The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri a decade ago not only cut down one of the region’s moderate Muslim leaders but also became a major catalyst for the broader sectarian war currently engulfing the Middle East.
Hariri’s death initially gave rise to Lebanon’s pro-democracy March 14 movement, one of the region’s most hopeful political trends. Over time, though, the country’s democratic dreams were shattered as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah tightened its grip in Lebanon and the Arab uprisings of 2011, symbolized in the nonviolent opposition that first arose against Syria’s Assad, descended into radicalism and war.
Indeed, in the wake of Hariri’s murder, clear fault lines are now readily seen between Sunni and Shia, Saudi Arabia and Iran, moderate and extremist. The question now facing Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East is which path will the region follow in the years ahead—that of Hariri, the moderate who sought to educate Lebanese students across the sectarian divide to build a bright future for the country, or that violent, anti-democratic ideology of his assassins?
Hudson Institute hosted a panel discussion on Rafik Hariri’s legacy and the future of Lebanon and beyond. Hudson Senior Fellows Lee Smith and Michael Doran joined Tony Badran of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Hussain Abdul Hussain, Washington bureau chief for al-Rai (Kuwait) to discuss how Lebanon’s fate may shape the region for years to come.