Surprise: Deal struck to end Lebanon standoff?

posted at 11:54 pm on December 10, 2006 by Allahpundit

Exceedingly strange. Hezbollah dropped another massive protest on Beirut today replete with veiled threats of violence and a call from its Christian Syrian-tool ally, Michel Aoun, for the formation of an alternate government. An impressive display of power.

By the end of the day, they were ready to accept a deal brokered by the Arab League that would keep the current government in power. Huh?

You’ll have to wait until morning for an informed analysis from the Lebanese bloggers, but here’s my half-assed take in the meantime. Egypt’s foreign minister said this afternoon that an international tribunal would be convened to investigate Rafik Hariri’s murder regardless of what happens in Lebanon. Syria is mortified at the thought of its role in the Hariri assassination playing out in public; they’ve been bumping off Lebanese cabinet ministers, the theory goes, in hopes of preventing a quorum so that the government can’t legally approve the tribunal. Didn’t work, though — the government approved the tribunal last weekend, although the country’s Syrian-puppet president refused to sign off on it. That leaves us at an impasse. It may be that the Sunni powers in the region, i.e., Egypt, Jordan, and the Saudis, are now sufficiently worried about the Shiites grabbing Lebanon that they’ve decided to play hardball and break the impasse by working to have the tribunal convened through other avenues. If so, it would render the protests largely (but not totally) pointless. In which case, if you’re Assad or Nasrallah, why not make a deal and take what you can get? Meanwhile, the pro-government side held a massive protest of its own today in the Lebanese city of Tripoli. Clearly things were starting to escalate and they weren’t going to stay peaceful forever. Maybe Nasrallah, for whatever reason, wasn’t ready for outright civil war.

So what kind of deal did Nasrallah get? A pretty good one all things considered, sounds like to me:

Under the proposal, the number of Lebanese cabinet ministers would increase to 30. Of these, 19 would represent the parliamentary majority and 10 would come from opposition parties. The remaining minister would be proposed by the opposition and be subject to majority approval. In addition, the new cabinet would approve the creation of an international court to deal with the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

The Lebanese cabinet is comprised of 24 ministers. Two-thirds are needed to approve international treaties. There were, as of a few weeks ago, six Shiite (i.e., pro-Syrian) ministers, but all of them resigned to protest the government’s intention to ratify the Hariri tribunal. Under this new deal, Hezbollah’s representation would actually increase from 25% to more than a third depending upon how that one compromise minister votes — which would be enough to block the majority from ratifying UN resolutions aimed at disarming Hezbollah or limiting its power. In return, they agree to ratify the Hariri tribunal. But since the Egyptians were planning to see to that anyway, Hezbollah and Assad lose nothing by lending their approval to it now. Besides, any international legitimacy that Assad might lose from the tribunal will be more than offset by having the world’s superpower come to the table, hat in hand, to ask for its help in getting out of Iraq. Who knows? If he makes things hot enough for us in Baghdad, he might just earn himself an invitation to the White House. Bakermania, baby.

I leave you with this photo, which neatly captures the frenzied anti-American tenor of the protest today in Beirut. The crowd sang all the old favorites — “death to America, death to Israel” — and the filthy, complicit western media, as is its wont, has helpfully joined in by insistently referring to the Lebanese government as “U.S.-backed” instead of what it really is, which is democratically elected. You’re looking at the poster on the right side of the frame; the man with his back to us is Siniora, of course. The Arabic writing translated: “Thanks for your patience Condy, some of our children are still alive.”


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Hezbullah, so close to ‘gaining total power’ and their syrian and iranian backers, will NOT tolerate this and they’ll still pick a fight

Defector01 on December 11, 2006 at 12:04 AM

Snore. Wait till Hezbullah finishes rearming.

This will all be moot.

Good Lt on December 11, 2006 at 12:09 AM

Deal struck to end Lebanon standoff?

Well let me check the Weather Channel to see if hell has, indeed, frozen over.

Besides, any international legitimacy that Assad might lose from the tribunal will be more than offset by having the world’s superpower come to the table, hat in hand, to ask for its help in getting out of Iraq. Who knows? If he makes things hot enough for us in Baghdad, he might just earn himself an invitation to the White House. Bakermania, baby.

Ugh! God forbid but you’re probably right. I’m still holding out hope that Bush will not choose to bring legitimacy to these factions by holding direct talks – Baker be damned. I actually heard that gas-bag (Baker) on Fox News Sunday talking up the ISG plan as if it were the only game in town.

thedecider on December 11, 2006 at 12:11 AM

The 30th parlimentarians confirmation should or at least could be entertaining. I’m doubting they’ll televise it like we do…

I’m thinking Nasrallah knows he does not have the man power to actually win a civil war, at least not without Syria and Iran’s help, which would expose Iran to Saudi oil tactics. Their [Iran, Syria, Hezballah] hand was overplayed. The disruption in Iraq, arming Hezballah, giving out hundreds for rebuilding bribing the Lebanese for support with which they plan to undermine the democratically elected government, etc. That all costs money. The Saudi’s dumping oil on the market would cripple Iran overnight, and consequently leave Syria and Iran out of the crib and in the street. Fresh meat for hungry Sunnis. That is something none of them is willing to risk.

A Cold War in the Middle East? Well the Middle East version anyway.

Theworldisnotenough on December 11, 2006 at 12:32 AM

So when will Nasrallah burn down the Reichstag?

pedestrian on December 11, 2006 at 1:50 AM

Is it terribly murderously cynical to say this thing ain’t gonna end in a deal but a bloodbath? Nasrallah cannot think outside the kill Israel box on anything whatsoever. He says “kill Israel” like Forbes said “flat tax” to every question that is posed.

laelaps on December 11, 2006 at 3:06 AM

Iran is having some problems of their own. I like that the Middle East is having to go through this, as it keeps their attentions focused on internals. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. That being said, Hezbollah will learn the Hamas lesson, one must govern when elected, not spout empty rhetoric that results in a sub-par existence for the people.
I think the Middle East was getting too cozy before 9/11, and now the fat, oil ticks will have to scramble to keep the people from blowing up. Keep them occupied fighting each other and away from America.

The enemedia (hat tip Lucianne) is still vile.

Stormy70 on December 11, 2006 at 7:05 AM

Rambling, because I am on my third sip of the first cup of coffee.

Stormy70 on December 11, 2006 at 7:06 AM

Why don’t we just fast-forward to the part where the muslims complete their takeover of Lebanon and they rename it Hezbollastan with Nasrallah as it’s dictator? Because that is the only inevitable outcome. All Lebanese Christians oughta just move to the U.S. and get jobs at the NSA, FBI and CIA translating arabic for us.

Suggested reading for HotAir Posters and Lurkers:

“Because They Hate” by Brigette Gabriel

Tony737 on December 11, 2006 at 7:07 AM