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Lebanese Power Broker Supports Hezbollah

Druze leader Jumblatt sides with ‘the resistance’ against PM

Marc Tracy
January 21, 2011
Walid Jumblatt announces his decision today.(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)
Walid Jumblatt announces his decision today.(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

Well it’s happened: Walid Jumblatt, the de facto leader of the Druze population of Lebanon and the country’s kingmaker, has sided with Hezbollah, the Shiite Iran proxy, which last week disbanded the coalition government by yanking all its ministers in anticipation of U.N. indictments for the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister. “The party will stand firm in support of Syria and the resistance,” he said. The result will be that Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his America-backed March 14 coalition likely will not be the next group in-charge of Lebanon.

It’s worth remembering that it was not six years ago that Jumblatt’s support lay with Hariri and March 14 and against Hezbollah; and it’s also worth remembering that today’s announcement was predictable (indeed, predicted), as Hariri Jumblatt, as columnist Lee Smith reported last year, threw his support to Hezbollah some time ago. Why? One word: Iran. Your weekend reading assignment is this 2009 New Republic dispatch, in which contributing editor David Samuels argued, “In the new Middle East, Tehran—armed with the strategic insulation that nuclear weapons confer—will be able to destabilize any government it doesn’t like without fear of military reprisal. As nearby regimes weigh the pros and cons of life inside the nuclear cage with the Iranian tiger, Lebanon offers a preview of what the future might be like.” That, in a nutshell, is what has changed between 2005, when Jumblatt could feel comfortable on the pro-America side of the fence, and today, when he can’t.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.