Friday, January 28, 2011

Hezbollah Chooses Lebanon’s Prime Minister

« Lebanon’s prime minister designate, Najib Mikati, is interviewed at his residence in Beirut, January 25.
(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran shows its power in Lebanon.
Hezbollah-backed leader Najib Mikati was designated the new prime minister of Lebanon on January 25. On the same day, Sunnis protested during a “day of rage” against what they called Hezbollah’s “soft coup.”
Hezbollah’s success confirms that the group is “the country’s most powerful military and political force,” writes Farnaz Fassihi in the Wall Street Journal.
Hezbollah brought down the government of Saad Hariri a fortnight ago when its ministers and allies withdrew from the cabinet. Now it has persuaded the majority of Lebanon’s parliament to support Mikati for prime minister.
Under Lebanon’s constitution, the prime minister must be Sunni. Hezbollah withdrew the candidacy of its first choice for prime minister, Sunni Omar Karami, who has well-known ties with Syria, instead backing a Sunni with more wide appeal, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon.
Hezbollah’s takeover is an effort to limit the damage done to the organization by the United Nations-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The tribunal is investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Its verdict is expected to implicate Hezbollah and Syria in the murder.
Hezbollah has been demanding that Lebanon cut ties with the tribunal. Mikati has not commented on the tribunal as yet, but it is very unlikely that Hezbollah would back someone who hadn’t agreed to its demands.
But, “[t]he real story behind the coup now under way is that of Iran,” writes Israeli analyst Jonathan Spyer in the Jerusalem Post. “Hezbollah’s rise to power is the latest victory for the Iranian model of combined political militancy and paramilitary strategy that has also enabled Tehran to split the Palestinian national movement and become the kingmaker in Iraq.”
“Israel now faces the prospect of two Iran-backed, Islamist entities to its north and south,” Spyer writes.
The new Lebanese government is a testament to Iran’s growing influence throughout the Middle East.