Lebanon's coalition government collapsed this week after ministers from the Hezbollah-led opposition resigned, plunging the country into renewed political instability after several years of relative calm. The dramatic move by Hezbollah — a powerful Shiite Muslim faction considered by the United States to be a terrorist organization — comes as members of the militant group are expected to be indicted by an international tribunal looking into the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah had been pressuring Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the slain man's son, to disavow the United Nations-backed investigation. What does the dispute mean for Israel, the Middle East, and the U.S.? (Watch an AP report about Lebanon's status)
This could endanger the entire Middle East: "These are dangerous moments," say the editors of The Telegraph. If Lebanon sinks back into the violence that plagued it until just a few years ago, "the boom that has followed decades of turmoil could be brought to a shuddering halt as violence resumes." And anything that strengthens the hand of Hezbollah could embolden its backers in Syria and Iran — which, given Iran's nuclear ambitions, is bad news for the whole region.
"Lebanon: A dangerous moment"
Hezbollah's power play is especially dangerous for Israel: Hezbollah's toppling of Lebanon's government caps its "rise from resistance group to ruling power," says Thanassis Cambanis in The New York Times. Hariri had to stand firm or "become a steward of Hezbollah's impunity." But he can't win this power struggle, because the "Party of God" will "stop at nothing — including civil war" to consolidate its influence in Lebanon and the Middle East, and to step up its "perpetual war against Israel."
"Hezbollah's latest suicide mission"
The Lebanese people will lose the most: "Lebanon is a fragile place," say the editors of the Beirut Daily Star, "but when there is stability," the nation can serve "as an oasis of investment, a symbol of diversity, and a hive of cultural and social activity." Despite its faults, the outgoing government did try to address the country's crushing social problems. If all sides treat each other with respect and re-think their positions, "perhaps Lebanon can find a way out of its impasse." If not, "a bleak future awaits."
"Time for Lebanese to re-think stances"