Lebanon: what has changed?

Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri sat face-to-face at a state banquet on Saturday with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad – whose regime has been widely suspected of assassinating his father.

Hariri's bridge-building visit to Damascus seems to have cautious support from a range of Lebanese politicians, according to the Beirut Daily Star.

Meanwhile, the Qifa Nabki blog reflects on what has – or has not – changed since the assassination in 2005. "On the one hand," 
it says, "many of the same internal power dynamics are in place ... On the other hand, there is little doubt that the landscape has been altered in fundamental ways." It continues:

Syria, for all of its influence among certain political groupings in Beirut, no longer has the Lebanese parliament on a leash, as it did from 1990 to early 2005. Many who once supported Syria (Sunnis in particular) today regard their eastern neighbour with a great deal of suspicion – brotherliness and Arabism be damned. 

Michel Aoun is back, and his movement had become a political force to be reckoned with. There are Lebanese and Syrian embassies in Damascus and Beirut. A new electoral law was implemented last year that was not drawn up byRustom Ghazali in a smoke-filled office somewhere in Anjar, and Lebanon’s civil society is pushing for many more reforms for 2013. 

Hezbollah, despite maintaining its weapons, has been constrained in its activities both by UNSCR 1701 and by its own political calculations. In short, this is not the same Lebanon that Syria controlled so effortlessly less than five years ago.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 21 December 2009.