Monday, June 8, 2009

Good News from Lebanon but crisis looms

By Barry Rubin

In Lebanon's election, the moderate March 14 coalition did well, gaining one seat from its current total. Hizballah and its allies cannot claim they won a victory at the polls. For the best analysis see Tony Badran's detailed assessment.

But the very closeness of the outcome probably means another coalition government between the two blocs. Most immediately, Hizballah will demand once again veto power even if it has only one-third of the coalition. And Hizballah has a way of backing up its negotiating strategy with guns.

Whatever the result, Hizballah and its allies, including Iran and Syria, will keep up the pressure on the moderate regime, and this could mean crises ahead. One result could be that an attack on Israel from Lebanon is less likely, at least over the next year, as Hizballah and its allies don't want to disrupt their efforts to bring Lebanon closer to their control. I hate to say this but political assassination--or at least attempts--and other terrorism could continue to be a method of intimidation.

The West is going to be challenged to provide support for the March 14 coalition government. Any sign of yielding to Hizballah is going to have dangerous consequences within Lebanon and for the region as a whole.

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