New Beirut government restores Syrian sway over Lebanon
The majority bloc headed by the incumbent Fouad Siniora holds 16 portfolios in the new Lebanese government, the opposition led by Hizballah – 11. President Michel Sleiman exercised his prerogative to name three ministers.
This lineup represents the national accord reached in Qatar earlier this year to end Lebanon’s political crisis. But the numbers, debkafile‘s Middle East sources note, add up to the radicalization of the new administration and its domination by two terrorist groups.
The pro-Iranian Hizballah-led opposition has gained veto power and Damascus has solidified its grip on Lebanon’s center of power – both through the Shiite-led bloc and through a first-time cabinet member, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party – the SSNP, which is dedicated to a Greater Syria.
Tehran and Damascus have succeeded in thrusting aside American and French bids for influence.
According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, the shadowy SSNP was Syrian intelligence’s favorite terrorist arm in Lebanon for assassinations, attempted coups and bombings. Its operatives often worked with Hizballah (especially its military chief Imad Mughniyeh) and were believed implicated in the US embassy bombings in Beirut of 1982 and 1984.
The first known female suicide bomber in terrorist history was a SSNP operative who detonated a truck bomb which killed two Israel soldiers in 1985. Another member was accused of assassinating Lebanese president Beshar Gemayel in 1982.
The SSNP leader at the time, appointed by Damascus, was Ali Qanso, who now takes a seat in the new Lebanese government as minister of state.
The same Lebanese party also holds one seat in the Syrian parliament, having been granted legal standing by President Bashar Assad in 2005. The SSNP is now Syria’s largest party after the ruling Baath, while also represented in the Beirut government. It is thus faithful to its Greater Syria tenet which names Lebanon “Western Syria” and the Mediterranean the “Syrian Sea.”