New Lebanese Government Convenes; PM Hariri Suggests Hizbullah Can Remain Armed
Lebanon’s newly-formed government convened for the first time Tuesday, with a focus on devising strategies to energize a moribund economy and improve infrastructure stressed to the breaking point by the influx of one million Syrian refugees in a country of only four million people. But it was Iranian-backed Hizbullah that stole the headlines, after Prime Minister Saad Hariri implied the terror organization will be permitted to remain armed; this, in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 which set the terms for ending the 2006 war between Israel and the Shiite group. The Lebanese government was formed following nine months of political gridlock largely caused by a demand by Hizbullah, which won major gains in last May’s elections, that it be granted a larger role in the cabinet. The group and its allies ultimately were given control over three ministries, including the health and finance portfolios, raising American concerns that Hizbullah could use state funds to finance its terror operations. The organization has at its disposal tens of thousands of well-trained fighters and an estimated 130,000 rockets and missiles pointed at Israel. Leader Hassan Nasrallah has dispatched forces to support Iranian interests in the wars raging in Syria and Yemen.