Countdown to a New Lebanon Crisis: Iran Sends a Signal to Obama through Beirut
by Shimon Shapira - On January 12, 2011, just as Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House, the pro-Iranian Hizbullah forced a collapse of the Lebanese government. Ten of its ministers held a press conference announcing their decision in Beirut that was broadcast live on Lebanese television during the Obama-Hariri summit. The Hizbullah leadership was seeking to pre-empt the publication of the decision of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which is expected to charge that senior Hizbullah members were involved in the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri. The STL was formed as the result of a request by the Lebanese government to the UN in December 2005. The STL was then established pursuant to UN Security Council Resolutions 1664 and 1757; the latter resolution was adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which is generally reserved for acts of aggression.
The main motivation of Hizbullah was linked to Hariri's refusal to respond to its repeated demands to announce that the STL was illegitimate and its decisions do not obligate the Lebanese government. Hizbullah was not alone in making demands on the Lebanese government regarding the STL. The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Kamenei, who rarely expresses his views on internal Lebanese affairs, nonetheless stated: "This tribunal is receiving orders from elsewhere and whatever ruling it hands down is null and void." Iran is signaling to the Obama administration, and to the West as a whole, that the main political developments in Lebanon are being decided today in Tehran and not in Washington. Failure to respond to this Iranian-sponsored provocation will only invite further adventurism on the part of the regime in Tehran elsewhere in the region, as it seeks to further establish its hegemony in the Middle East.
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