HOMEPAGE

Hezbollah Now Most Powerful Force In Lebanon

05/26/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Washington Post determines that Hezbollah's recent show of force In Beirut has carried the group to the forefront of power in Lebanon:

Hezbollah today stands unquestioned as the single most powerful force in Lebanon. By routing government-allied militiamen in hours last week, as the army stood by, it proved it can occupy Beirut at will. Its show of strength forced the government into a humiliating retreat from decisions that targeted the group. And the group itself has ensured that the independence of its sprawling military, political and social infrastructure -- deemed a state within a state by its opponents -- will remain untouched for the foreseeable future.

By doing so, Hezbollah, once a shadowy, Iranian-inspired band born in the civil war, has decided a question that has divided Lebanon since Hariri's death: whether it would embrace a culture of accommodation with Israel, as a mercantile Mediterranean entrepot, or one of confrontation that Hezbollah and its Iranian patrons exalt.

Meanwhile, Lebanese factions in Qatar for peace talks today traded accusations while attempting to end Lebanon's political crisis:

Feuding Lebanese factions traded accusations Sunday while meeting a second day in Qatar for talks in the country's 18-month political crisis.

In discussions between the government, which has U.S. support, and Hezbollah-led opposition in Doha, Hezbollah's chief negotiator, Mohammed Raad, accused the government of trying to "blackmail" the opposition by raising the subject of Hezbollah's weapons.

"No one opens the door to a debate about" Hezbollah's arms, Raad told the Iranian-backed group's private Al-Manar Television. He said the group's "weapons and capabilities are beyond any discussion" and were not supposed to be on the table in Doha.

However, a member of the pro-government team said no political deal was possible without "serious progress" on the issue of Hezbollah's weapons.

The Lebanese need "reassurances" the militants would not again "turn on the people" as they did last week, the official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. He said almost no progress had been made and that the talks were "still at the beginning."

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