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Lebanon Spares Obama A Headache

We can all agree that the failure of Hezbollah to win a majority in Lebanon's elections this weekend was a relief. It was also an outcome few people in the western media forecast. Before I visited the country in March, one US reporter said to me of the US- and Saudi-backed, Sunni-led coalition: "They're going to get their asses handed to them!" a statement delivered with a curiously satisfied tone, I thought. (I visited Beirut on a press trip sponsored by The New Opinion Group, an NGO aligned with the March 14 coalition, along with David Samuels and several other US journalists.

Could Obama's Cairo speech have influenced the election? The WSJ raises the possibility--and if so, the timing was a masterstroke: The result is terrific news for the Obama team--not only because it denies Iran a major political victory that would embolden Tehran and make containing its nuclear program all the more daunting, but because it spares Obama some painful decisions about whether and how to negotiate with a government in which Hezbollah enjoys majority control.

Newt up: the battle over whether Hezbollah will get veto power within the government, which, as Reuters explains is a touchy subject with the potential for  violence:

[Saad] Hariri, who has Saudi backing, is designated prime minister by a majority of legislators. Though not against the participation of Hezbollah and its allies in government, he refuses to meet their demand for effective veto power, setting the stage for political tension.

March 14's refusal to yield to the opposition's call for effective veto power in 2006 triggered a political crisis that last year pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

The website of Hezbollah in Lebanon, meanwhile, is clinging to the notion that the March 14 forces didn't achieve a clearer victory, but simultaneously that the results reflect sinister meddling by the west. Not that Iran did any meddling, mind you.

--Michael Crowley