The Magazine

Now Comes the Hard Part

Hezbollah loses in Lebanon.

Jun 22, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 38 • By DAVID SCHENKER
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The coming weeks will be tense in Beirut, as the winning coalition navigates the formation of a government and its ministerial statement, the policy guidance for Beirut. If March 14 has its way, unlike in 2005, this statement will not legitimate Hezbollah's weapons, which the U.S. government describes as "a threat to Lebanon." In addition to opposing a Hezbollah blocking third in the cabinet, March 14 appears to favor the appointment of Saad Hariri--the leader of the bloc--as prime minister. Syria is already signaling its preference for another candidate believed to be more disposed to Damascus.

Given Hezbollah's preponderance of force, March 14 may not ultimately succeed in its effort to deny the blocking third or to compose a ministerial statement that strengthens state sovereignty vis-à-vis the Shiite militia. But the Obama administration should not undermine March 14's ambitious attempts to effect real change in Lebanon. While the election was a good start, Washington's continued support for March 14 in this difficult period will be critical if there is any hope of consolidating the election gains.

David Schenker is the Aufzien fellow and the director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.