The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Lebanese cabinet resigns

Lebanon's cabinet has resigned, preferring to forego a vote on no-confidence:

In the middle of a dramatic parliamentary session, Prime Minister Omar Karami shocked the House by suddenly announcing his government's resignation as it was defending itself against a vote of no confidence.

Karami said: "Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead. May God preserve Lebanon."

The shock announcement stunned Parliament but was followed by cheers from inside the chamber and outside in Martyrs' Square as the 25,000 people who had gathered there since late Sunday night watched the debate in Parliament live on large screens.

The interesting thing in my opinion is that the protestors are also trying to bring down the people who really run the country:

Following the prime minister's announcement, the opposition also demanded the resignation of State Prosecutor Adnan Addoum, Director General of the Surete Generale Major General Jamil Sayyed, Director General of the State Security Major General Edward Mansour, Director General of the Internal Security Forces Ali Hajj, head of military intelligence Raymond Azar, commander of the presidential guard Mustafa Hamdan and head of the Monitoring Agency in the Lebanese Intelligence Bureau Ghassan Tufeili.

The Daily Star also has an interesting timeline of events following Hariri's assassination. Hopefully they'll keep it updated.

Keep an eye put for a special issue of on Lebanon. I've seen some of the articles which will be put up soon and some of them are quite moving testimonies on Hariri, as well as an interesting call to Shias (by a Shia) to join the national movement and a more cultural piece on the new significance of Martyrs' Square after the assassination.

From just general reading and watching TV, it seems that the focus in the Lebanese affair is quickly moving towards Hizbullah and whether it should (or can be made to) disarm. However, I don't see many incentives provided to them for disarmament, especially when Lebanon's security remains threatened by Israel and they derive so much power from being the best-armed militia. I hope a Syrian withdrawal will be matched with security guarantees against Israel's frequent incursions into Lebanese territory and airspace -- if for instance the US could secure that from Israel for the Lebanese, it might go a long way to pressuring Hizbullah's disarmament. But there will also have to be some carrots dangled in front of Hizbullah to make it give up its weapons. The question remains, of course, whether it has enough independence from Iran and Syria to make that decision.

Meanwhile, Egypt has been quite active in trying to mediate the Lebanon-Syria crisis. The main state-owned papers like Ahram are all calling for Lebanese calm and Syrian withdrawal, which I think indicates Mubarak's position. Masri Al Youm revealed today that there was a secret visit yesterday by Baha and Saad Rafiq Al Hariri to Cairo, which is certainly interesting (although I'm not sure how to interpret it.) I think Egypt's endgame is that this does not turn into a conflict or destabilize Syria. I sense concern that the Syrians just pull out as quickly as possible, for the sake of regional stability. Some people see Saturday's announcement of constitutional reform by Mubarak as partly motivated by the events in Lebanon. I think that's a worthwhile theory, although it's difficult to measure how much of an impact that event specifically had (the Iraqi elections are something else that may have influenced it, in my opinion.) The important thing to remember is that for Mubarak, it's all about stability.