STILL do not see this despite it coming from the horses’ mouth, so to speak, time and again.

    The ONLY WAY HA WILL GIVE UP ITS ARMS is if someone takes those arms by force.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 12, 2011, 9:02 pm
  79. It’s interesting to see where Syria stands in the midst of the latest developments. Did they partake in the decision of M8 walkout, or they simply lost any leverage over HA?

    Posted by mlk | January 12, 2011, 9:15 pm
  80. – The ONLY WAY HA WILL GIVE UP ITS ARMS is if someone takes those arms by force.

    Or closes the tap.

    If the STL demonstrates that HA killed Hariri, then I think there will be a huge shift in public opinion in the broader Arab world vis-a-vis HA.

    And those leaders (Arab) who were secretly telling the Americans one thing in private and taking a different public position will not be so coy anymore to take a more openly aggressive stand against Iran.

    HA will disarm if given instruction from Iran to do so. I don’t doubt that.

    Posted by Gabriel | January 12, 2011, 9:32 pm
  81. This is too complicated.

    Rabbi Dov Lior has a new, simple, yet potent, theory that can explain Lebanon’s always messed up news (including the Hariri assassination):

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4006385,00.html

    Posted by Alex | January 12, 2011, 9:38 pm
  82. BV,

    You are correct. I am not disputing what you’re saying. I am sure every body, including myself, is convinced that HA will not give up its arms voluntarily. Even further, the only way to accomplish that is for an external agent to do it by force.

    I did not comment on what the floating of that idea may imply. But here’s my opinion now that you questioned that:

    A new bazaar is opening with the floating of such ideas. In this case, as you may agree based on your previous comment, the conditions are impossible to meet. Hence, we are heading towards a long period of procrastination.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 9:40 pm
  83. Don’t be so sure that Jumblatt has switched sides. He is a neutral. Who knows, he is probably playing a game to get closer to M8 to figure out their moves ahead of time and share them with M14. Also, I agree that M8 wanted to pull the plug a few months ago but waited on orders from Syria. M14 were handcuffed with their agreement with M8 to form a unity government, now it’s M8 turn to be handcuffed. M8 played the move that put M14 in a better position. They no longer have to feel pressured to abandon the STL as M8 has abandoned them. The real loser is all this is Aoun. His base was already slipping, now it will slip even more. Nothing will change for FM or Hizb/Amal. They have their constituents locked down. What happens to the Christian base will determine who wins in all this bullsh*t games.

    Posted by lebhead | January 12, 2011, 9:45 pm
  84. Alex,

    I do not see that Rabbi Dov Lior opinion has any relation to the problems in Lebanon, unless of course you have some ‘genius’ analysis to enlighten us with.

    Please, oblige. Otherwise let’s not get hung up by a ‘cheap’ diversion.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 9:52 pm
  85. Anonymous

    You are mixing up Saghiyehs. Khaled Saghiyeh is the editor of al-Akhbar and his op-eds appear multiple times a week. You’re thinking of Hazem Saghiyeh.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | January 12, 2011, 10:13 pm
  86. I must have missed that, QN. Thanks.

    Posted by anonymous | January 12, 2011, 10:18 pm
  87. Ghassan, 66
    The post of the prime minster is like a hot potato right now.
    I will make a prediction, (being a prophet, excuse me,MUTANABBI,Gabriel. LOL) that No cabinet will be formed at all. Even If Hariri is named again by whatever majority left, He won’t be able to form a government that could win the vote of confidence in parliament,or govern.
    On the other hand, none of the other Sunni leaders can form a government capable of handling the issues at hand. M8 (or HA) won’t make the mistake made by Hamas, and form a government that would be isolated, and doomed fail.
    Usually a transitional government is agreed upon, and formed to lead the nation from one defined stage, to another predicted stage. Lebanon’s situation right now, is heading toward the unknown, therefore an interim cabinet won’t be in anyone’s interest.
    I’m afraid, that Lebanon might be heading toward a situation where the president might be pressured to step down, and leave the nation in the hands of a military government. The decisions being made by both M8 and M14 seem to be calculated, and part of a bigger plan. The president can no longer play the role of fire extinguisher (or Doha president).Doha agreement has collapsed, and those who came in as a result of that agreement will be useless. Unless He sides with one side against the other, He will be useless to both opposition and majority. His services are no longer needed by either side.
    A military cabinet can be useful for M8, and especially HA, to ride the STL indictment earthquake. Such government will be excused for not considering the STL’s demands and cooperation (that can serve HA). It can always claim that securing the domestic peace (serves M8 and M14) and stability is the most pressing priority. It can also serve the Syrians interest very well because everyone will look for Syria’s help in maintaining the stability. Basically, we’re back to square one.

    Posted by prophett | January 12, 2011, 11:36 pm
  88. Prophett,

    The first part of your comment seems to be within reason.

    I cannot see how the President can be forced to step down. It never happened in Lebanon. I am sure the army’s allegiance to the President is beyond question. What about Bkirky’s expected adamant opposition to such heresy?

    Could you, please explain your reasoning for such scenario?

    Lahhoud served till the last minute and his term was unconstitutional. Chamoun served till midnight of the last day of his term and half the country was up in arms against him. Military governments were never able to control Lebanon, beginning with Ahdab and ending with Aoun’s disaster.

    Assuming your dream comes to pass, how different in the eyes of the world will be such military government from the Hamas rule? Are you saying HA can cheat its way to international legitimacy through the façade of a military government that you assume will be allied with HA?

    Posted by anonymous | January 13, 2011, 12:10 am
  89. prophett,
    I understand that this crisis could lead Lebanon to implode and move into an even more critical stage than the one it finds itself in. But ,on the other hand, it takes a crisis to force people, institutions and even countries to reevaluate , rethink and grow.
    Lebano is at that fork in the road that I mentioned a few days ago and the country can choose to continue on the road to perdition or it can choose to act as a mature and responsible state. I am betting that we will eventually choose the latter.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 13, 2011, 12:51 am
  90. Joshua Landis, pro-Syrian ‘expert’ on syria, Lebanon, Iran and HA, seems to think the ‘opposition’ strategy is to achieve its goals through another round of paralysis accompanied by economic staganation. He also rules out coup scenarios,

    http://www.syriacomment.com/

    Posted by anonymous | January 13, 2011, 12:58 am
  91. anon,
    Unfortunately, the direct effect of the political standoff will be felt very negatively by the economic sector. Capital does not like uncertainty and as a result capital inflows from the Gulf Arabs and the expats will decrease. (Saudi Arabia might feel compelled to engineer a major capital inflow into Lebanon in order to demonstrate support for Hariri).
    Things could really become dicey if this political standoff becomes the trigger for a real estate bust and possibly a sovereign debt crisis.
    Hezbollah has never shown any concern about the economic well being of the state. I can even envision a scenario where Hezbollah will seek economic stagnation; just like Mr. Landis describes; on the premise that an economic crisis will hurt the support of March 14 more than its own base.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | January 13, 2011, 1:38 am
  92. Ghassan,

    Possible.

    But the previous 18-month standoff produced the opposite.

    Too many variables to consider for the next two years – assuming elections will be held on time.

    Posted by anonymous | January 13, 2011, 1:52 am
  93. After a second thought on your previous post, I wonder what your opinion would be about the effect of such economic stagnation on HA popularity itself, particularly within its core supporters. What effect would that have in light of current sanctions on Iran? Is it possible for Iranian fund transfers to HA to diminish or even dry up?

    Wouldn’t that turn such strategy into a double-edged sword?

    Posted by anonymous | January 13, 2011, 2:41 am
  94. QN
    The reason M8 sabotaged the N.U. govt was clearly mentioned in the resignation statement. i.e. couldn’t get M14th agreement to derail the STL.
    This implies that no government will be formed soon in any way because when the indictments are issued, they will be coupled with specific requests for cooperation from the Lebanese government. If there is no government, then conveniently those requests cannot be fulfilled.

    GK
    I regret to inform you that the next govt will BE in the form of “National Unity”; maybe under a different name “National Reconciliation”? ;) Lebanese love drama!

    Posted by IHTDA | January 13, 2011, 3:29 am
  95. This development was expected and overdue. 8 and 14 alike erred in choosing Sleiman as pres in Doha.
    8: Sleiman comes from a Amchit (Jbeil) prominent family and, despite his 9 year tenure as army chief during Syria’s hegemony, he would not easily disregard his maronite roots and role in preserving Lebanon (what’s left of it) as Bkerke sees it.
    14 may not accept a president from the past and tell HA “there’s a new sheriff in town”. Sleiman presidency gave HA 6 years of status quo.

    Posted by noble | January 13, 2011, 5:35 am
  96. QN,

    Hariri’s ability to disavow the STL is irrelevant if he will never actually do it. I think March 8 simply gave up on chasing this rainbow, and became convinced Hariri was bent on using the STL against them.

    March 8 is not taking steps to somehow unwind the STL. They’ve accepted that the STL as a reality, and will be used against them. The steps they are taking now are after this reality has sunk in.

    I agree that a non-unity government is very risky for March 8 and will engender very negative reactions both locally and abroad. But the alternative (an indictment that Hariri will capitalise on) is just as bad. Maybe they figure since they’ll take the hit either way, might as well make Hariri pay the price.

    If they resigned simply to end up with no government, I agree with you that it was a boneheaded move.

    They’re pushing Sulieman for speedy consultations. We’ll know quite soon if they are sticking with a non-governmental void or going for a one colour government.

    Posted by RedLeb | January 13, 2011, 6:17 am
  97. What about a scenario whereby the opposition agrees to re-enter the cabinet and reappoint Hariri as PM – in return for major M14th concessions on the tribunal?

    A simple return to the previous status quo could now be dressed up as a “concession” (or, in the language of the previous posting and discussion, some relaxing cigarettes).

    ?

    Ya Libnan is saying that “presidential sources” say the president will reappoint Hariri. Need to take this with a pinch of salt, but it makes sense; if the opposition is able to depose an elected PM so easily, there are strong incentives to keep behaving in this way…

    Posted by WeeBeastie | January 13, 2011, 6:32 am
  98. What a farce! Underneath all this childish back-and-forth is the fate-changing fact that Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in the most blatant fiat by HA/Syria/Iran “rogue” elements – ‘ehhem. This culmination of extremism and rabid opposition to anything Western coupled with blind hatred for Israel has not gone the way the plotters and perpetrators imagined. Since then the scramble has been to salvage the goals of those who believe in backwardness, at any cost, including the disastrous 2006 war, aided by a megalomaniac (Aoun) whose hunger for power supersedes any principle or reason and who, regrettably, managed to brainwash a segment of the Lebanese population into supporting him. Sooner or later, justice and civilization triumph. Witness what happened to Hitler, Mussolini. Pity the non-political ordinary people caught in the middle.

    If HA was innocent, none of this would make sense. The STL is as “politicized” as the court that tried OJ Simpson. HA is as innocent of Hariri’s murder as OJ is of Nicole’s. All HA’s behavior can be understood through this prism.

    Can someone explain why Aoun and the FPM now think that the STL is politicized and agree with HA that it should be denounced? Never mind. No need to explain away madness.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | January 13, 2011, 7:50 am
  99. Whether or not the resignation came as a response to an American effort that thwarted the negotiations between the two Ss, the current deadlock is nothing more than the product of the bitter fight between the two political forces. While some believe that the US and its allies, France and the moderate Arabs, are now on the brink of reversing the effects of the Doha agreement by forcing March 8th into resignation, others see the resignation itself a first step deliberately taken and one that will be followed by other moves leading all the way to a Doha2. Yet, as the realities on the ground now differ from those that have prevailed in the wake of Doha 1, Hezbollah would most probably not repeat his May 7 scenario of invading Beirut, but instead consider a softer approach in the form of tactical military operations.
    Yet, what if he and his March 8th allies decided a civil disobedience that starts with, let’s say, the resignation of a number of loyal public servants, whose critical positions within the bureaucracy could jeopardize the functioning of the caretaker government? Isn’t this an unforeseen,innovative and democratic plan March 8th may resort to?

    Posted by Rudy | January 13, 2011, 10:10 am
  100. Ghassan, #90 I value your optimism, YET I think Lebanese choose the first, and act irresponsible. If they capable to act responsible, we would have seen signs during the last year of Hariri cabinet. The guy was traveling most of the time visiting uncle Abdul, and Brother this, and cousin that. I’m not laying the blame on him alone, but at the end, he was supposed to be in charge. Both camps made decisions knowing that they could lead ti this day, why would I believe that they will become, suddenly, responsible?

    anon,
    I know it is a wild scenario, but give it a thought. Btw, it is not my dream, so stop thinking for me, lol
    The election of president Sleiman was a result of a worked out arrangement at Doha, with the blessing of regional and international countries. He was supposed to be the independent and unifying president who will work with a unity government. That happened with the Seniora cabinet and with the Haraia cabinet.
    The whole experience has been nothing but a failure. Seniora government was supposed to carry on through election, and pave the way for Harai. The unity government of Hariri, failed to accomplish anything. Without evaluating and assigning blame, this unity government failed, and was brought down. To me, the initial arrangement between the big regional and international powers has collapsed.
    The likelihood of new cabinet is zero. The best scenario for M8 is Military government, which will be busy maintaining domestic peace and stability, and won’t be pressured to cooperate with the STL. Hariri will be happy as long as no other Sunni leader comes forward to take the position.
    HA will not push hard for an opposition government under a M8 Sunni leader, knowing that the whole world would view it as a HA government. (This is in reference to Hamas experience in my earlier comment)
    A no -government will relieve both camps from immediate responsibility toward the STL. System collapse and power void are not obligated to be responsible to international community.
    As a result, the president is at a point where He has to choose a side. He is not the type with big balls to openly take sides. He will be pulled and attacked by both sides to the point where He may have to leave, with the blessing (or pressure) of some regional powers. This is not about the president per say, it’s about string pulling between two camps, who are supported by different countries.
    M8 will demand that the president openly opposes the STL and its indictment, while M14 will demand that He supports The STL.
    At this stage of the crises, He has little room to maneuver; Either He’ll take sides (not likely), or He resigns and appoint a military government.

    Posted by prophett | January 13, 2011, 12:52 pm
  101. Excuse my bad editing,
    This sentence(1st paragraph) was supposed to read as follow:
    YET, I think Lebanese will choose the first, and act irresponsible. If they were capable of act responsibly, we would have seen some signs during the last year of Hariri cabinet.

    Posted by prophett | January 13, 2011, 12:59 pm
  102. Prophett,

    Gotta disagree with you completely on Suleiman stepping down / military govt.
    Read my previous posts if you wanna know why I disagree.

    Ghassan,

    Road to perdition would be my guess.

    I tend to agree with the Landis analysis on this one. Paralysis ala 2006-2008 is probably the next step in store. There really is no real pressing reason for Lebanon to have a government, if you think about it. The country functions (or what passes as functioning) on a day to day basis, just like it did in 2006-2008. Paralyzing state institutions has always worked just fine for M8. And with no govt in place, all sorts of little tricks can be played ala “This govt isn’t legal so we don’t recognize this or that”.

    Win-win for M8. And M14 can’t do much about it (just like in 2006-2008).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | January 13, 2011, 1:43 pm
  103. Well it would be interesting to analyze what HA and Hariri want in order to predict what will happen next.

    Hariri wants the STL to procede all the way until at least the verdict stage, and wants nothing internally in Lebanon to stifle that, and in addition he want NO civil strife. However, he and HA know that any actions in Lebanon will have a very minimal effect on stifling the actual work of the STL.

    As for HA, they want, in order of importance, Hariri to disavow the STL and they want the government to take any and all actions that will not only cast doubt on the STL’s findings but also any action that will stifle and paralyze the STL.

    So, Harir will not disavow the STL, and he will be happy to sit on the sidelines and not be the next PM. However, he will want M14 to participate in the government and act as a counter force to any efforts by HA that will stifle the STL. I think the only concession HA gave Hariri in the S-S deal was to keep him a s PM. He, rightfully so, gave them the proverbial middle finger and told them No Deal. So in that light, he expects, and cares less, for not being the next PM.

    HA probably wants to be in the government to do whatever little it can do now to stifle the STL and, more importantly, gain some legitimacy as part of the Lebanese governments when the indictments are handed down.

    So the only way out is a government headed by Mikati with the approval of Hariri and with equal representation by M8 and M14. Jumblatt will make sure that this is what happens as a hedge and a compromise amongst M8 and M14.

    QN, could you give us a tally as to how many members of parliament each party has. I don’t think that M8 has the majority now, assuming Jumblatt is with M8 because Jumblatt has power only on 3 or 4 of the parliamentarians in his 10 member bloc.

    Posted by MM | January 13, 2011, 2:24 pm
  104. The solution I think is quite simple.

    Lebanon should be split into Haqiqastan and Muqawamastan.

    Then and only then will we see which stan Aoun and Jumblatt (and any others) really want to belong in.

    Posted by Gabriel | January 13, 2011, 2:27 pm
  105. Gaby, brilliant!
    Brilliantissimo!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | January 13, 2011, 3:19 pm
  106. Isn’ t the void also convenient for March 14th considering that as long as the STL does not need the blessing of pro-STL government, it will just go on and issue an indictment against Hezbollah operatives, without even asking any of the fellows here or abroad, to recognize such a move.
    The question is what Hezbollah will do to force Hariri into political surrender which is equivalent to his denunciation of the STL in the first phase and the formation of a government presided by himself on the second but doing just everything to neutralize the work of the STL. If the coercion of Hariri did not succeed and in case no Sunni in the country seems to be willing to head an anti-STL gov, then Hariri would have a leverage that he would use cautiously, knowing that any crossing of the red lines will cost him just as much as May 7th did.
    In light of this, the Qatari and Turkish diplomacy might work to help both sides accept a neutral pro-Suleiman government assigned to solve the crisis on the basis of yet another “no victor, no vanquished”. Hariri might be willing to stop supporting the tribunal after the indictment phase, though not denouncing it as a whole. But, it is hard to imagine a scenario in which Hariri find it honorable to do this without Hezbollah accepting the indictment of some of his members in the first step.

    Posted by Rudy | January 13, 2011, 3:24 pm
  107. Prophett,

    I must disagree with your analysis.

    First, failure for Lebanese politicians is not a stigma. It is a ‘virtue’ and we’ve spent a whole thread discussing that.

    Second, HA is already pushing for another government and they have three candidates for that post.

    Third, Hariri will not give in so easily to any other government not under his control directly or indirectly. M14 is already naming him as their candidate.

    Fourth, No regional power can force Suleiman to step down. Syria occupied Lebanon for 30 years and knew very well this is a line it cannot cross. Gemayel finished his term under Syrian occupation and was at odds with them. It can order HA to do it, but I assure you the Lebanese army will fight HA in this case before it may split. The core army however, will continue fight till the end. Powers-to-be, in my opinion, will react decisevely to any attempts by Syria and its allies if the status quo is threatened.

    Fifth, Syria is in no position to challenge the international powers more than it can do through its well known behaviour of obstructionism. It will risk loosing any gains it made over the last two years.

    Fifth, Mikati already made it clear Hariri is the next candidate and that he is not interested. The attempt of HA to penetrate to the Sunni community will never work as long as the STL issue is not settled and HA submits to its legitimacy and it (HA)changes its whole narrative particularly the one relating to issuing threats and ultimatums.

    We may see another Doha but with grandeur this time – US, France, Turkey, SA, Qatar all convening in Paris.

    Posted by anonymous | January 13, 2011, 3:25 pm
  108. BV, anon,
    I know I don’t stand on very solid ground with my assessment, but I truly think that Lebanon is at a crossroad, where drastic developments will take place, and unexpected decisions will be made.
    From the position of HA and M8, the STL is too serious to deal with, as any other domestic issue. The same could be said about M14 and the United States, where they think they have HA where they want them to be.
    I can’t imagine both sides dealing with these issues (politically death of life issues to them) the usual Lebanese way.
    M8 didn’t bring down the government (well thought of , planned ,and not a reactionary decision) to allow Haria to come back as a PM, nor did it bring it down to form its own government .
    Hariri didn’t hold out his positions on the STL, and the SS, to allow M8 to have their own government, or to give in to M8 demands after all. Had he wanted to, He had many opportunities to do so, but He (or was forced) elected not to.
    HA’s public desire to name another candidate and form another government is part of the “constitutional’ game. What else could they say? No government? No way. So don’t take that too seriously , they know that either a strong Sunni to the office of PM ,or NO ONE ( just like they said either Berri as a speaker or no none)
    Suleiman is not Lahoud or Gemayel; He can be persuaded to step down, so he would not have to take sides.
    Suliman was just an added value to the Doha deal. Doha deal has fallen, so will everything that came with it.
    Harai, and his allies may decide negotiations after the indictment is out. It is very typical American procedure; indict first, and then you can make a deal. Never make a deal before indictment.
    By then, the damage is done for HA, they would have no incentive to negotiate.
    I insist that a situation where political void existed, would serve HA much better than a situation where a government is in place. Political Void can’t be responsible to the UN or the STL, but Governments can be. A military government is not as obligated as constitutional government to abide by the STL.
    Again, we’d have to wait and see; the president already scheduled his consultations next wee, Nassralla is supposed to speak in the coming days, according to few news sights. Between the consultation, and his speech, many questions and scenarios will be answered.
    A second Doha is possible ,but only if things take a drastic turn, where Lebanon has a political void, meaning no government or president. Remember, both Taief and Doha took place when Lebanon had (both situations) political void, along security or/and military instability. Unfortunately, the scenario I presented, will lead (when the shit hits the fan) to another Doha or some other city.

    Posted by prophett | January 13, 2011, 3:55 pm

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