Thursday, March 13, 2008

Political crisis set to worsen

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 13 March 2008

"....."The arrival of the USS Cole in support of (Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's ruling coalition) has really had a traumatic effect on people," says Crooke, co-founder of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum which brokers dialogue between Islamist movements and the West. "This has really bad memories for the Lebanese."

The internal and regional crises affecting Lebanon has reached critical point. A paralyzed country is split between the US-backed Siniora government, and the opposition parties led by Hizballah and Christian General Michel Aoun, which are allied with Syria and Iran. A parliamentary vote for the current consensus presidential candidate, army head Michel Suleiman, has been delayed for a 16th time this week, leaving the post empty since pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud served out his term last November.....

...."We are now on the border of war and peace, and more likely verging on conflict," Ahmad Moussalli, political studies professor at the American University in Beirut, told IPS.

"I think the (USS Cole's) message was regional and not internal," Moussalli says about the warship, since replaced by a US Navy strike group of six vessels led by amphibious assault ship USS Nassau. "It is between Hizballah and Israel. And so far it is a symbolic message to Hizballah and its backers not to respond massively to the killing of Imad Mughniyeh.".....

"Everyone is divided on how far America will go in Lebanon to push forward the political process, and no one knows how to read Israeli intentions of war -- why did they do this (assassination), what was the purpose," says Crooke. "No one knows how far America intends to go with Iran."
He adds, "There is the big unsettled strategic question that dominates the region, which is the question of Iranian pre-eminence. The question is, is Israel ready to come to terms with a pre-eminent Iran? And all the signs are it isn't. So how is that going to be resolved?""

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