September 8, 2009

The Warlord in His Castle

"This country is like a cake. On the top it is cream. Underneath it is fire."

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2009 12:58 AM
Comments
As I was finishing this great article a stray thought flashed across my mind.
Someone should design and market a board game called: "Warlords of Lebanon."
It would of course be a never ending game, set on a permanent table for generations of players to continue playing and plotting.
With no discernible nor wanted conclusion.
Papa Ray
West Texas
Posted by: Papa Ray at September 8, 2009 6:11 am
...Excellent suggestion, Papa Ray.
May I add some wholly transparent and layered tiers over your game-board, as in a three or more dimensional chess game?
Keep the game pieces translucent, but retaining their traditional shapes...Castles, Pawns, Knights...but their colors change slightly from time to time...keep a Bishop or two lurking about the edges; we can probably omit the Kings as they don't seem to last very long and don't have much manouvering room, and checkmates never seem to last either.
Alfred Nobel and the Curies can be the Judges sitting on those high stools.
Posted by: Morningside at September 8, 2009 1:39 pm

"This country is like a cake. On the top it is cream. Underneath it is fire."

Posted by: Schmedlap at September 8, 2009 7:43 pm
What a fine piece with clarity and insights for folks with different levels of understanding of Lebanon. This piece was so engrossing, I couldn't read it fast enough, yet at the same time read it slowly to allow it to digest.
It was like a fine meal with an excellent selection of wine added.
Thanks for this. Learned a lot about the region and especially the complexities of Lebanon and how difficult it is to achieve stability there.
Interesting picture of Hitchens. He looks immensely uncomfortable. Perhaps the only question left unanswered in this piece.
Nicely done.
Posted by: Sheva at September 9, 2009 6:20 am
A particularly fine post Michael. I find your blog endlessly informative and insightful. (Your only rival for getting at how things are is Michael Yon and his beat is much more specific.)
Posted by: Lorenzo at September 10, 2009 3:46 am
Great work MT. I have lots of questions but for another day.
Posted by: maxtrue at September 10, 2009 7:33 pm
Wow that is really great stuff!
Posted by: jachapin at September 11, 2009 6:46 am
....For those who don't have the time or inclination to read all of John Bolton's "Surrender Is Not An Option", a good excerpt will be his Chapter Fourteen, "Israel And Lebanon: Surrender As Matter Of High Principle At The UN."
Immediately under this title is the quote:
"John Bolton is right. This place is a mad house."
--French Permanent Representative Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, October 31, 2005.
The chapter is a delicious 41 pages.
Go for it.
Posted by: Morningside at September 11, 2009 6:45 pm
Mike,
Note that Walid Jumblatt makes basically the same argument I've made on here several times with you, at least once in heated and lengthy exchange - there are no other solutions and no other futures for Lebanon than redrawing the political map so that the Shia get, at least temporarily, the control equivalent to their political, military, and demographic primacy.
You'll never get rid of, disarm, neuter, or solve, or fundamentally change Hizballah until some time after the Shia get their turn in command of the state.
The range of control we do have is in how it all happens. If we stir up enough shit, we can help make change be a process of flame and sword.
I suppose another variant is the return of direct Syrian control, which is really only a variant as the Shia's relative power would adjust in a similar manner.
But the March 14, the minority quasi-democracy, or even a minority sunni-christian quasi-democratic coalition, won't be able to stay both in charge and even psuedo-democractic for long. They face the same demographic dillemma as Israel would have if they'd annexed the West Bank in 1968, but without the military dominance.
Posted by: glasnost at September 17, 2009 4:34 pm
I'm kind of surprised that Jamie Kirchick even allowed himself to be pictured for such a nuanced discussion.
Posted by: glasnost at September 17, 2009 4:35 pm
I kind of like Walid Jumblatt. Fisk has a man crush on him. The Saudis like him. So do America . . . and dare I say it Israel. Anyone with his political talents is a freaking genius.
Posted by: anand at September 17, 2009 5:36 pm
Could a successful Iraq moderate Hezbollah or empower Amal? Are Lebanese Shia really more radical than Iraqi, Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani, Turkish and Indian Shia? In all the later countries Shia are the most open to friendship and cooperation with the international community and nonmuslims.
Posted by: anand at September 17, 2009 5:40 pm
"Could a successful Iraq moderate Hezbollah"
What's your idea of a "moderate" Hezbollah? One that doesn't brag about the Jewish body parts it has?
Posted by: Gary Rosen at September 19, 2009 1:11 am
In all the later countries Shia are the most open to friendship and cooperation with the international community and nonmuslims.
This is something like a general principle of demography. Not always, but typically, noncompetitive minorities > 25%, as a made-up rule of thumb without any siginificant external support are the 'liberals' in a national political landscape.
Posted by: glasnost at September 19, 2009 8:41 am
Anand: Could a successful Iraq moderate Hezbollah or empower Amal?
Iraq will not moderate Hezbollah, and Amal is already empowered.
Anand: Are Lebanese Shia really more radical than Iraqi, Iranian, Afghan, Pakistani, Turkish and Indian Shia?
Yes.
Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 19, 2009 8:47 am
What is the relative strength of Amal versus Hezbollah (popularity in the Shia and non Shia Lebanese street)? Is Amal scared by Hezbollah's militia, or would Hezbollah delegitimize itself by violently attacking Amal (by angering Lebanese Shia)?
What foreign support does Amal have (Iran, Iraq, global Shia community, West, Saudi Arabia and Arab League, covertly from Israel, Turkey)?
One possible scenario that could empower Amal and/or Hezbollah moderates:
1) Mehdi Karroubi, Mohsen Rezaee, Mousavi, Khatami, Rafsanjani (who is close to the Saudis let us remember), and 10 of the 12 Marjas (Grand Ayatollahs)in Quom who are opposed to Khameini succeed in weakening or displacing Khamenei/Ahmenijad. They empower Nasrallah's opponents within Hezbollah or Amal in retribution for Nasrallah's overt loyalty and support for Ahmenijad and Khamenei.
2) The global Shia Marjas publicly praise Amal and the moderate parts of Hezbollah and de facto tilt against Nasrallah (many will do so subtly since they don't like involving themselves in worldly politics.) It is not hard to imagine Indian, Afghani, Pakistani, Qom, Najaf Marjas doing this, especially once they succeed in managing Khamenei (which appears to be their short term priority.) A list of the major Marjas is here:
http
://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_marjas
3) The Iraqis decide to significantly fund Amal and/or the moderate parts of Hezbollah. Once Iraq is able to boost natural gas and oil exports, and after oil and natural gas prices surge again; I think this will probably happen. Criticism of Nasrallah by the global Shia clergy would probably make this type of funding politically beneficial to any future Iraqi government. Moreover, the Iraqi Shia will want to get back at Nasrallah for backing the rogue JAM and special groups that were defeated by the GoI/Najaf Marjeya/Dawa/ISCI/moderate Iraqi Shia (with US help) in the Iraqi civil war.
I would imagine that most Lebanese Shia will want to associate themselves with those they see "winning" within the global Shia community (Iraqi Shia and the opponents of Khamenei inside Iran); as well as the large majority of global Shia Marjas. If other Shia groups in Lebanon provide more social services than Nasrallah because they get greater international funding, Lebanese Shia might be further drawn to other leaders.
I would argue that the scenario laid out above has a significant probability of playing out. At the very least, Nasrallah would be forced to greatly "moderate" his public image.
Posted by: anand at September 20, 2009 12:35 pm
anand, who are the "moderates" in Hezbollah? Who among them condemned Nasrallah's barbarism?
Posted by: Gary Rosen at September 20, 2009 5:22 pm
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