Shiites Quit Lebanese Gov.

Shiites Quit Lebanese Government

Five pro-Syrian Shi'ite Muslim ministers from Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal movement, resigned from Lebanon's cabinet on Saturday after the collapse of all-party talks on giving their camp more say in government.

The resignation of all the Shi'ite ministers from the 24-member Western-backed cabinet came two days before it was scheduled to discuss a draft U.N. document setting up a tribunal to try the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Many Lebanese blame Syria for Hariri's killing but Damascus denies involvement.

While the resignations will not bring down the government, they pose a major challenge to the majority anti-Syrian coalition in a country where the political system is based on a delicate sectarian balance….

"The two groups allied to Syria said the anti-Syrian majority had rejected their demands for a decisive say in government during week-long talks that collapsed earlier in the day.

The escalating political crisis could provoke confrontation on the streets of Beirut at a time of rising tension between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims.

"Things will get worse. There will be a protest move soon," a senior political source close to Hezbollah said earlier. "The climate at today's meeting was very bad. This stand (by the anti-Syrian) majority will not pass without reaction."

"I don't know who is spreading a climate of fear and tension as if something is about to happen. Nothing will happen," said Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian party in the anti-Syrian camp.

The pro-Syrian party has threatened mass demonstrations demanding new parliamentary elections unless more of its allies are admitted to the cabinet by mid-November.

Hezbollah accuses Siniora of failing to back it during the war and of supporting U.S. and Israeli demands for the disarmament of its guerillas.

The majority coalition is willing to bring in Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, but not to surrender a third of seats to the opposition. A third of ministers plus one can block motions in cabinet and automatically bring down the government by resigning.  

Saniora on Saturday called for a Cabinet meeting to be held Monday to vote on the UN draft document. But in a sign of escalating tensions, pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud rejected the request.

The White House statement said one of Syria's goals was to prevent the Lebanese government from establishing an international tribunal to try those accused of involvement in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"Any such effort to sideline the tribunal will fail, however, for the international community can proceed with establishing it no matter what happens internally in Lebanon," the statement said.

Jumblatt — who will have talks at the United Nations about the tribunal — said that Nasrallah's main goal is to prevent the court from being established and to "defend the Syrian regime."

Hypocrisy Watch: Rumsfeld objects to being tried for torture by international court.

Charges sought against Rumsfeld over prison abuse
By Adam Zagorin, Time, November 10, 2006

Germany was chosen for the court filing because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset. Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case a "a big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal with allegations in the complaint.

Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri left Beirut for Tehran on Saturday after praising Iran's continued support for strengthening national unity in Beirut.

Comments (11)

Mike said:

This is good, democracy at play. Right Washington? Now what will happen is that if the UN inquiry resolution even does garner any support from the Lebanese government, it will be from an unrepresentative government, in which those who are both must numerous (Shiites are 60%, right?) and most oppressed recently (only think of how the Israeli Operation in the Summer War mainly targeted poor Shiites, with the avowed intention of annihilating political support for Hezbollah by basically razing homes and infrastructure) will not have had their say in the decision.

Now once that happens, think of how easily people in the region will be able to (perhaps rightly) view the Harari inquiry as another example of Western efforts to bring about regime change, in this case to the “peripheral” members of the Axis of Evil. And can we really deny that this inquiry, which though popular among many Lebanese who support Hariri/the anti-Syria bloc, is not really in large part an attempt by the US to destabilize the Syrian regime?

While I certainly think that whoever killed Hariri and ordered his killing must be punished, this is the wrong way to go about it. You know what? I’ll be able to grant this inquiry legitimacy once I can clearly see that the policy of “regime change” is mandated not by imperialist ambitions and continued domination, but rather by the rule of law: and that, dear friends, is when Rumsfeld is successfully indicted by the German court of war crimes. Don’t count on THAT happening any time soon.

November 11th, 2006, 8:34 pm


Mike said:

Oh, and it’s EXTREMELY important also to bring those who aided Syria’s neighboring regime, Iraq under Saddam, to justice. But again, don’t count on that happening any time soon. International law has yet to prove to be much more than the tool of the strong. In addition, just look at the recent US veto on the Gaza resolution, or at the fact that Israel STILL has not withheld Resolution 242 after who knows how many years.

November 11th, 2006, 8:39 pm


ivanka said:


The withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon set Hizbulla free. Now it wants to be a political player and is trying to find it’s place and play a role proportional to it’s huge popular base.

Lebanese politics are monopolised by political families and is a delicate sectarian-political balance. All these people are naturally very reluctant to let Hizbulla or even Aoun into the game and share power with them.

On your second comment,

I really support bringing those responsible for Hariri’s death to justice, but the international community would do itself greater honour if it investigated the daily killing of palestinians and iraqis. Who will judge the people responsible for those deaths. Many political assasinations have taken place that were allowed by France and the US and those will never be looked at. Many people were killed who were not billionaires and not friends of Chirac but there was no tribunal.

In the Hariri case, I think it is a shame we will never know who killed him. If there is a deal the tribunal goes away. If there is no deal the tribunal is there to incriminate the Syrian regime. In both cases the verdict is written in advance. Justice will not be delivered to the murderers of hariri.

Personally, I find it extremely hard to beleive that Syria had anything to do with this crime. It was way too evident, with Syria allready under huge pressure from the US, that they would not go unpunished if they did it. You don’t need to be a politician to know it.

November 11th, 2006, 9:40 pm


Nader said:

I support the international court; it is the way to bring justice and accountability to a country that has not seen any in its history. I do not buy the arguments against the tribunal…

November 12th, 2006, 6:34 pm


Chris said:

Here is my take, though I hope you’ll elaborate on these machinations with another blog post soon.

Either you give the Shiite extensive power in Lebanon, thus enhancing Syria and Iran (for the short term, and more so the latter than the former) or you present Hezbollah and Nasrallah with a political cause within Lebanon to enhance the group’s position among the Shiite. This is a tough spot.

November 13th, 2006, 4:43 pm


ivanka said:

Nader I support it too. I hope it will be a real and fair tribunal. But I think it’s chances of being fair are very week as I explained above.

November 13th, 2006, 8:27 pm


annie said:

Of course the truth about Hariri’s death is essential but I have problems with that one sided tribunal. Should it also judge the israeli war crimes, it would be more palatable.

Off topic : Al Jazeera international starts broadcasting to morrow November 15 at 12GMT

November 14th, 2006, 8:22 am


Akbar Palace said:

IVANKA stated:

“I really support bringing those responsible for Hariri’s death to justice, but the international community would do itself greater honour if it investigated the daily killing of palestinians and iraqis. Who will judge the people responsible for those deaths.”

You forgot to mention little things like the daily terrorist attacks against Israel. I know, it was a small oversight;)

November 14th, 2006, 5:22 pm


why-discuss said:

Gaza palestinians do not have the money, the connections and the unified one track minded determination the Hariri family had to push for the International tribunal seeking more for a revenge than for justice. The palestinians are so emeshed in internal conflicts that they just cant do anything about it. The shame is that the arab league who could push for international tribunals against the abuses of Israel is only making statements of outrage with any actions, it is pathetic..

November 14th, 2006, 6:28 pm


Akbar Palace said:

“Of course the truth about Hariri’s death is essential but I have problems with that one sided tribunal. Should it also judge the israeli war crimes, it would be more palatable.”

Annie –

What do you think about Hezbollah and Palestinian war crimes? And what do you think about countries that arm terrorists like Iran and Syria?

November 15th, 2006, 11:49 am


Wizart said:

Today I read something very interesting in a new book published this year by hedge fund manager George Soros and he’s saying to the effect that Russia maybe encouraging Israel to attack Iran’s enrichment facilities in order to further destabalize the region and to gain more from its huge energy resources. They sold the Iranians new anti aircraft weapons and a satelite to Israel that could help in tracking activities. Bush can’t use Putin to pressure Iran because Putin has his own agenda of gaining more leverage over Europe thru higher oil and gas prices. Anyway I just thought fellow readers might be interested in contemplating this thought.

November 17th, 2006, 2:09 am


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