Liebe Leserinnen und Leser,
es folgt ein Gastbeitrag der libanesischen Journalistin Sarah El-Richani zu gegenwärtigen politischen Entwicklungen im Zedernstaat. Zurzeit promoviert sie in Erfurt über das libanesische Mediensystem. Auf Bitten vieler Alsharq-Freunde, die nicht deutsch sprechen, veröffentlichen wir den Artikel in seinem englischen Original.
As the truce brokered by Lebanese brawling camps for the Al-Adha feast holidays and Independence Day came to an end early last week, the weary and the wary in Lebanon are holding their breath.
All eyes are turned towards Damascus, Riyadh, Doha, Istanbul and Tehran, hoping for yet another settlement that would resolve the country’s latest dilemma; the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).
The main question on everybody’s mind is whether the intensive diplomatic efforts particularly on the Syrian-Saudi front will bear fruit.
The Saudi Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Abdallah who was expected in Damascus last week, has since accompanied his ill father to the US, where he is also to hold meetings with officials there. In the meantime, Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan paid a two-day official visit to Lebanon last week, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri a three-day visit to Tehran, which he will leave today for Paris. The Qatari Prime Minister also paid a surprise visit to Lebanon last Monday, hours before the Lebanese president headed to Qatar on a visit.
Meanwhile, the EU has reiterated its support to the STL last week and a visit by the new French FM Michèle Alliot-Marie to Lebanon is also expected in the coming weeks. This is in addition to the series of calls and surprise brief visits that may ensue in a race against time or rather the imminent STL indictment.
Indeed, it seems the STL prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, encouraged by a heightened US interest, is set to issue his indictment before the end of the year. As has been reported and affirmed by Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah himself, the indictment will most likely point to some Hezbollah members’ involvement in the February 14 assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri.
Meanwhile though, on the streets in Lebanon and particularly the mixed Sunni-Shiite areas in Beirut, and the Sunni-Alawite areas in Tripoli amongst others, the Lebanese wait in anticipation, angst and some regret of the dreaded-indictment.
Many dramatic scenarios are circulating, however the intensified diplomatic efforts on all fronts seem to point to yet another compromise that this time will most likely precede civil scuffles. Again there is much speculation about the contents of this new settlement being put forth by the justifiably impatient. Will it entail Hariri’s continued and facilitated rule and by extension Saudi influence in exchange for denouncing the tribunal? Or is simply a mutual abandonment of the tribunal and the false witnesses’ dossier, which the opposition has been eager to transfer to the justice council? And will Saad Al-Hariri bite the bullet, and personally announce he no longer wants the tribunal set-up to try his father’s assassins before the indictment is issued? More importantly is it still possible to halt the process in the Hague?
While Hariri’s personal and national desire for justice and his hope that punishment may put an end to the targeting of political life in Lebanon, it remains doubtful the tribunal will be able to deliver justice rather than partial justice as many pragmatists expect. And therefore, he must be thinking, is partial justice worth another bout of violence? All these questions remain unanswered as PM Hariri waits for some inspiration from across the borders before he cuts the Gordian knot or have it cut for him.
Hezbollah Secreterary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, on the other hand, has been more forthright announcing in his November 11 speech that his party will "cut off the hand" of anyone who tries to arrest any of its members.
He announced that any cooperation with the tribunal will be regarded as an attack on the party and has previously censured the UN-backed investigation for overlooking the possibility of Israeli involvement, despite the presence and capture of dozens of spies working for Israel in Lebanon and some non-incriminating evidence he put forth to the public in August. Last week the Lebanese communications minister, a political ally of the party, held a press conference revealing how Israel has infiltrated thus leading Nasrallah to announce yesterday that an indictment based on “phone evidence”, as the infamous Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) special report explains, is baseless.
Doubts have also been cast on the investigation process for publicly suspecting Syria in the outset and for imprisoning four top Lebanese generals for four years, only to release them in 2009 for lack of sufficient evidence.
In addition to the shift in accusations from Syria to Hezbollah, the ulterior motives of the United States in particular and its suspicious zeal for justice in Lebanon despite dozens of assassinations in the past and its almost complete disregard of civilian loss and injustice at the hands of Israel in both Lebanon and Palestine is also worth some attention.
After all, it is no secret that Israel and by extension the United States would very much benefit from having Hezbollah, a Shi’ite group with close ties to Iran, implicated in the murder of the Sunni PM. This will undoubtedly undermine Hezbollah in Lebanon and regionally after it had come to be regarded as the most successful resistance movement to have faced Israeli occupation, liberated most of the Lebanese south and more recently prevented an Israeli victory in the July war in 2006.
While the party has erred in recent years particularly when its fighters took to the streets of Beirut and the coastal Druze village of Choueifat in May 2008 thereby losing much reverence amongst some of the Sunnis and Druzes, it remains a key player in Lebanon with a large democratically elected bloc in parliament, ministers in the government cabinet and relatively good relations with European nations and most Lebanese factions.
And indeed many Lebanese, perhaps some for pragmatic reasons, have come to adopt the concerns and doubts raised by the “opposition”, which includes the Free Patriotic Movement, the largest Christian bloc in parliament.
The coming days will reveal if the few remaining March 14 politicians and their external backers will deem the possibility of partial justice worth the gamble or whether PM Hariri will be asked to add Damascus or even the Hezbollah-controlled Southern Suburb to his busy travel itinerary. What is certain for now is that Lebanon’s unseasonably hot weather is set to continue for at least the coming weeks.