Located far from Beirut in a placid Dutch suburb, the tribunal was set up under the aegis of Presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac; it was initially a welcome effort to end an endless round of political killings and to challenge Lebanon's meddlesome neighbor Syria with a local dose of civil society justice. A few years earlier, the Serbian population revolted against strongman Slobodan Milosevic after he was indicted. Why not Lebanon? But given the complex politics of the Middle East, that question seems slightly archaic.
Now, the high stakes in Lebanon are bringing a critical look at the tribunal as a vehicle of international justice.
The tribunal indictment probably fingers members of Syria's ally Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militant group that has vociferously opposed the tribunal as an exercise in selective justice by the West and Israel. Its opposition brought down the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the slain leader.
After it collapsed Jan. 12, Hezbollah began orchestrating a new government and propelled Najib Mikati, a billionaire businessman with a reputation as a skillful politician, to the position of prime minister-designate. On Monday, the sixth anniversary of his father's death, the recently ousted Hariri vowed that his movement would oppose that new government. But Hezbollah's ascendancy, and adamancy that Mr. Mikati not cooperate with a judicial body, ensures the tribunal's fate looms large six years after Rafik Hariri died in a massive truck bomb that killed 22 others.