There are some important signals–quite mixed right at the moment–coming from Lebanon about the balance of power in Beirut.
First, the news from Saturday, August 12th that the Lebanese Cabinet unanimously approved the UN cease-fire plan. The Associated Press reported:
Lebanon’s Cabinet accepted the U.N. cease-fire plan to halt fighting between Israel and Hezbollah fighters on Saturday, moving the deal a step closer to implementation, the prime minister said.
“It was a unanimous decision, with some reservations,” Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said in announcing Lebanon’s acceptance of the resolution after a four-hour Cabinet meeting.
Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fneish, minister of hydraulic resources, said the two members of the Islamic militant group who are part of the Cabinet expressed reservations. Particular concern was raised over an article in the resolution that “gives the impression that it exonerates Israel of responsibility for the crimes” and blames Hezbollah for the monthlong war, he said.
Maybe the reservations were about the balance of responsibility and blame. But I tend to doubt it.
Today (Sunday, August 13th), Lebanese unanimity looks far more fragile and the reason seems to turn two very important and related issues: disarming hezbollah and deploying the Lebanese Army in southern Lebanon.
According to reports, Hezbollah has now dug in its heels on the all-important issue of disarmament. Here is the latest report from Reuters:
A Lebanese cabinet meeting set for Sunday has been postponed because of divisions over whether to discuss the disarmament of Hizbollah guerrillas, a government source said.
“Hizbollah had some observations over … the discussion of their disarmament,” the source said…
On July 27 the cabinet approved a Lebanese seven-point plan that among other things called for weapons to remain only in the hands of Lebanese authorities…
A U.N. Security Council resolution to end fighting between Israel and Hizbollah calls for the “disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than the Lebanese state.”
This has been a sticking point–especially for Hezbollah and Iran–all along.
Indeed, if anyone was looking for signs of Saudi-Iranian tension, this is the place to look.
After the July 27th seven-point plan was approved, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived in Beirut for talks. According to a report in the Daily Star, Mottaki was clear about his own reservations about “initiatives proposed so far” (i.e., the Siniora seven-point plan) at that time:
“We believe that the initiatives proposed so far by the various parties to achieve a cease-fire are divided into two parts,” said Mottaki.
He added: “The first part includes a halt to the Zionist attack, and any other item which would gather a consensus from all Lebanese.”
The second part would include all the items which “do not enjoy the approval of all parties, and this would be solved through future negotiations.”
Needless to say, the disarmament of Hezbollah constitutes the central “item” for Iran that does not “enjoy the approval of all parties.”
Mottaki’s implicit criticism brought a sharp rebuke from Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora. According to Stratfor:
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki “went over the limit” in implying he had reservations about Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s seven-point plan to end the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, Siniora told the French-language newspaper L’Orient Le Jour in an interview published Aug. 4. During his recent visit to Beirut, Mottaki had said there was no rush to discuss questions beyond an immediate cease-fire.
As I have suggested in a previous post, it is not a great stretch to consider Siniora as a Lebanese proxy of the Saudis.
Right Zionists would like nothing better than to see this split widen into a full blown conflict.