A clear-eyed, poignant study of the political developments in Lebanon since the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri on Feb. 14, 2005.
Daily Star opinion editor Young, who interviewed many of the main protagonists involved in Lebanon’s unfolding tragedy as part of his writing for the Wall Street Journal and other publications, titles his work after the Beirut crossroads that became a magnet for a growing demonstration of public outrage following al-Hariri’s death by car bomb, widely believed to be the hand of Syria, which had dominated the country during the previous three decades. A determinedly pluralistic country, Lebanon was devastated by the 15-year civil war beginning in 1974. Then, Palestinian groups, expelled from Jordan, relocated to Beirut and exacerbated Christian and Syrian hostilities, eventually provoking Israeli invasion, which in turn nourished the growth of Hezbollah, uneasily tied to Iran. Young, a self-described “product of the war years,” recognizes the “dysfunctional” quality to the Lebanese way of doing things, but sees a strength rather than weakness in its sectarianism. The Independence Intifada, which had galvanized around Martyrs Square in the summer of 2005, brought together “a perfect merging of interests” in the popular opposition to the hegemony of Syria. Young pursues these hopeful events, dashed by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s “reckless provocation” of Israeli bombardment in 2006, in an attempt to regain what the party, and Syria, had lost the previous year. In examining the subsequent assassinations, sectarian violence and public cries for justice that erupted following al-Hariri’s assassination, the author ably navigates the tangle of oligarchs that helped bring the country to its present situation, including the recent elections that demonstrate the Lebanese yearning for stability.
Astute and immensely readable.