Lebanon Political Crisis and U.S. Role in Special Tribunal Trial

January 23, 2011

By Padmini Arhant

The Mediterranean country in the Middle East is situated between Syria up north all the way to the east and Israel down south.

A French Colony post World War 1, Lebanon gained independence in 1943.

The secular society enriched in cultural diversity experienced tremendous economic boom from agriculture, service sector viz. banking and the hospitality industry – tourism.

During that period it was regarded as the Switzerland of the East and the capital city Beirut – Paris of the Middle East.

Lebanon is also known for political upheavals predominantly attributed to foreign power intervention, invasion and occupation following independence up until now.

The prominent crises are – the prolonged civil war (1975-1990), Hezbollah and Israel confrontation referred to as July war or Second Lebanon war (12 July 2006 – 14 August 2006) with Israeli blockade of Lebanon ending in September 2006.

Subsequently the internal conflicts involved the Lebanese security force against the alleged Al-Qaeda motivated militants in northern Lebanon in 2007.

A year later in 2008 the political standoff between Hezbollah and the ruling government over institutional access produced casualties and resolved by Arab league mediation in Qatar.

Lebanon ‘Confessionalist’ parliamentary system has maintained power sharing among different religious and political factions since origin.

The tradition continued lately through national unity government represented by current caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Baha El Deen Al-Hariri assassinated in bomb explosion that killed 22 others on February 14, 2005.

Consequently, Special Tribunal for Lebanon was set up at the International Criminal Court, The Hague to investigate the political assassination.

Contrary to certain assertions the STL was initiated by the former French President Jacque Chirac – a close friend of deceased Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The United Nations probes reportedly implicated Lebanese suspects presumed pro-Syrian and held them in detention without charge. They were released after four years due to lack of evidence for indictment.

Meanwhile stability in Lebanon resumed with the Doha agreement in 2008 and the nation was in the healing process from the political turmoil until the news reports in Jan 2011 confirmed the United States prompted impending STL indictments against Hezbollah that led to the opposition resignation and collapse of the national unity government.

The interim government by Prime Minister Saad Hariri is backed by the United States, France and Saudi Arabia while the opposition Hezbollah and coalition are favored by Iran and Syria.

Upon the Lebanese Prime Minister’s visit to Washington on Jan 12, 2011 – The White House Blog reaffirmed the United States position on STL action.

Source: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/01/12/president-meets-prime-minister-hariri-stability-and-justice-lebanon – Thank You.

“The President and Prime Minister reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, implementing all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and continuing a wide-ranging and long-term partnership between the United States and Lebanon.

During their meeting, the President stressed the importance of the work of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a means to help end the era of political assassinations with impunity in Lebanon.

The President and Prime Minister specifically discussed united efforts with France, Saudi Arabia, and other key international and regional actors to maintain calm in Lebanon and ensure that the work of the Tribunal continues unimpeded by third parties.”


By Padmini Arhant

Political repercussions on STL preparation with the United States advising Prime Minister Saad Hariri to cooperate in the trial are a major national and regional concern.

Evidently the looming political unrest with potential (1975-1990) civil war is attributed to the 11 cabinet ministers’ departure in reaction to the U.S. backed Prime Minister’s compliance to foreign authorities request.

The grave situation is the result of the needless foreign involvement in Lebanon’s internal affair hindering the war torn nation’s opportunity to protect and provide for the citizens.

United States and U.N. Security Council claim on STL inquiry for ethical reasons would be credible,

If similar measures were adopted by accepting the Goldstone report on Gaza war citing Israel and Hamas aggression towards Palestinian and Israeli innocent civilians.

Prosecuting the illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation, Iraq under false premise at phenomenal human lives and economic cost.

Failure in adherence to universal fairness on international matter would reveal real motives behind selective targets jeopardizing trust and confidence in dispute settlement.

The former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri during the interview prior to his assassination clarified many issues that should serve as testimony against the allegations in the STL controversy.

It is increasingly clear that the U.S. persistent diplomatic pressure on Lebanon to move forward with the STL charges despite the status quo and the inevitable civil war could further destabilize the nation in the volatile region.

If the developments are not politically motivated then investigating all parties without exception based on respective perception of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri as an ally or adversary at that time would eliminate bias and deliver proper justice.

Since the quagmire emanated from the stated quest to apprehend those responsible for the former Prime Minister’s assassination and implied intention to prevent any harm to political leaders’ in Lebanon,

The perspective among the opposition crucial to form a viable government is – the foreign powers’ pre-emptive steps isolating specific group viz. Hezbollah for indictment.

Simultaneously granting impunity to external influences such as the Syrian government, Israel and the United States considering the then fragile strategic relationship by all with the slain Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri cannot be ignored.

Truth finding in this regard would be legitimate in the absence of Machiavellian pursuit – ‘the end justifies the means.’

On reflection the ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, a patriot and an extraordinary statesman committed to Lebanon would have prioritized national interest over internal or alien supremacy through due diligence paramount to retain solidarity – the only effective political tool to resolve Lebanon’s burgeoning crisis.

Moreover harmony among the political representatives would be formidable for national security given Lebanon’s vulnerability and past incursions decimating the country’s infrastructure not barring economic devastation.

Even in the worst global economic recession, Lebanon GDP growth in 2007–2010 at 9% is extremely impressive and widely acclaimed for tightly regulated financial sector being one of the revenue sources in the economy.

The young leader and the incumbent Prime Minister Saad Hariri could perhaps emulate his father, the honorable Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri solemn oath to safeguard national unity and disavow allegiance to elements threatening domestic peace and stability. It was exemplified at the height of intense international political maneuvering and realized detrimental to Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Similarly, the present head of the state has a daunting task nonetheless not impossible to seek fair and transparent judicial proceedings against all parties i.e. local and overseas operatives rather than submitting to intrusive power politics.

The international court of justice real purpose would come to light when all nations regardless of stature are treated equal in the crimes against humanity.

Otherwise the institution functionality is compromised through political clout – best confined to governance instead of unconstitutional interference elaborated in the separation of power.

Hezbollah and other opposition members could effectively end the stalemate by honoring the proposals from them.

Palestinian refugee camps disarmament.

Troop withdrawal from Southern Lebanon but coordination with central armed forces in national defense.

Enabling Beirut weapon free for public safety and conforming to democratic environment.

Respecting constitutional laws on veto of government decisions.

Lebanon cannot afford another violent mutiny and all parties are urged to restrain from contributing to history repeat itself for political ideology.

Recognizing the pivotal role of each political faction in national liberation is important and acknowledgment of the predecessor Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri exemplary service to Lebanon dependent on reconciliation between members of national unity government.

Hence it is earnestly hoped that rationality will prevail against induced political discord for national progress and prosperity.

Best Wishes to a strong unified Lebanon with eternal peace across the nation.

Thank you.

Padmini Arhant

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