Rare Arab summit to forestall possible Hezbollah unrest in Lebanon
An Arab summit of the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Syria met in Beirut today for the first time in eight years amid rising concern that the Hariri assassination tribunal could indict key Hezbollah members – sparking Hezbollah unrest.
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Hariri could face impossible choice
Mr. Hariri has consistently supported the international investigation into his father’s murder since its inception five years ago. But if indictments are issued against members of Hezbollah, it will place him in an impossible position.Skip to next paragraph
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“The government is already under pressure and it will face even more pressure to change direction on the tribunal,” says Salem of the Carnegie Middle East Center.
If Hariri distances himself from the tribunal and accepts Hezbollah’s argument that the investigation is flawed and politicized, it will make a mockery of the judicial process and cast into doubt the tribunal’s future. Lebanon could end its obligation to pay 49 percent of the costs of the tribunal, the remainder of which comes from donor states.
On the other hand, if Hariri accepts the tribunal’s indictments, it would place him on a collision course with Hezbollah and risk the collapse of his coalition government and the outbreak of renewed Sunni-Shiite strife after two years of relative domestic calm.
Mindful of the fears surrounding the tribunal, Hariri repeatedly has attempted to assuage concerns of violent repercussions.
Nasrallah casts tribunal as Zionist conspiracy
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, said last week that Hariri had told him in May that the tribunal would indict “undisciplined members of Hezbollah” rather than the party as a whole. The tribunal’s investigators interviewed up to 20 Hezbollah members in March at an office in southern Beirut, the party’s stronghold.
“We believe that there is a major plot to target the resistance [Hezbollah’s military apparatus], Lebanon and the whole region,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
Adding to the intensifying speculation, Israel’s Channel 1 television reported Thursday night that the tribunal has identified the chief suspect in the Hariri murder as Mustafa Badreddine, who is believed to be a senior security official in Hezbollah. Mr. Badreddine was the brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyah, the organization’s top military commander who was killed in an unresolved assassination in Damascus in February 2008.
The fact that Badreddine’s alleged involvement in the Hariri assassination was revealed by an Israeli media outlet will serve as additional ammunition in Hezbollah’s campaign to attack the credibility of the tribunal.
“Nasrallah has been vocal on this issue in order to soften the ground ahead of an impending indictment against the party,” says Mr. Muhanna. “He is trying to get out ahead of the story in order to impose some measure of control over it, casting it as a Zionist conspiracy or an American plot to target the resistance.”
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