The MasterBlog: Dispatch: Regional Factors in the Collapse of Lebanon's Government | STRATFOR
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Dispatch: Regional Factors in the Collapse of Lebanon's Government | STRATFOR

STRATFOR Dispatch: Regional Factors in the Collapse of Lebanon's Government
"...Lebanon ultimately is a chessboard for regional and international players to use in terms of pursuing their political objectives."

Analyst Kamran Bokhari discusses the dissolution of Lebanon’s government and how the country is used as a proxy for regional power struggles.

Dispatch: Regional Factors in the Collapse of Lebanon's Government | STRATFOR

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. 

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman appointed Saad al-Hariri, who was ousted as prime minister in a Hezbollah-engineered government collapse yesterday, as caretaker prime minister. The struggle within Lebanon continues, but there is a far greater struggle that is going on at the regional level involving the United States, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia that is manifesting itself in the government crisis in Beirut.

Hezbollah had the required number of Cabinet ministers who were willing to resign in order to be able to pull off the government collapse, and therefore what we have right now is a situation where both sides are trying to renegotiate the formation of a new Cabinet. Behind all of this is the move by the March 14 coalition of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, which is trying to work with the international community in terms of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is geared toward indicting some members of Hezbollah for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premiere Rafik al-Hariri, the father of the current prime minister.

The situation within Lebanon between the two rival camps — the March 8 coalition of Hezbollah and the March 14 coalition of caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri — are not just battling it out in terms of a domestic feud. This is by no means a domestic feud because each side is backed by certain powers. Hezbollah is clearly backed by Iran and has the support of Syria; the March 14 coalition of Prime Minister Hariri has the support of Saudi Arabia and, more importantly, the United States and France.

So what we have is the Lebanese political actors lacking any sovereignty — in other words, whatever their dispute is, it has to be resolved by a negotiation settled by the regional and international players. In the case of Iran, it is backing the most powerful element in the country, i.e. Hezbollah, which not only is a political movement and has a wide social presence, it also possesses a military wing — which, by the way is far more powerful than the Lebanese armed forces. That gives Iran a very powerful tool in terms of being able to project power. The Iranians can use Hezbollah against Israel, as we saw in the 2006 war, which undermines U.S. interests in the region. Therefore, Iran has a tool with which to play with and to be able to shape American behavior and extract concessions.

Ultimately, there is no permanent fix to the Lebanese crisis. It’s a cyclical issue which will crop up every now and then because Lebanon ultimately is a chessboard for regional and international players to use in terms of pursuing their political objectives.

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