Friday, November 23, 2007

Lebanese President Lahoud Steps Down Without Successor

Lebanon's pro-Syrian President, Emile Lahoud, stepped down without naming successor. Gateway Pundit has a roundup of developments. The BBC reports:

The term of Lebanon's president has ended with no elected successor and a bitter dispute over who is in power. Before pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud left the presidential palace at midnight (2200 GMT) he issued an order that the army should take over control. ...

The US has urged all parties to remain calm and said that under the constitution the Lebanese cabinet should "temporarily assume executive powers and responsibilities until a new president is elected". ...

The tension was palpable on the streets as the crisis over electing the president came to a head, with the army deployed in force and schools closed.

The AP adds that the State Department has issued the necessary warnings to its personnel:

"The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens who live, work or are traveling in Lebanon to exercise responsible security practices." The embassy began restricting the movements of U.S. diplomats in Lebanon on Nov. 20, limiting their travel in downtown Beirut near the parliament building and other government offices and banned all but essential travel to Beirut International Airport until Monday.

Apparently, one of the drivers of this Lebanese domestic political standoff is being a struggle between outside powers over the control of the Lebanese government. The AP article continues:

The anti-Syria camp has sought to capture the presidency to seal the end of Syria dominance of Lebanon, which lasted for 29 years until international pressure and mass protests forced Damascus to withdraw Syrian troops in 2005. Hezbollah, which is an ally of Syria and Iran, and its opposition allies have been able to stymie the government's hopes by boycotting parliament, as they did Friday afternoon when the majority tried to convene a session to vote before Lahoud left office.

Anthony Shadid at the Washington Post has commentary.

This round of Lebanon's crisis is ostensibly over parliament's choice of a successor to Lahoud. But its roots go far deeper. On one side is a coalition around the American-backed government that claims legitimacy from a series of demonstrations that culminated March 14, 2005, and led to the end of Syria's 29-year military presence in the country. On the other is an alliance between Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group supported by Iran and Syria, and Christian followers of Michel Aoun, a former general.

Unlike Lebanon's civil war, often characterized as a Christian-Muslim conflict, this crisis has mobilized the country's Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities against each other, with Christians divided between the two camps.


Blogger Peter Grynch said...

Let me add a comment from the Lebanon Daily Star newspaper:
"There was a curious paradox at play here. Instead of being understood as a mechanism for the open expression of political differences, democracy was misinterpreted by its advocates as the long-awaited end to all such differences. The advent of democracy was thus, ironically, celebrated as heralding the death of politics. When democracy, predictably, fails to deliver this unrealistic and supposedly utopian result, its erstwhile stalwarts have an excuse to give up on politics altogether. Indeed, once the initial euphoria subsided and the March 14 participants realized that divisions remained between the Lebanese, disillusionment quickly set in. Much of the rank-and-file of the independence movement drifted away."

This reminds me of the early days of the War in Iraq. After the military victory, the Iraqis thought everything would instantly change for the better. When it didn't, dissilushionment quickly set in giving a golden opportunity for demagogues like Muqtada al Sadr.

11/24/2007 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Wretchard said...

Here's another comment from Now Lebanon.

Meanwhile Syria and Iran, the other regional players in the dramatis personae, know that the clock is ticking on the Bush administration. While their insolence risks eroding the patience of the international community – not to mention the Israelis, who until now have rejected calls to topple the Assad regime but may be itching to have a crack at Iran’s nuclear facilities – the two countries are banking on the fact that the administration has little time left to act against them. It is a dangerous strategy. The international community will soon recognize that it cannot both ensure the perpetuity of the Assad regime in the name of regional stability and press forward with the tribunal. It must make up its mind.

Elsewhere, the upcoming Middle East conference in Annapolis is already dead in the water but the American’s, sensing an upturn in Iraq, may feel, if they have time, inclined to devote greater attention to the Lebanon file. They must also rein-in the French, who rode into town last week and nearly succeeded in selling Lebanon in a bid to solve presidential crisis. The Iranians have already identified the French as a potential soft touch, proof of this being the letter to President Nicholas Sarkozy from his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he writes of common interests in Lebanon. Does Lebanon have a say in this?

We can take heart, knowing that tonight the last Syrian-appointed president will finally leave office. Gone are the days when Damascus was able to impose its man with a phone call from Anjar and it has exhausted almost all avenues to get its man this time around. Now what is needed is for the international community to ensure Lebanon succeeds in its bid for total democracy, sovereignty and independence. In order to do this, Lebanon’s agenda must be the priority.

11/24/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

It is indeed a curious situation. I thought Hezbollah would have played its violent cards sooner, but not having the army even nominally in its camp, their tactics will have to wait on the Parliamentary election campaigns. Too bad, the only faction that seems to abide by the Lebanese Constitution is the March 14th Coalition, and in adhering to the consensus agreement it has in effect (if not in fact) handed veto powers to Syria and Hezbollah. I hope the appropriate messages are being delivered at Annapolis, to the ones who are in need of appropriate messages...,
...,Syria, your sovereignty is at stake...,
...,Hezbollah, your existence is at stake...,
...,Aoun, the fate of your own confessional needs looking after.
...,LAF, hang tough guys, Lebanon is in your hands, more than anyone wishes to acknowledge.

11/25/2007 10:38:00 PM  

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