MESS Report / Political tensions growing in Lebanon over Hariri tribunal
If Hezbollah is found to be responsible for 2005 assassination of former Lebanon PM Rafik Hariri, Lebanon will face a grave political crisis.
Lebanon has been heating up recently – and the reasons are internal, despite the usual fingerpointing at Israel.
In a particularly vitriolic speech last Friday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah attacked the international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Nasrallah also rather clumsily connected the findings of the tribunal (which have yet to be published) with the recent espionage affairs that have been the talk of Lebanon, including the arrests of employees of the Alfa telecommunications company on charges of spying for Israel.
Nasrallah said that the Hariri tribunal prosecutor Daniel Bellemare would reach "artificial and fabricated" conclusions.
The question is what is irking Nasrallah and is there in fact a connection between the two developments?
The prosecutor's findings, which are expected to include the names of those involved in the killing of Hariri (whose son Saad Hariri is the current Lebanese prime minister), will apparently be released in September or by the end of the year at the latest.
In May 2009, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported that the tribunal had evidence linking Hezbollah to the killing, contrary to previous accusations that Syria was responsible for the assassination.
Last March, four senior Hezbollah officials were investigated by the tribunal.
Nasrallah has good reason to sweat over the prosecutor's apparent findings. They could mark the end of the coalition between Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri's son and current Lebanese premier, and Hezbollah. The findings could also make it difficult for Hezbollah to maintain its close alliance with the general Michel Aoun, a Christian, which would threaten Lebanon with a grave political crisis.
Despite this, Hezbollah fought tooth and nail in the regional elections held a few months ago.
But these are not Hezbollah's only troubles. Recently, there has been increasing internal Lebanese criticism of the Shi'ite organization's growing influence in the country and its military activities south of the Litani River, which not only violate UN Resolution 1701 but also threaten to embroil Lebanon in another war with Israel before the country has healed its wounds from the last war four years ago.
The information campaign conducted by Israel in recent months, exposing Hezbollah's weapons caches in the villages of Southern Lebanon and its network and bunkers in the town of Al-Hiyam, has been heard in Lebanon and has aroused concerns about Hezbollah's plans.
In the military sphere, there is no force in Lebanon that poses a great threat to Hezbollah. Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt has turned from an enemy of Hezbollah into an ally and General Aoun embraces Hezbollah publicly at every opportunity.
But in the event that information is released that includes proof of Hezbollah's involvement in the Hariri killing, this support will no doubt be dropped. In its place, calls to disarm and dismantle Hezbollah, the last armed militia in Lebanon, will only grow stronger.