[News] What's Next in Lebanon? - Why Hezbollah Walked

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 13 10:50:37 EST 2011

January 13, 2011

What's Next in Lebanon?

Why Hezbollah Walked


"In case no one has noticed, the Obama administration  just gifted 
Lebanon to Iran.  Washington earlier presented Iraq,  Afghanistan, 
the Gulf,  and Pakistan. Could it be more clear that Iran's strategic 
trump card is America's  subservience  to Israel?  For Iran, Israel's 
strangle hold on the US government is the gift that keeps on giving. 
"  With his comment, my neighbor, Lebanese Human Rights Ambassador 
Ali Khalil, declared American hegemony in the region was on a 
slippery and descending slope and that yesterday's political 
maneuvering in Lebanon likely accelerated American withdrawal.

My other neighbors in South Beirut appeared to go to bed early last 
night following the day's events which saw the collapsed of Lebanon's 
US-Saudi and Israeli backed government. Some, like my American and 
Lebanese roommates were planning for quick evacuations  should our 
Hezbollah neighborhood-watch guys give us that special knock on the 
door. Two rapid raps and a shouted "Yalla!" (Let's go) and it's time 
to head north fast without looking back. The reason is because, like 
many here, some neighbors fear Israel might use this latest 
government crisis to invade Lebanon again.

Yesterday, our  "government" electricity (and internet) was cut from 
10 a.m. until  2 p.m. and again from 6 p.m. to midnight.  At least 
ten hour daily power cuts is the  norm south and north of 
the  pro-US/Saudi Hamra "chic" district, where three hours or less 
daily power cuts are experienced.  Spending lots of hours in candle 
light probably made  the unsubstantiated rumors even more 
unsettling.  "The armed forces of Lebanon, Hezbollah and its allies, 
Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Iran are on military alert. The 
Americans may send battalions from Iraq!", the young man who works in 
the phone shop near my flat whispered. I could not help noticing that 
some of the young men normally hanging out in our hood seemed to have 
vanished. Even my phone card guy was impatient with me wanting to 
recharge my phone, "please hurry", he said, "I have an appointment 
and need to close my shop."

The assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri

The current government crisis has its origins in the February 
14,  2005  Valentine's Day murder of Lebanon's prime minister Rafic 
Hariri and 20 others.  The Bush administration declared 
Syria  responsible and saw an opportunity to force the Assad regime 
to drop its friendship with Washington's regional nemesis Iran, and 
to end its support for the National Lebanese Resistance led by Hezbollah.

One of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's State Department lawyers 
came up with the idea to use the  UN Security Council to set up a 
Special Tribunal  for Lebanon (STL) to try Hariri's killers and to 
hammer Syria into warming to Israel and to US projects for the region.

What was not considered at the time, but later became a godsend from 
the points of view of Israel and the Bush administration was  leaked 
Tribunal  information claiming that Hezbollah members might also be 
involved in the assassination. Hardly believing, one imagines, their 
good luck, Israel and the US abruptly changed directions and decided 
to use the newly formed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to rid 
themselves of Hezbollah once and for all as well as to correct 
Syria's behavior, believing that the Syrian government would also be indicted.

The pressure on Hezbollah caused the party to condemn what it claims 
is  false witnesses and it strongly urged the Lebanese government to 
open a case against them and not allow the STL, which it and others 
believe has became fatally politicized  by  rushing to judgment,  to 
receive Lebanese government cooperation. Hezbollah's  adversaries 
hailed the tribunal  even if Lebanon's stability was 
endangered.  After nearly fourteen months of trying to get the Saad 
Hariri government to seriously reconsider its positions on the STL, 
the Hezbollah-led opposition gave the majority an ultimatum either to 
call a cabinet meeting by January 12, 2011 to discuss the STL or the 
opposition Cabinet members would resign.  What Hezbollah and its 
allies wanted was for PM Hariri to convene a Cabinet session to 
consider whether to stop payment of Lebanon's  49 per cent share of 
the financing of the STL,  whether to withdraw the Lebanese judges 
from the tribunal, consider ending  all cooperation with the STL, and 
prosecuting  the "false witnesses" it claimed was linked to the UN 
probe into Rafik Hariri's killing.

Under enormous pressure from Washington, Paris and Riyadh , 
Saad  balked.  The opposition quickly resigned. Under article 69 the 
Lebanese Constitution, the resignation of one-third plus one of 
Cabinet members automatically leads to the collapse of the 30-member 
government.  It was the first time in Lebanon's politically turbulent 
history that a government collapsed under pressure of the 
resignations of one-third plus one of its members.

In order to secure the eleventh cabinet resignation, to add to 
Hezbollah's ten, in order to bring down the pro-US government, 
Hezbollah Secretary General  Hassan Nasrallah's  key political aide 
Hussein Khalil, called President Suleiman's Cabinet designee, Sayyed 
Hussein. Khalil reportedly conveyed Nasrallah's greetings and his 
hope that Hussein would decide what to do based on his 
conscience.  Huyssein's resignation quickly followed and Hariri's 
Premiership ended as he sat with President Obama at the White House.

What the toppling of the Hariri government means for the near term

Regional players reacted more or less predictably with the US 
accusing Iran, Syria and Hezbollah of 'blackmail', the French warning 
Syria that is would be held to account if there is  violence in 
Lebanon and the British warning of long term dangers. British Foreign 
Secretary William Hague said in a statement: "This is an extremely 
serious development which could have grave implications for Lebanon 
and for regional stability."  One British diplomat added last this 
evening, "Good Grief, however can we resolve this problem anytime soon?"

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials said they were "carefully 
following events" in Lebanon following the resignations and that "The 
Lebanese understand that an attempt by extremist to disturb the peace 
may turn out as a perilous gamble,"  according to Israeli  TV Channel 
10.  Israel is being accused today in Lebanon of trying to provoke 
strife and to gain advantage from the governmental crisis.  Yesterday 
after  kidnapping Sharbel Khoury, a shepherd from near Rmeish (he was 
released 24 hours later) the Israel navy also entered Lebanese waters 
along the coast.  This afternoon (1/13/10)  Israeli warplanes 
overflew Baalbek, Nabatiyeh and Marjayoun. These incursions 
constituted Israel's 7,269 and 7,270th violation of Lebanese 
sovereignty since the August 2006 adoption of UN Security Council 
Resolution 1701 ordering it to stay out of Lebanon.  Several UNIFIL 
and UN protests have had no effect on Israel while Washington remains 
mute on the subject of Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty.

Free Patriotic Movement member and Hezbollah supporter  Jebran 
Bassil,  who was Minister of Energy until yesterday, blamed 
Washington for the fact that  Saudi-Syrian efforts to prevent the 
resignations, reached a dead end. "The other side bowed to external, 
especially American pressure, ignoring the advice and wishes of the 
Saudi and Syrian sides," Bassil said.

For his part, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) leader Walid 
Jumblatt  seemed to agree with the FPM  and he attributed the failure 
of mediation efforts of Saudi Arabia and Syria to the "forces of 
darkness," alluding to leading Western powers, "It appears the forces 
of darkness got involved and stymied the Syrian-Saudi initiative, 
through which we would have seen a blocking of the negative 
repercussion of the STL indictment."

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea blamed the rival March 8 camp for 
seeking what he called "Stalin-like" powers, accusing it of "seeking 
to steal away the prerogatives of the president and the prime minister."

What next for Hezbollah?

The Hezbollah led opposition, as a result of the last election, has a 
majority in the 128-member Parliament, which enables it to name a 
candidate of its own for prime minister during the president's soon 
to be announced binding parliamentary consultations.  At noon on 
1/13/10, Hezbollah voting bloc leader MP Mohammed Raad, announced 
that the opposition will name "a personality with a history of 
national resistance to head the new government." Some are speculating 
that Hezbollah might propose the longtime Sunni leader Omar Karami, a 
moderate self effacing fellow with strong Syrian, progressive, and 
popular support.

Whatever it decides to do, Hezbollah may well take its time as its 
ponders major responsibilities that would envelop the resistance 
movement should it decide to govern Lebanon. Some of its supporters 
are urging Hezbollah to accept the daunting challenge and implement 
its 2009 Manifesto and its recent election platforms and end the 
mafia-like corruption among some Lebanon's political leaders. Several 
Lebanese civil society NGO's are urging Hezbollah to do more for 
Lebanon's increasingly fragile environment, fix once and for all 
Lebanon's serious water, electricity and infrastructure problems, and 
let the Lebanese public decide if Hezbollah  is true to their cause 
and warrants its future electoral support.

Others continue to  also lobby the party to immediately end Lebanon's 
and the Arabs' shame and grant Palestinian refugees the 
internationally mandated basic civil rights to work and to own a 
home. If Hezbollah heads the government, Palestinian prospects for 
achieving these elementary rights will look a lot brighter.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and is reachable c/o 
<mailto:fplamb at gmail.com>fplamb at gmail.com

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