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Lebanon One Step Closer to the Precipice



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A distant early warning of a potential state schism (and civil war) in the offing in Lebanon: The upcoming Arab League summit will be attended by two separate Lebanese delegations. Syrian-backed president Emile Lahoud refuses to accept any ministers of the current government (headed by the embattled anti-Syrian prime minister Fouad Siniora) which he claims illegitimate, as part of the state delegation. The Arab League is working on a compromise whereby Siniora and other representatives of the government will be allowed to sit at seats normally reserved for diplomats of the League itself. The summit should make for interesting theater, outside the main order of business, which is of course Israel-bashing.

Meanwhile, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai:

Syria has agreed with its Lebanese allies, Hizbullah and the Amal party, on a move to deal a blow to the international court to try suspects in former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination….

According to the report, the plan is to amend the court’s draft law so that it calls for four Lebanese and three non-Lebanese judges. The initial agreement states that the tribunal should be made up of four international and three Lebanese judges.

The proposed amendment, the Kuwaiti report said, would be “a real surprise” when announced and it could be presented to the Lebanese and the international community as a “simple detail,” related to maintaining Lebanon’s sovereignty over its judicial affairs.

The pro-government majority believes that such an amendment aims at blocking the creation of the international court, because it would require a revision of the basic agreement between Lebanon and the United Nations.

The strategy of the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis in Lebanon is murder by a thousand cuts. A forceful American diplomatic effort to insist upon the 4-3 ratio of international to domestic judges for the tribunal would show that the State Department is paying attention.



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