Mikati and the STL: Falling Into the Abyss
By: Ibrahim al-Amin
Published Sunday, November 27, 2011
It would be naive to think that the funding of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is the issue. Nobody cares about the STL anymore, apart from its staff who are paid unbelievable salaries for doing almost nothing.
If those running the show were fair, they’d use the money to reward members of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces and a handful of the foreign investigators. The Information Branch’s contribution to the international investigation was in keeping with their original drafts – along with their methodology of fabrication and political conclusions inferred from circumstantial evidence.
In any case, no one should waste their time seeking the truth. The real agenda driving the STL, the investigation, and the indictments, has now moved on. It has been taken to a new level, and involves new players.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati is adamant about his position. The bombshell he dropped on Thursday, to resign if the STL funding was not approved, was supposed to land in the laps of Syria and its Lebanese allies. He hopes the latter will back down. He reasons that it is in the interest of Syria and Hezbollah first, and also the Free Patriotic Movement and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, for his government to survive, as it would be hard to form a replacement.
FPM Leader Michel Aoun stepped in to deflect the bombshell. He declared he is prepared to quit the government, on the grounds that it has failed to address Lebanon’s broader problems. Behind him stands Hezbollah. But the party does not view Mikati’s move as the dropping of a bombshell. It sees it as tantamount to political suicide.
The clear conclusion is that the prime minister is not engaged in a game of brinkmanship, but has leaped right into the abyss. His credit with Hezbollah, the FPM and Syria is now close to zero.
The other side, meanwhile, has its own accounts to settle with Mikati. He faces their vengeance and unyielding punishment for agreeing to head a government that resulted from the removal of Saad Hariri and March 14 from office.
March 14 does not forgive. But they may make compromises if the offender holds a position of sectarian power, such as Walid Jumblatt. But today, Jumblatt would rather be swallowed into the earth than go through the test he faces. It’s the toughest of his political career, coming after he switched positions one too many times.
He knows he has failed, and that nobody can help him this time, neither constituency nor his closest friends. His best option may be to bring forward the date of his retirement as leader of his party and sect, and get out quickly... in the direction of New York.
March 14 had been of two minds. Its leaders, and supporters, would be delighted if Mikati’s government were to resign. They would consider that an achievement. But Saad Hariri, in particular, preferred to see Mikati remain as head of a government that refuses to fund the STL. Along with a number of Arab and Western players, he wanted to use that as an excuse for exerting pressure on many levels.
Best of all, it would allow him to continue bad-mouthing Mikati in Sunni, Arab and international forums. But Hariri will not get what he wanted. Instead, he will have to figure out how to avoid giving Mikati any credit if he resigns for the sake of ‘the truth’, as he is in the process of doing.
But what is in store for Lebanon?
Nothing that isn’t scripted for the region as a whole, which is linked to the relentless effort being made to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime by force. The worldwide mobilization that is underway against Syria is without precedent.
The striking audacity displayed by feeble Arab countries, the whiff of racism and colonialism emanating from the West, and the nauseating arrogance of the Turkish side, all confirm one thing: a new chapter is unfolding in the confrontation with the pro-resistance movement in the region.
This battle is no longer about anything else. The fear is that the beautiful spirit of the Arab revolutions will be lost under the new colonial juggernaut.
Faced with this unprecedented level of escalation and pressure, the resistance movement – from Palestine to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran – has so far been focused on withstanding the war of attrition waged against it. All the steps the resistance movement has taken have been defensive. Indeed, until very recently, it has been forced to hunker down and fend off threats.
But someone seems to have resolved otherwise. There are signs from the resistance that a shift from defensive to offensive mode is in the offing. The other side should get ready for a fight – including those reaching into the region in the name of the UN and the international community, or of the new Arab group that has replaced the Arab League. Fights clearly lie ahead in the region.
In Lebanon, the resistance current and its allies will not allow a government headed by Saad Hariri or anyone else from March 14 to be formed.
Syria is prepared for a period of extensive conflict, both internally and with neighboring countries, while confronting a foreign war of intervention aimed at bringing down the regime. The regime will feel justified in countering these foreign powers, near and far, by whatever means necessary.
Further afield, in Iraq, US occupation forces say their sad farewell, with all that spectacle calls for – whether an ignoble retreat by the forces themselves, or victory celebrations by the other side.
Iran is prepared to take on a new regional role. The rulers of the Gulf states will feel that fire cannot be stopped by steel walls or multinational forces. The Arab Spring, with which they’re all so enamored these days, is turning up in unexpected places.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.