[News] Lebanon - Hezbollah Eases Up and Beirut Opens Its Shutters

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Sat May 10 12:22:41 EDT 2008


Weekend Edition
May 10 / 11, 2008
http://www.counterpunch.org/lamb05102008.html


Street Notes from the Hamra District


Hezbollah Eases Up and Beirut Opens Its Shutters

By FRANKLIN LAMB

Saturday Afternoon May 10 2008 witnessed a pronounced easing of tension.

Based on a US Congressional source, the Siniora 
government is reportedly able, with US approval, 
to offer the following face-saving proposal to 
Hezbollah to end the current crisis:

1. Hezbollah can keep its landline optic 
telecommunication cables for use in its 
Resistance struggle against Israel. But they 
should be put under "State Control".

Translation: Hezbollah controls them exclusively 
same as now and no one else will touch them. But 
'officially' they will be under 'State' control, i.e. not State control.

2. Concerning the other major issue regarding the 
head of Beirut Airport Security, General Wafiq 
Shouqair gets reassigned but Hezbollah gets to name his replacement.

Translation: Wafiq stays in office, keeps his 
authority and puts his deputy's name card slipped 
over his on the office nameplate.

The public version of the proposal above reads a 
bit differently as offered this afternoon by 
Siniora. It does not mention to the public "due 
to sectarian sensitivities" points one and two 
above. It also includes the formation of a 
national unity government in which the minority 
cannot block decisions and the majority cannot impose them.

Siniora has also proposed a five-point 
introduction to a settlement, including placing 
the two government decisions in the hands of the 
army but will withdraw these quietly.

Hezbollah has issued no comment on this report as of press time.

The current situation in Hamra

Many Hezbollah fighters left the streets of Hamra 
and turned them over to the Lebanese Army which 
had been largely absent on Friday.

Some of Hezbollah's withdrawing 'regulars' were replaced by 'reserves'.

"Its good for their training", one fellow who was 
obviously in charge outside of Starbucks on Hamra 
Street, explained through an interpreter. Some 
Hezbollah and Amal forces seemed quite willing to 
speak with the media about their mission.

Some pro-opposition commentators wandered around 
Hamra trying to assure returning residents.

"This was not a coup! Think of it as a protest 
and message to Bush and Olmert. If we wanted a 
coup we could surround the Serail. Mr. Siniora 
would perhaps hand us the keys. We don't want 
them. Let's all prepare for elections and let the 
people decide who sits in Parliament and makes up Cabinet."

Hezbollah reportedly has excellent relations with 
the Lebanese Army and wants to maintain them. 
Evidence of this is apparent today as Hezbollah's 
forces made a point of politely and almost 
paternally yielding some of their street corner 
locations to the Army with handshakes and sometimes kisses.

Outside Costa Coffee down from the Bristol Hotel, 
one seasoned Hezbollah fighter spoke to some 
obviously younger and 'greener' Party members and 
instructed them on their duties as they relieved 
him and he headed south for rest. He explained 
that things went fairly smoothly yesterday and 
that they would likely see residents start 
returning to Hamra. "Be helpful to those who need 
help. Assure them their neighborhood is secure 
and safe. We will start no violence and if 
someone else wants to we can assure those in who 
live in Hamra that we will quickly deal with troublemakers".

A few isolated acts of vandalism were reported 
yesterday and an internal joint Hezbollah-Amal 
investigation is underway to find out about what 
happened and insure that there is no recurrence. 
"No bad behavior by our fighters or any of our 
allies will be tolerated and bad behavior (from 
our side) will be severely punished and if 
vandalism occurred, Hezbollah will pay for it! 
Lebanon knows our standards. Remember during the 
July 2006 War. When our fighters had to use food 
and water that belonged to absent owners we left 
IOUs on the table. Everyone was later paid."

Some Amal guys were looking for an open sandwich 
shop but doubted that "people here in Hamra make 
sandwiches as great as we have in Ouzai. Our area 
has the best kebabs in all of Lebanon!!" (this 
observer did not have the heart to ask the young 
man if this was his first time outside of his "area").

"We will be magnanimous toward our adversaries in 
the small victory we achieved the past couple of 
days", explained 'Ali' an acquaintance of this 
observer who also lives in Haret Hreik.

"If the "ruling team" wants to claim victory that 
is fine with us. They can attack us verbally all 
they want. We are used to this. This situation 
was forced on us and we defended ourselves. Now 
we should seek a just and quick solution and heal 
any wounds", one young woman, obviously a 
Hezbollah supporter explained as she chatted with 
some fighters and journalists. She added, "We 
want dialogue and a fair peaceful solution. We 
are a Resistance movement and will not participate in a civil war".

As of this afternoon the losers and winners appear as follows:

The main losers obviously are the Bush 
administration, Israel and their Welch Club 
allies. Personal losers are Amin Gemayel, barely 
still the "leader" of the Phalange Party, as he 
talks tough and tries to rally his 'forces'
from 
Paris. Samir Geagea has pretty much nudged him 
aside and is reportedly casting his dark gaze 
toward Saad Hariri who may be planning to retire 
from politics and help with the very big family 
business. After the parties meet with President 
Bush next week, a 'shaking out' process may begin.

Walid Jumblatt is another loser since his 
provocations, taunts, and Welch Club cheerleader 
role to take on Hezbollah left him at its mercy 
both in the Mountains and in his Beirut home. 
Whatever credibility he had has evaporated. Among 
the Druze there is discord and inter-party 
fisticuffs as there was last night in Choufeit 
when Jumblatt asked the army to occupy and secure 
his Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) HQ but some 
of the younger members threatened violence, as 
the villagers watched beneath a huge a poster of 
party founder Kamal Jumblatt and the army and 
Jumblatt jr. backed off. PSP problems will 
require Walid's sustained attention for some 
while party members explained last evening to this observer.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora loses more of his 
waning influence and status. One of his main 
problems is that he is increasingly seen as a 
Bush administration puppet. Not least of his 
worries this morning, as he prepares to avoid 
being dumped by Bush next week, is the ringing 
endorsement he received yesterday from Secretary 
of State Rice, without bringing herself to mention Siniora by name:

"Our support for the legitimate Lebanese 
government, its democratic institutions, and its 
security services is unwavering. This support is 
a reflection of our unshakable commitment to the 
Lebanese people and their hope for democratic 
change, economic prosperity, and confessional 
harmony. We will stand by the Lebanese government 
and peaceful citizens of Lebanon through this 
crisis and provide the support they need to weather this storm."

She would not even mention his name as she 
employed the standard State Department verbiage 
just before a US puppet is dumped. It was dusted 
off from Vietnam days when JFK (Diem) and LBJ 
(Thieu) used almost identical language before switching horses.

The rest of Rice's analysis seemed to many in 
Lebanon, whose population is among the most 
politically sophisticated in many ways, as simply 
obtuse: "No one has a right to deprive Lebanese 
citizens of their political and economic freedom, 
their right to move freely within their country, 
or their sense of safety and security".

State Department officials said this morning that 
the international coalition supporting the 
Lebanese state against Hezbollah has never been 
stronger. Washington believes Hezbollah has 
"bitten off a bit too much" and now risks 
alienating the rest of Lebanon's population, 
including Hezbollah's important Christian allies, an official said.

The Bush administration reminded the World that 
it has spent $1.3 billion over the past two years 
to prop up Siniora's government, with about $400 
million dedicated to boosting Lebanon's security 
forces. This statement constitutes a hoax 
according to some informed observers in Lebanon:

"The money the Bush administration has spent has 
been to create a Sunni 'Internal Security Force' 
not for the Lebanese but for the 'ruling team' 
(the name the oppositions and its allies call the 
current government of Lebanon) which is no more 
than a militia run by pro-American officers. 
Hezbollah could defeat and disband this Bush 
militia in three hours of less", according to one 
long time UNIFIL program administrator.
One frustrated US Senate Intelligence Committee 
staffer emailed this morning with a tinge of irony and cynicism:

Referring to President Bush: "Now this loser has 
really done it. Having effectively delivered Iraq 
and Afghanistan to Iran, he has now handed them 
Lebanon. Mark my words, Saudi Arabia is next and 
the Saudis know it and will make a deal with Iran."

The major winners are obvious: Lebanon's 
Christian population allied with General Michel 
Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah, 
Amal and their Sunni, Druze and international supporters.

Hassan Nasrallah's position is probably the 
strongest it has ever been, not just in Lebanon 
but throughout the region. If he wanted to be a 
dictator of all of Lebanon, which he eschews, he 
could have the position today.
Rami Khoury, writing in Beirut's Daily Star this 
morning got it right in this observer's view when he wrote:

Nasrallah's task now is to create an inclusive 
environment conducive to the answering of these 
and other challenges. He and his party cannot be 
expected to come up with all of the solutions, 
and nor should they want to: If they cannot draw 
other players - and not just their closest allies 
- into the process, Nasrallah runs the risk of 
being cast as a dictator by default.

Hizbullah and its partners have frequently argued 
that their counterparts in the March 14 Forces 
coalition were not interested in true 
partnership, only in dictating terms. Now 
Nasrallah has to prove that his side is ready, 
willing and able to live up to its own 
expectations, and speed is of the essence: After 
15 years of civil war, 15 of diluted sovereignty, 
and three of limbo, the Lebanese deserve at last 
to have a level of politics commensurate with 
their talents and energies. If Nasrallah is the 
man who makes this happen, history will judge his 
actions to have been a revolution, not a coup, and a long-overdue one at that.

Late news is that the airport may open by Monday but this is not certain.

Franklin Lamb can be reached at <mailto:fplamb at gmail.com>fplamb at gmail.com




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