Five years after the former prime minister was killed, rising sectarian tensions and a teetering government are threatening a new conflict
By Robert Fisk
"I guess that you have to live here to feel the vibrations. Take last week, when I instinctively ducked on my balcony – so did the strollers on the Corniche – at the supersonic sound of an F-16 fighter aircraft flashing over the seafront and the streets of Beirut.
What message were the Israelis sending this time? That they do not fear the Hezbollah?....
But who cares about the Israeli plane? Supposing a Syrian MiG had buzzed Tel Aviv during a busy shopping day last week? Hillary Clinton would be shrieking condemnation from the State Department, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon would have solemnly warned Syria of the consequences and the Israelis would be pondering an air strike on Syria to teach President Assad a lesson. But no.
The Israeli overflight was a clear contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 – Israel breaks 1701 every day with overflights, but not at this low level – and I could find not a single report of the incident in the American press. The Israelis are the good guys. The rest are bad......
So what does all this mean?
Well, what we are seeing is an horizon of foreign powers all longing to interfere in Lebanon as they did during the country's merciless 1975-90 civil war. Washington is ranting about the tribunal's importance, so is France – the Brits, whose diplomats talk to the Hezbollah, are quietly and wisely asking if there might be a postponement of the tribunal's accusation – while the Syrians and Iranians are crowing at the UN's crisis.
The Israelis are, as usual, threatening semi-Armageddon.
The Saudis, who back the Sunnis – Hariri holds a Saudi passport – have been trying to mediate.
So, in a backward way, have the Syrians. A week ago, Syria's ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul-Karim Ali, invited to lunch both the Saudi ambassador, Ali Awad al-Assiri, and his opposite number in the Iranian embassy, Ghadanfar Rokon Abadi, an old Beirut hand who was here during the 1996 war. All of which suggests the Muslim nations of the region don't particularly want a civil war......"