Protestors: Hezbollah Getting Away With Murder

In the Middle East, a wave of anti-government protests is threatening the region's stability.

In Tunisia on Tuesday, hundreds demanded the new government remove officials with links to President Ben Ali, who was ousted two weeks ago.

That weeks-old uprising has inspired protests in Egypt. Also on Tuesday, Egyptian police clashed with 10,000 demonstrators who want President Hosni Mubarak out.

Finally, in Lebanon, there were violent protests against the new government being formed by Hezbollah, the terror group backed by Iran.

CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that, with the enemy nowhere in sight, demonstrators took to the streets in the northern city of Tripoli, taking their anger out on a TV crew's satellite truck.

Tripoli is a stronghold of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims, angry that the Iranian-backed Shiite group Hezbollah will, for the first time, lead their country's government.

With some demonstrators calling Hezbollah the "devil," they are expressing a rage that has roots in the unsolved bombing and assassination of Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister in 2005. An international investigation is soon expected to hand down murder indictments, against senior Hezbollah figures.

But rather than take the blame, Hezbollah, in a round of bare-knuckle politics, toppled Lebanon's government and, today, formed a new one.

This means that - for supporters of the dead prime minister - justice will never be done.

The demonstrators in Lebanon are furious because the way they see it, Hezbollah has taken over Lebanon's government, so they can literally get away with murder.

With support from Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has grown into a popular movement with a well-armed military wing that's been fighting Israel for two decades. Now, it's also Lebanon's most powerful political party.

The U.S. Administration is, to say the least, disappointed.

"A Hezbollah controlled government in Lebanon would clearly have an impact on our bilateral relationship with that country," said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

That bilateral relationship included spending more that $700 million training and equipping the Lebanese army, which the U.S. hoped would one day be able to stand up to Hezbollah.

Now, that army will answer to Hezbollah.

"The U.S. has to come to grips with the fact that it must deal with the political players that have legitimacy and credibility in their own countries," said Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute.

For the U.S., dealing directly with radical Islamists isn't going to be easy, but the message from Lebanon is: Get used to it.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."