Standing His Ground

The grand sérail, seat of the Lebanese government, is a magnificent 19th century Oriental palace. The stone façade, geometrical courtyard and ornate chambers were originally built as an Ottoman military barracks. Though beautifully restored, the structure was gutted at the start of the 15-year civil war — a wound on Lebanese history that is never far from the mind of the Grand Sérail's occupant since 2005's Cedar Revolution: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Recently, that wound threatened to rip open. One evening in December, thousands of protesters from the Shi'ite Muslim group Hizballah and other factions threatened to storm...

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