A few days after President Barack Obama stood on the podium at Cairo University sending a message of reconciliation to Muslims around the world, voters in Lebanon went to the polls and delivered a stunning blow to Hezbollah, the so-called Party of God. The victory by the U.S.-backed March 14 against the Iran-backed March 8 alliance came as a surprise to just about everyone. Since Lebanon is a microcosm of the Middle East, the vote had important regional resonance. But Lebanon is also a Rorschach test, so interpretations of the results reflected the multiplicity of views about what the most powerful forces influencing the region are.
For some pundits and activists, the Lebanon vote showed that Obama's Cairo words had already borne fruit. Obama, however, will have to wait before taking a victory lap. While it is possible that the Cairo speech played a small role in the results, a myriad of factors came into play in shaping Election Day politics in Lebanon, one of the most politically complex countries in the world.
Ironically, one of the biggest losers in the election blamed the U.S. for the outcome, but not for the reasons you might think.