Alexander Henley, The Guardian

World leaders are queuing up to affirm their commitment to Lebanese unity, but all have picked their sides and placed their bets.

"We focus our efforts on helping Lebanon maintain its unity," Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan proclaimed generously  in Beirut last week. He is quite clear that Turkey does not favour any sect or party over another.

Bravo, we need more like him, you might say, except that we do in fact have too many like him. Erdoğan’s visit is highly reminiscent of that by President Ahmadinejad  of Iran last month.

Ahmadinejad also trotted out the familiar refrain of unity, reconciliation and peace in Lebanon, The Iranian president visited the Shia south and addressed a crowd of Hezbollah supporters, whereas the Turkish premier travelled to the Sunni Akkar region in the north for a pro-government rally with the prime minister, Saad Hariri. Saad Hariri’s "March 14" coalition came to power with a campaign for "the truth" about his father’s murder. The Hezbollah-led opposition, however, has cast doubt on the UN investigation’s legitimacy with accusations of false witness.

Foreign powers have been competing to show the most "support for reconciliation" in Lebanon. Syria and Saudi Arabia, the main Arab sponsors of Hezbollah and March 14 respectively, have made much of ongoing but mysterious "efforts:  to defuse the situation.

Erdoğan made a point of his participation in the "Saudi-Syrian initiative" on Wednesday, and on Thursday the Iranian ambassador to Lebanon made a statement that "Iran is in constant contact and consultation" with Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. Western leaders have been singing to the same tune: everybody wants peace. But everybody wants peace on their own terms. It is only because so many world powers have seized upon this dispute that the two sides have become intractable

PM Hariri  has met btw November and December  the Kuwaiti emir, the British prime minister, the Russian president, the French foreign minister, and finally, of course, the Turkish prime minister, Erdogan. Alongside these gestures, the UK has committed an extra million pounds to the Hariri tribunal, and the US, $10m (£6m)

In fact, justice for the assassinated Rafik Hariri seems to have fallen by the wayside in the cause of the tribunal, which for many states now appears to be an excuse to get rid of Hezbollah. It has been clear since July 2006 that western governments will support Hezbollah’s disarmament even at the cost of devastating war in Lebanon. In the meantime, Hezbollah has become the symbolic champion of an international resistance against western hegemony, with its axis running through Tehran and Damascus.

Crises in Lebanon have a troubling history of internationalisation. It was exactly this kind of behaviour by the international community that dragged out the Lebanese civil war for 15 years. Lebanese warlords would regularly tour the world’s luxury hotels, being pampered and flattered at the expense of whichever government sponsored the latest round of peace negotiations. The same governments meanwhile lent financial, political or military support wherever the odds looked best, continually raising the stakes for a return on their money.

Last time around, Lebanon only emerged from conflict when the high-rollers finally moved their chips to Kuwait and the Gulf war in 1990. The inflated economy of war crashed, and the Lebanese were quietly abandoned to peaceful but oppressive Syrian rule.

Is this little country of four million destined to be the battleground of each new global conflict? How long will the world’s powers keep upping the ante in Lebanon?