Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lebanon: A Formula To Distribute Poison

By Ghassan Charbel
This comment was published in al-Hayat on 8/11/2010
The speaker requested anonymity and said: “Let us leave aside the issue of politicization regarding the Special Tribunal. Let us also leave aside the many scenarios of delusion and misguidance. We have to deal with reality as it is. Hezbollah cannot just sit idle and wait for the indictment to be issued. It cannot tolerate an indictment that accuses some of its elements of being involved in Rafik Hariri’s assassination. The mere publication of the names will attribute to it this assassination and the series of other assassinations.”

He added: “It is no simple matter at all for it to be said that elements from Hezbollah or the resistance supporters were behind the assassination. This would mean that Shiite men killed the most prominent Sunni figure in this part of the Arab world. You can imagine the impact of this issue in a region going through a climate of sectarian clashes. This would also imply opening a wound for many years to come, and causing deep internal embarrassment and isolation for Hezbollah and the resistance on the Arab, Islamic, and international level.”

He also said: “Hariri’s assassination will be considered a resounding strike for internal and regional balances. This means that it was part of a project. The relation with Hezbollah will turn into a source of regional and international embarrassment for the countries that consider it to be a great ally. In short, asking Hezbollah to calmly react to the indictment would be like asking it to drink a poison cup, and it is something that it will not do.”

The speaker acknowledged that abolishing the Special Tribunal is not possible. And that “preceding the indictment with a turn in the balances of forces in Lebanon is also a costly matter.

Neither the Arab countries nor the great countries will accept the results. Tension will return to some inter-Arab relations and the Syrian relations with the U.S. and Europe will know an extremely serious crisis. The solution lies in separating the Lebanese from the course of the tribunal: delaying the indictment and ending the Lebanese contribution. Saad Hariri is thus bound to cover such great difficult decisions. Certainly, a deal must be made, and it can only imply mutual compromises and guarantees for the parties involved.”

Two days later, I heard another speaker who said: “What is required of Saad Hariri is unrealistic and exceeds his tolerance ability. If he yields to threats, he will lose both the tribunal and his leadership. The assassinations file does not concern him alone. He can be flexible within the framework of a stability formula that can be endorsed. Asking him to wash his hands of the tribunal would be like asking him to drink a poison cup. In such a case, and despite their costs, the consequences of him exiting his post would be less damaging than those of him remaining.”

He added: “Toppling the current Lebanese situation by force will mean overcoming the Sunni component in Lebanon and pushing the country towards Iraqization. Not only does such a situation strike a blow to the tribunal, but also to the resistance. If Saad Hariri must remain, then there is bound to be a solution he can accept and whose implications he can accept as well. Perhaps this solution consists of part of the truth, or some indication to it, and the restoration of the state status and its institutions, and no longer considering the Lebanese army a mere reservist or accessory; setting clear borders for the resistance’s weapons on the inside; opening a new constant page in Lebanese-Syrian relations that would guarantee the resolution of pending files as well as a coordination mechanism in the matters of peace and security, while leaving the domestic affairs to the Lebanese.”

I paused when the speaker said that the matter requires “a quasi-just formula for distributing poison that would not assassinate the truth or endanger stability. This formula would enable the country to overcome the state of extreme division and paralysis, and allow it to coexist with the region’s winds and with the Special Tribunal.”

It is an exceedingly complicated crisis in which each party appears to be both strong and weak. The logic of settlement is initially based on the distribution of poison.

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