When Lebanon's new prime minister announced he had finally formed a new cabinet after five months of negotiations, the Lebanese people seemed startled by the abruptness of the news. The announcement by Prime Minister Najib Mikati heralded a new era for Lebanon: For the first time, the militant Shiite group Hezbollah -- designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and a number of Western nations -- will hold the majority of ministries in the Lebanese cabinet. The exact timing of the announcement points to the powerful forces at play in Lebanon, suggesting that with the new government in place, Lebanon will become less, not more stable. And as in the past, the country's fortunes will largely depend on what happens beyond its borders.
Lebanon has managed to survive as a country despite its deep divisions thanks to a political system that resembles a delicate and, in some places, frayed tapestry of some 18 different sects and religions. Putting together a government that can withstand the forces and ideologies that pull Lebanon in different directions requires seeking some form of political consensus. The Mikati government has not achieved that goal. In fact, many in Lebanon now claim that it was the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who pushed Mikati to abruptly announce he had formed a new government, making sure it was in pro-Damascus hands.
The daily Ad-Diyar wondered, "What happened in the last few hours that led to the sudden resolving of obstacles facing the cabinet lineup?" Another paper, Al-Mustaqbal provided the answer, quoting senior sources saying that the government was formed "under pressure from Syria."