The White House put on a brave face Wednesday in light of a political deal in Lebanon that gave increased political strength to the radical group Hezbollah at the expense of the U.S.-backed government. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the accord, a major break in the country's 18-month political stalemate, a "positive step toward resolving the current crisis."
But in Washington and Jerusalem, officials were left to wonder if the deal wasn't a step toward creating what some fear will become a radicalized "Hezbollahstan" on Israel's northern border.
The agreement gives Hezbollah—which is considered a terrorist group by Washington and Israel—and its allies veto over any government decision.
The deal recognized the rising power of Hezbollah as a social and political movement as well as armed force, the latter highlighted by the street fighting earlier this month reminiscent of the 1975-90 civil war.
The deal, reached with the help of Arab mediators, was praised by Iran and Syria, which back Hezbollah. Pro-government politician and parliament majority leader, Saad Hariri, seemed to acknowledge his side had largely given in after the wave of recent violence.
As part of the deal, the Associated Press reports, Hezbollah and its political allies would get 11 seats in the cabinet, up from six seats previously held by the Syrian-backed opposition. Sixteen seats would go to the U.S.- and Western-backed parliament majority, with the remaining three distributed by the elected president.
There had been concerns that Lebanon was spiraling toward a renewed civil war that could draw in Sunni jihadis to battle the Shiite forces of Hezbollah. The agreement, a copy of which was obtained by the AP, states that the factions "pledged to refrain" from taking up weapons to resolve disputes and that the "use of arms or violence is forbidden to settle political differences under any circumstances."