The Memorandum of Understanding signed today by al-Sayyid Amin al-Sayyid, who heads Hezbollah's Politboro, and the "Herald" Hasan al-Shahhal, who leads the main Salifist group in Lebanon is important on several counts:
- It underlines the simmering dangers of a new explosion of Sunni-Shi'i violence, which the MOU is intended to deter.
- It represents something of a success for Hezbollah, since the MOU will somewhat de-legitimize Sunnis who persist in fomenting anti-Shi'i violence.
- It reduces, but does not eliminate the opportunity for Lebanese and outside players to fish in trouble waters.
Nonetheless, there are a variety of Sunni Salafist groups that remain deeply hostile to the Shi'a, and they are unlikely to be decisively deterred by the MOU. Certainly, groups that tend to buy the al-Qaeda line are unlikely to be bowled over by this agreement. Last week's bus bombing in Tripoli lends bloody testament to the real dangers that persist.
It is unclear from the press coverage whether Saad al-Hariri enthusiastically embraced this agreement. Early signs suggest that it may have been presented to him as a done deal.