Lebanon swerved closer to a factional conflagration Thursday night, Jan. 20, after Saad Hariri, whose coalition Hizballah toppled eight days ago, announced he would form a new government in defiance of the opposition. Hassan Nasrallah's supporters warned he was leading Lebanon to disaster.
debkafile's sources note that by standing his ground against Hizballah's efforts to oust him from Lebanese politics, Hariri may be able to abort Nasrallah's plan for an alternative Lebanese government that would disqualify the UN tribunal and its indictment of senior Hizballah officials for complicity in the six-year old assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri.
Nasrallah has sworn never to surrender his loyalists to the Netherlands-based court. Therefore, by thwarting him, Hariri has raised the Lebanese crisis to a new and dangerous pitch. Nasrallah must now decide whether to rise to the challenge and go through with the steps for seizing control of the capital which his troops practiced this week, or give up and accept defeat.
Thursday afternoon, Lebanese forces showed themselves willing for the first time to stand up to Hizballah's superior strength and ward off its takeover of the capital. Extra security was laid on for Hariri, guards were reinforced at government institutions and traffic hubs secured. Police units were seen unloading concrete blocks at the main city intersections after which military units moved in to man them.
A Lebanese military official commented that these measures were prompted by "concerns over movements on the ground by some parties."
No one doubted he was referring to Hizballah and its repeated exercises this week to practice the rapid seizure of Beirut.
Our sources report that Hariri and Nasrallah camps now face each other for a straight duel after the latest mediation effort was abandoned. Thursday morning, the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers departed Beirut announcing they were "halting their mediation" in the Lebanese crisis.