Mr. Jumblatt is widely seen as one of the leading trend-spotters in the rapidly shifting world of Lebanese politics. His ominous statement in this case certainly appears to reflect a growing unease in Lebanon.
The threat of criminal indictments issued by the UN tribunal investigating Rafik Hariri’s death has been hanging over Lebanon’s political arena since 2005, but recent hints in the Lebanese press that action was imminent have raised a storm among the country’s varied political factions. That such a strong response occurred despite the tribunal’s denial of indictments in the near future as “imagination” only proves the potential of the issue as a violently divisive catalyst.
Lebanon's political rivals have reached a rare consensus in that perception of a wrong choice by the tribunal will lead to violence. Hezbollah have recently dismissed a report in Der Spiegel claiming that they were behind Hariri’s death as a “fabrication”, and Hassan Nasrallah has made thinly veiled threats to repeat his movement’s takeover of Beirut in May 2008 on a larger scale should the tribunal’s findings lay the blame at his feet.
On the other side of the coin, Mustafa Alloush, a former legislator close to Saad Hariri, has threatened violence in return should Hezbollah attempt to “cover up” the tribunal’s findings.
Syria, for its part, another favourite culprit for Hariri’s death, waded in last week with a particularly garbled statement in Al-Akhbar newspaper, declaring its intention to force the UN Security Council:
“...not to ignore any fraud operation that has occurred, whether with interrogators who have worked in investigation commissions or figures with political links to the team that has filed a lawsuit and is involved in throwing accusations against Syria”.
Whether it will take any more substantive action is open to debate.
Like the fear of widespread violence before June’s predominantly peaceful elections, it may be that the fear of a definitive announcement by the UN tribunal will actually be less damaging once it is finally made. For the moment however, there is little doubt that tensions on all sides are rising.