In the week after Hezbollah protested an ongoing United Nations investigation by withdrawing from the Lebanese government, causing it to collapse, the situation there has only worsened. The UN investigation into Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination issued sealed indictments on Monday that are expected to name members of Hezbollah as well as the Iranian government. It's not clear whether Lebanon's broken governing coalition, which is led by Hariri's son, can come back together, or whether violence could return to the country. Here's the latest from Lebanon and what it could mean.
- Hezbollah Arrests Unlikely Reuters's Aaron Gray-Block writes, "It has been widely speculated that the tribunal will indict Hezbollah members over the assassination, a prospect Lebanese politicians have feared could spark a crisis. Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any involvement in the killing." However, Hezobollah "has warned it will 'cut the hand' of anyone who moves against its members. This means that arrests of Hezbollah members, if they are indicted, are very unlikely."
- Last Time This Happened, It Led to War "When Hezbollah walked out of the government of Fouad Siniora in 2006, it marked the start of an 18-month political paralysis," Bloomberg Massoud Derhally writes. "That culminated in street fighting in May 2008, when at least 80 people were killed after Hezbollah and its allies seized control of west Beirut. The clashes were the worst since the end of a 15-year civil war in 1990."
- Frustrated, Saudi Arabia Withdraws from Mediation Al Jazeera reports that "Saudi Arabia has abandoned efforts to mediate in Lebanon's political crisis after Hezbollah quit the government last week. Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, told the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV in an interview on Wednesday that the Saudi king is 'withdrawing his hand' from Lebanon."
- As U.S. Fails, Turkey Steps In "American diplomacy has become the butt of jokes here," The New York Times' Anthony Shadid observes. "Once a decisive player here, Saudi Arabia has all but given up. In their stead is Turkey, which has sought to mediate a crisis that, given events on Tuesday in Beirut’s streets, threatens to turn violent before it is resolved." Turkey "has filled a vacuum left by what some officials describe as an incoherent Saudi policy and an unfocused American approach." However, "Turkey’s entry into the fray follows a pattern of initiatives in the region that do not always line up with American wishes."
- When Insurgencies Play Wargames "Hezbollah militants spread across the Lebanese capital of Beirut on Tuesday in a reportedly simulated coup of the capital," Haaretz reports. "Hezbollah supporters wearing black and clutching hand-held radios quietly gathered around Beirut, according to reports, an innocuous yet threatening display by the country's most powerful armed force."