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*By:Tariq Alhomayed

In a process of blackmail and a clear pressure tactic, Hezbollah yesterday sought to demonstrate its capabilities on the streets of Beirut. However, its supporters soon dispersed and withdrew, and the party was quick to say that it does not intend to resort to the street [as a form of protest]. It is clear that Hezbollah wanted to send a message to Hariri and his associates, indicating that the party is ready and able to occupy Beirut.

Hezbollah’s conduct came after a three-way summit in Damascus, involving Syria, Turkey and Qatar, who called for the activation of the Saudi-Syrian initiative. On the same day that both the foreign ministers of Turkey and Qatar arrived in Beirut, the Syrian President was meeting with the Commander of the Lebanese Army as well. Hezbollah’s behavior was seen as a message to those visiting Beirut, and to the Saudis of course, implying: Pressure Hariri to accept our demands, or else…! It may be appropriate here to share with our readers what I heard from an official close to the Hezbollah issue, who gave an important account of the situation. He said that two facts that must be pointed out, because what people see in Lebanon, and the region in general, comes from conversations that conceal more than they reveal, and simply consist of “flattery and mutual dishonesty”.

The first fact, according to the official, is that the Tribunal “is the only way to learn the truth and achieve justice. To attack and try to disable it only serves to protect the killers, and those who stood behind them, with planning and equipment”. The official believed that “their [Hezbollah’s] agenda had come to light through their attempts to overthrow the Tribunal, even before they had been exposed by it. Even if they had just a modest degree of intelligence, they would have discovered that the Tribunal in fact works in their favor, because it will only charge individual suspects. Yet everyone knows that crimes which involve the assassination of Lebanese leaders require a degree of organization and preparation that is beyond the capabilities of an individual”.

The official then revealed the second fact, namely that terrorist groups and organizations, on the one hand, and sectarian militia on the other, “are just two sides of the same evil coin, despite their false affiliations to God and religion. Their real goal is to tear the countries of the region apart, and turn them into arenas of public discord, civil wars, and conflicts between Muslims and Christians, Sunnis and Shiites. This serves those who want to transform the region into a sort of chessboard to play with, or a bargaining chip”. He added that this in turn “benefits only two parties, namely Israel and Iran. Here we understand why some want to displace Christians, or denounce Sunni moderation, when they know that the alternative is ‘al-Qaeda’ ”. The official wondered “what do you think will be the future of Lebanon if it was ruled by al-Qaeda and sectarian militia?”

Accordingly, further to what was said above, will everyone give in to Hezbollah’s blackmail, or have matters now reached a tipping point? Certainly, giving in to Hezbollah’s demands will only solidify the crisis in Lebanon and the region, whether sectarian or otherwise. However, insisting upon the Tribunal will also increase the irrational behavior of Hezbollah, and ignite the situation…so what is the solution?

It is clear that the time has come for Lebanon to move on from the state of labor it has endured for decades. The country has been built upon mistakes, and all attempts to rectify this have only made matters worse. Thus the time has come to reform Lebanon the hard way, and the International Tribunal is the best way in which to do this.

* Tariq Alhomayed is the Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat

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