The Hezbollah-backed Najib Mikati, a billionaire and former prime minister, was tapped by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman to form a new government on Tuesday. Hezbollah and its allies had caused the collapse of the previous government, led by the Western-backed Saad Hariri, earlier this month. Sunnis in Lebanon have taken to the streets in protest.
Mr. Hariri has made it clear that he will not join any government led by Hezbollah. Lebanon now faces the prospect of a government consisting solely of Hezbollah and its allies.
If it wasn’t clear before, it should be pretty clear by now: Lebanon has been swallowed whole by Iran’s revolutionary axis.
Following the Cedar Revolution of 2005 and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country, Lebanon had experienced a degree of autonomy unseen since the Syrian occupation of Lebanon began in 1976.
Slowly but surely, however, the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis has been gaining ground. Hezbollah and Israel went to war in the summer of 2006, which gave off the image that Hezbollah had assumed the responsibility of defending Lebanon. Two years later, Hezbollah temporarily seized neighbourhoods in West Beirut by force at the height of Lebanon’s greatest political crisis since the Ta’if Agreement of 1989. The Doha Agreement, formulated in the aftermath of the 2008 conflict, gave Hezbollah and its allies a blocking third of the votes in Lebanon’s cabinet.
In 2009, Saad Hariri’s coalition won the parliamentary elections. However, this perceived victory for Western allies eventually turned sour as Mr. Hariri progressively drew closer and closer to Syria while under intense pressure. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Lebanon last year further solidified the view that Lebanon was on the verge of being absorbed by the Islamic Republic.
Now, with the alleged use of coercive tactics to win the support of Progressive Socialist Party Chairman Walid Jumblatt, Hezbollah has seized power in Lebanon in what many are calling a bloodless coup. The self-proclaimed “Party of God” already represents the greatest military force within Lebanon’s borders, casting doubts on the reality of Lebanese sovereignty.
Iran has created a model for its proxies based on a combination of political militancy and paramilitary strategy. Through this model, Hezbollah has risen to power in Lebanon, Hamas has taken over the Gaza Strip by force and has split the Palestinian national movement, and Iraq’s political stability has been placed in the hands of the theocratic regime in Tehran.
Much seems to be taking place in the Middle East at the moment. Revolutionary Islamists have taken over in Lebanon. A popular revolt has ousted the Tunisian dictator. Massive demonstrations have been taking place in Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Algeria and Oman. Are sands shifting in the region? Are the paradigms that shape the Arab world about to change radically? Not likely.
Due to Hezbollah’s military strength and its blocking power in cabinet, many argue that Hezbollah has already controlled much of Lebanon’s political process for quite some time. In Tunisia the dictator is gone but the regime still stands. The other protests taking place around the Arab world are unlikely to bring substantial change by themselves.
The Arab dichotomy has not changed. Among those who have considerable influence, there are Arab nationalists and there are Islamists. And then, of course, there’s a wild-card: Iran’s revolutionary axis, which threatens to engulf the entire region.
Keep your eyes peeled. The show is just beginning.