JERUSALEM, Israel -- Hezbollah and its allies have pulled out of Lebanon's unity government.
Some have worried that the government could collapse -- with major repercussions for the Middle East. The key issue is an investigation that could implicate Hezbollah in the assassination of Lebanon's former leader.
Hezbollah's move appears designed to force Prime Minister Saad Hariri to stop a United Nations tribunal investigating the murder of his father - former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Walid Phares is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He was born and raised in Lebanon.
"And if that government goes down there will be nobody in Lebanon who would be listening to what the international tribunal for the Hariri assassination would have to say, and that's exactly what Hezbollah wants," Phares said.
Many have suspected the tribunal will indict Hezbollah officials for the 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri and that could lead to an international showdown.
Despite intense pressure to stop the tribunal and spare Hezbollah, Saad Hariri, Lebanon's current prime minister, said the investigation will continue.
That puts Hariri on a collision course with Hezbollah and Iran, Hezbollah's biggest supporter. Phares said Hezbollah's move to pull out of the Lebanese government was likely scripted with the backing of Iran. It knows Lebanon's political crisis will advance its agenda and reverberate throughout the Middle East.
"Let's keep in mind that Iran is moving in a variety of places," Phares said. "They've returned further to Iraq, they are now supporting a guerilla in Yemen and now they are moving Hezbollah to take over Lebanon. Hezbollah has thousands and thousands of missiles and one of the options that Hezbollah could have is to trigger another war with Israel."
Israel will watch carefully what impact this move will have especially on its northern border with Lebanon where in 2006 it fought the longest war in its history with Hezbollah.