Saudi Arabia and Syria are again trying to prevent a blow-up in Lebanon, over the results of a tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Rafik al-Hariri.
As I have reported here before, the tribunal supposedly investigating the murder of former PM al-Hariri has been at work for years. The outside influence upon that tribunal, from the USA and other nations, has been extreme. The tampering with the records, by Israel and others, has been shameless. The use of secret witnesses, who never appear before the eyes of the tribunal, and whose names are kept secret, has tainted the proceedings irredeemably. And the findings of this tribunal will not be made public for months yet, or perhaps never, depending upon the decisions of a panel of judges.
Yet everyone in the region is in a furor over the tribunal, because of a few complicating factors. Lebanon's current PM is Saad al-Hariri, the son of the man who was assassinated. Most Lebanese, (and many Europeans), suspect Israel was behind the murder. But the tribunal is expected to indict Hezbollah for the killing. The US and Israel would very much like to pin the murder upon Hezbollah, because that would weaken Hezbollah in particular and Lebanon in general. And there are signs that both the US and Israel are tampering with and even fabricating evidence to frame Hezbollah.
But Hezbollah has greater military strength than the Lebanese army, so there can be no question of any Hezbollah members being seized by force.
How, you may ask, did this come to pass? It came about because when Israel invaded and occupied Lebanon in the 1980's, they created a Christian puppet army called the South Lebanon Army, and used that force to murder Muslim Lebanese wholesale. From this grew both the popularity of Hezbollah, and the mistrust of the central Lebanese Army. And by doing this, Israel sowed anew the seeds of mistrust between Christian and Muslim Lebanese.
As I wrote in my initial report on Lebanon, some four months ago -
Lebanon has a sizable Christian population, roughly 40% of the population, as compared to a single-digit percentage in other Arab countries. While 95% of the people are ethnically classified as Arabs, "many Christian Lebanese do not identify themselves as Arab but rather as descendants of the ancient Canaanites and prefer to be called Phoenicians" (quoted from the CIA World Factbook). Furthermore, there are 17 officially recognized sects; 5 Muslim and 12 Christian.
As goes Lebanon, so goes the Middle East. And that, dear reader, is why both King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Bashir al-Assad of Syria are doing all they can to prevent a renewed civil war in Lebanon.
Latest related story at AJE here.