Protesters, U.S. Call for the Reformation of Lebanese Government
March 14 members rallied in the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut to protest the bombing assassination of General Wissam al-Hassan. The group issued a statement saying, “The fall of Hassan is the ultimate proof of the fall of the Lebanese state and its government. This is a new failure on behalf of this black government. We, as political parties and civil society organizations, have promised that we should not be cowardly, therefore, we will keep going until the end.” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, “We need a government that functions well, but more importantly, we need a government that can provide security in the country rather than insecurity, and that can work for a strong, pluralistic, unified Lebanon.” Pressed for specifics, Nuland said that “we support the process that [Lebanese] President [Suleiman] is undertaking, which is to form a new and responsible government.”
Nicholas Blanford wrote an article that discusses why Lebanon has not been thrust into a new civil war. Despite General al-Hassan’s assassination and the spillover of violence from Syria, Lebanon has remained relatively calm. He pointed out that memories of Lebanon’s 16-year conflict are still raw in the public psyche. Blanford noted that in 1975, Lebanon’s military balance between the factional rivals was more equally matched than it is today. Meanwhile, contemporary “leaders agree on the importance of maintaining stability in Lebanon and not allowing Syria’s woes to trigger domestic violence.” Echoing that sentiment, Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Middle East Center in Beirut said, “I don’t think there will be a civil war from this assassination because the leaders of March 14 and March 8 do not want instability at this time.”
David Schenker wrote a piece arguing that recent developments undermine Hezbollah’s position of influence in Lebanon. Schenker said “the organization has attempted to enforce ideological hegemony on its Lebanese co-religionists in an effort to assert political monopoly over Lebanon’s Shiite constituency,” which has not been well received. He concludes that Hezbollah’s support for the regime in Syria is evidence that the organization’s stature will be further diminished once Bashar al-Assad finally falls.