BEIRUT, May 13—Lebanon’s prolonged political crisis erupted in violence last week following the Lebanese government's dismissal of an official close to Hizbollah and the launch of an investigation into the organization’s telecommunications network. Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, outlines the key actors of Lebanon’s worst violence since the end of its civil war in 1990 and their aims.

Key Conclusions:

  • Hizbollah’s immediate goals are to force the government to rescind its controversial decisions and establish a unity government with increased authority for Hizbollah. Over the long-term, they could demand a larger share of power for Lebanon’s Shi’a.
  • Hizbollah is not eager to elect a new president immediately. They hope to stall until after new parliamentary elections (which must be held before June 2009) in the hopes of having more say in the choice of candidate.
  • The army is under intense criticism for failing to stop the violence but argues it must remain neutral or risk splitting along sectarian lines.
  • Contrary to a similar escalation in December 2006, Iran has not interceded to halt the violence. This could be the result of the latest round of Security Council resolutions and increased hostile rhetoric by the United States. It could also reflect Iranian concerns about the possibility of a Syrian–Israeli agreement.

"The situation in Lebanon remains extremely tense. An Arab League ministerial delegation is to arrive to help negotiate an end to the crisis. The next days will indicate whether the opposition will escalate and widen its military assaults, or whether Lebanon is entering a lull in which discussions and political bargaining will come to the fore,” concludes Salem.


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  • Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, joined Carnegie in 2006. Before that Salem was the general director of the Fares Foundation. From 1989 to 1999, he founded and directed the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanon’s leading public policy think tank.
  • For ongoing analysis as the crisis unfolds, visit Carnegie's resource page on Lebanon.
  • The Carnegie Middle East Center is a public policy think tank and research center based in Beirut, Lebanon. Bringing together senior researchers from the region, the Carnegie Middle East Center aims to better inform the process of political change in the Middle East and deepen understanding of the issues the region and its people face.
  • The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, socio-political, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key cross-cutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The Carnegie Middle East Program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics throughout the region.
  • The Arab Reform Bulletin addresses political reform in the Middle East. Sent monthly, it offers analysis from U.S.-based and Middle Eastern political experts in English and Arabic, as well as news synopses and resource guides.
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