Lebanese Government Collapses After Hezbollah Ministers Resign
Published January 12, 2011
BEIRUT â€“ Lebanon's year-old unity government collapsed Wednesday after
ministers and their allies resigned over tensions stemming from a U.N.-backed
tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik
The walkout ushers in the country's worst political crisis since 2008 in one of
most volatile corners of the Middle East.
The tribunal is widely expected to name members of Hezbollah in upcoming
indictments, which many fear could re-ignite sectarian tensions that have
the tiny country for decades.
"This cabinet has become a burden on the Lebanese, unable to do its
Minister Jibran Bassil said at a news conference announcing the resignations,
flanked by the other ministers who are stepping down. "We are giving a
another government to take over."
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran and Syria, has denounced the tribunal as
an "Israeli project" and urged Western-backed Prime Minister Saad
Hariri -- the son
of the slain politician -- to reject any findings by the court even before it
announced any indictments.But the prime minister has refused to break
with the tribunal.
The office of Hariri had no immediate comment on the walkout that brought down
year-old government. Hariri was in Washington on Wednesday to meet with
The walkout followed the failure of a diplomatic push by Syria and Saudi Arabia
ease political tensions in Lebanon. There had been few details about the
of the Syrian-Saudi initiative, but the talks were lauded as a potential Arab
breakthrough, rather than a solution offered by Western powers.
Bassil said the ministers decided to resign after Hariri "succumbed to
American pressures" and turned his back on the Syrian-Saudi efforts.
Calls to the tribunal seeking comment Wednesday were not immediately returned.
Hariri formed the current national unity government in November 2009, but it has
struggled to function amid deep divisions. The crisis over the tribunal has
paralyzed the government in recent months.
Violence has been a major concern as tensions rise in Lebanon, where Shiites,
and Christians each make up about a third of the country's four million people.
2008, sectarian clashes killed 81 people and nearly plunged Lebanon into another
Rafik Hariri's assassination in a suicide bombing that killed 22 other people
stunned and polarized Lebanese. He was a Sunni who was a hero to his own
and backed by many Christians who sympathized with his efforts in the last few
months of his life to reduce Syrian influence in the country. A string of
assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians and public figures followed, which
investigators have said may have been connected to the Hariri killing.
The Netherlands-based tribunal has not said who it will indict, but Hezbollah
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has said he has information that members of his group
Lebanon in crisis: Hizballah quits government, US-French buildup, Israel on
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 12, 2011, 12:28 PM
With backing from Tehran, Hizballah and its Christian ally Michel Aoun abruptly
the Lebanese unity government Wednesday, Jan. 12, in a move that could pave the
for their seizure of power in Beirut. They struck as the Special Tribunal for
Lebanon's prosecutor Daniel Bellemare prepared to hand over to the pre-trial
judge "within hours or days" indictments naming Hizballah officials in
the case of
the former premier Rafiq Hariri's assassination in 2005.
Hizballah is committed to defying those indictments and refusing to hand over
top officials for extradition by the government.
As the Lebanese crisis raced towards it climax, President Barack Obama, Saudi
Abdullah, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad
held intense consultations in Washington and New York on a united front against
backed disruptions in Beirut by Hizballah and its allies.
Iran's supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said repeatedly that the STL and
rulings are "null and void" because they serve "foreign
As the US, France and Israel made military and diplomatic preparations to thwart
clash, Obama scheduled a meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister for Wednesday
night, Jan. 12, to decide how the US, France and its allies would act in a
Over the weekend, the US president ordered US vessels to buttress the Sixth
stationed in the eastern Mediterranean with the USS Enterprise carrier and its
strike group with 6,000 sailors and marines aboard and 80 fighter-bombers.
deployed there is the USS Bainbridge missile destroyer.
On Monday, Jan. 10, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a tour of the
Gulf, expressed concern over the situation in Lebanon. Clinton said: "I'm
worried about the efforts to destabilize Lebanon. We should do everything we can
make sure those warnings are not accurate."
American military moves in the Mediterranean are intended to signal to Tehran
Hizballah that Washington will be prepared to use force to defend the Saad
government in Lebanon and if necessary deploy aerial forces and the marines to
a Hizballah takeover in Beirut. The French fleet was also ordered to bolster its
naval strength opposite Lebanon.
But Hizballah got its move in first. Its resignation from the Hariri government
showed that its leaders and Iranian sponsors were not fazed by the US-French
military moves off the Lebanese coast and were moving ahead with their plans.
debkafile's military sources add that a comment by Israeli Prime Minister
Netanyahu Tuesday, Jan. 11, fit into the picture taking shape in Washington, New
York and Paris. He remarked to foreign journalists that 60,000 missiles and
all of Iranian and Syrian origin, were now pointing at Israel.
Last week, Meir Dagan, at a ceremony marking the end of his tenure as head of
Mossad, said that only 10 countries in the world have firepower on a par with
According to our sources, it is definitely on the cards for an Iranian-Hizballah
move in Lebanon provoking a US-French military response to evolve into a clash
between Hizballah and Israel, providing an opportunity for the destruction of
Hizballah's might missile arsenal.