Last year, NFAM gave a pretty bleak resume of the situation in Lebanon – one that looked destined to slowly slide towards another war with Israel. Concerns about Hamas and Fatah, about Hezbollah and Syria, and about Israel and America led Lebanese psychic Michel Hayek to predict that 2010 would see attacks on Lebanon. Fortunately, he was generally wrong and there were no major military attacks on the state during the past year; however, most inside the small country would not hesitate to say that 2010 was not a dangerous year. Of course, the major story coming from Lebanon lately is the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) which is investigating the assassination of former PM Sa’ed Hariri in 2005 and may be ready to accuse Hezbollah of complicity. The fallout has the potential to be huge.
For many, 2011 will bring the outcome of the STL followed by some sort of violence and misfortune for Lebanon and the Lebanese. Perhaps the STL will end up bringing down the government or causing a full civil war. Some predict that the STL outcome will lead Hezbollah to attack Israel in an attempt to regain its stature as Lebanon’s chief defense; while still others claim that Israel is planning on initiating an attack on its northern neighbor – a claim is supported by recently released Wikileaks documents. With tensions boiling both within Lebanon and around the region, it does not seem like unlikely that 2011 could bring another major conflict to Lebanese soil. Considering the potential for conflict as a result of the STL, one can only hope the Psychic Hayek is just as right this year as he was wrong last year.
Hayek went on television right before midnight on December 31st (video, part 1 and part 2 [عربي]) and announced that Lebanon would see a peaceful year in 2011, despite all the indications pointing otherwise. Unfortunately, despite Hayek’s calm words, there is plenty of reason to see Lebanon going up in flames this year (like there was last January as well.) With the world generally blaming Israel for the lack of progress in the Palestinian peace process and most of Lebanon blaming Hezbollah for the murder of the older Hariri, both sides have incentive to create a violent distraction from their respective political quagmires. The aforementioned warnings from Turkey and the Wikileaks report are hardly encouraging signs for 2011.
[tweetmeme] On the more positive side, Hayek claimed that Lebanon will be central in a “war for peace,” that the Lebanese pound would be stable and that the country will slowly move away from Iran throughout 2011. While this may have been slightly directed at the potential decline in influence of Hezbollah, it also points to an important shift in the regional balance of power that could allow Americans and Israelis to claim a small victory over Iran. Add a possible delegitimization of Hezbollah through the STL to the possibility of Syria moving away from Iran to the possibility of open conflict within Iran’s leadership and simple mathematics will result in a split between Lebanon and Iran, which, for many, would represent a better option for peace than the status quo.
Now we just need to hope that Hayek is right when he says that the repercussions of the STL will be political and not violent. If the STL causes civil or international war for Lebanon, will it really matter whether the country has a stable pound or if it strays from Iran’s sphere of influence?
Photo from NFAM