Despite the victory of the Western-leaning “March 12” coalition of candidates, the internal strife in Lebanon does not seem to be over. The March 14 coalition had campaigned on a platform of disarming Hezbollah, while Hezbollah lawmaker Mohammad Raad stated on Monday that the majority must "commit not to question our role as a resistance party, the legitimacy of our weapons arsenal and the fact that Israel is an enemy state."

The Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri) reported on “continued coordination between Syria and Saudi Arabia on the issue of Lebanon, and on reinforcing understandings reached between them on the eve of the Lebanese parliamentary elections”.

According to the understandings, Syria would have not interfered in the elections. Also in the understandings, “the Lebanese coalition, headed by Sa'd Al-Hariri, would have not discuss Hizbullah's weapons, and would have allowed the continuation of the resistance, in exchange for freedom of action for the March 14 Forces in the country's economic affairs”.

Until now, Hezbollah has remained quiet, but it seems that Syria’s agreement with Saudi Arabia could not be enough to restore stability in Lebanon. Actually, after the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian elections, the situation could explode again, as Hezbollah would have on their side a strong and ambitious ally.

Memri also quotes the Lebanese pro-Syrian paper saying that the possibility exists that Syria and Saudi Arabia would “divide the influence in Lebanon between them”. At the end of the Lebanon elections, actually, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad “stressed to Saudi King Abdallah that Syria had met all its obligations, and stressed the understandings between them”.

As reported, the March 14, Western-leaning coalition of candidates, held onto its parliamentary majority in Lebanon's polls, defeatting the Hezbollah-led bloc that some polls had indicated would come out on top. Hariri's coalition, which includes Sunni, Christian and Druze parties, won 71 of the parliament's 128 seats. The Hezbollah’s block, regrouped under the name of “March 8 Alliance”, won 57, according to official numbers cited by the government news agency.

During the Spring 2008, the Lebanese government had tried to contain Hezbollah’s power by shutting down their unauthorized telecommunication network and replacing the officer responsible for the Beirut airport, who was monitoring all the movements within the airport on behalf of the Shiite organization. The reaction of the Hezbollah militias was swift. On May 7th 2008, Beirut was taken over by Hezbollah; who showed the whole world who was in charge in Lebanon. This militia, totally financed by foreign powers, has de facto established a state within a state, with an army totally out of control of state authorities. Eventually, the Doha summit, under the coordination of the pro-Iranian Qatari emir, allowed Hezbollah to retain all its power and granted it veto power in the Lebanese parliament. Hariri has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of granting the opposition the same veto power they had received by the force of the arms.

The more immediate challenge for both sides is in forming a government, a process that is unlikely to be quickly resolved, especially after the results in the Iranian elections. In an interview, Hariri said if his side were to hold onto its majority, he would invite the opposition to join in a unity government. But he said that he would also push to reverse the opposition's current ability to essentially veto government decisions -- a so-called "blocking minority" that it was granted last year. "We would invite them, but without a blocking minority," he said from his heavily fortified compound in central Beirut. "The political picture will not be different, but the political agreement will be tedious and will take time," said Ghassan Azzi, a professor of political science at Lebanese University, who added, "The March 14 coalition cannot disarm Hezbollah even if they win the whole parliament."

In fact, the Qatari-mediated deal of last summer did produce a "national unity" government that has managed to contain tensions, but under Hezbollah’s fist. It has been eight months since a Lebanese politician was assassinated -- a sort of a record, by Lebanese standards. However, the conflict has left deep sectarian divisions among followers of the rival leaders. Communal tensions could quickly generate more violence again were the domestic political climate to deteriorate, or the regional detente to collapse. Furthermore, an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri also remains a potential trigger for instability, depending on any indictments against Hezbollah or Syria issued by the prosecutor.

Things might have gone much worse after these elections, but the situation could go back to the Hezbollah’s taking over Beirut as in 2008, nevertheless.

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