Analysis: How will Nasrallah react to UN's Hariri findings

If Hizbullah is found guilty of assassinating former Lebanese PM, this would contradict the image it has tried so hard to create over the years.

311_Rafik Hariri (photo credit: Associated Press)
311_Rafik Hariri
(photo credit: Associated Press)
A coup in Lebanon, a civil war, an attack against Israel or just silence are some of the options that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has to consider as he mulls how to respond to the upcoming publication of the findings of a United Nations probe into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
In line with his efforts to portray Hizbullah as the “defender of Lebanon,” on Sunday Nasrallah once again tried to turn the spotlight on Israel, which he accused of creating the UN-sanctioned tribunal to use as cover for a war it is planning against Lebanon.
Nasrallah: Evidence held by UN Hariri probe worthless
Hariri lands in Iran 'to seek help with Hizbullah'
The Netherlands-based tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination is expected to issue indictments in the coming weeks against senior Hizbullah operatives. Nasrallah has said that Hizbullah would not stand by and allow its top men to take the fall in a Zionist plot.
What Nasrallah will do is the question everyone in the Middle East is trying to answer. His response will ultimately depend on the findings that the tribunal releases.
First, it is important to understand why Nasrallah is so concerned with the findings.
The main reason is because if Hizbullah is found guilty of assassinating Hariri, this would contradict the image it has tried so hard to create over the years as being the defender of Lebanon.
That is its raison d’etre and that is why it has built up such a powerful military. If it was defending Lebanon, why did it kill Hariri? If the tribunal wants to try and prevent an escalation in Lebanon it could name some of the key suspects but without affiliating them directly with Hizbullah.
This could be an easy way out for all sides – Nasrallah would be able to denounce the suspects and at the same time distance Hizbullah from them, and the tribunal would be able to say that it succeeded in cracking the case.
If, however, the tribunal decides to go all out against Hizbullah and directly accuse the group of Hariri’s assassination, Nasrallah could bolt from the government, force Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign and create political disarray.
Alternatively, Hizbullah could take to the streets and try to take over Lebanon using force.
The last option would be for Hizbullah to use the publication of the tribunal’s findings as a pretext to attack Israel. This is deemed the least likely scenario but the possibility is still of concern for Israel, which is keeping a close eye on developments in Beirut.