December 01, 2006

The breaking of a country: Hizbullah takes to the streets of Beirut

By Abu Kais

Hizbullahprotest Hundreds of thousands of Shias from the south have flooded two squares in downtown Beirut. According to LBC, the Christian participation is weak, with even lesser participation by Beirut Sunnis.

The Lebanese army had to redeploy units from the border with Israel to protect the Lebanese government building and businesses from possible riots.

In southern villages, mosque preachers called on people to join the demonstration. In the north, Michel Aoun supporters united with supporters of Bashar Assad's buddy, Suleiman Franjieh. According to LBC and Elaph, they failed to mobilize enough Christian protesters. They probably heeded the calls of the Maronite patriarch yesterday who spoke against the protest.

In fact the Sunni Mufti, the Maronite Patriarch and the anti-Hizbullah Tyre Shia mufti have all spoken against "street protests". The Shia mufti, Ali al-Amin said the protest served the political interests of its organizers and not the people or the country. In a show of solidarity with the cabinet, the Sunni Mufti today led prayers in the government building (Serail).

The Maronite Patriarch, Nasrallah Sfeir, yesterday addressed a group of widows and relatives of assassinated March 14 leaders, saying protests such as the one planned by Hizbullah never solved anything in Lebanon, "a country of 18 sects" that have to "live side by side". Following Sfeir's speech, Pierre Gemayel's mother told the assembled that "Any Christian who demonstrates on Friday will be digging Lebanon's grave".

In reaction to the Sfeir statement, Franjieh said on Hizbullah's TV that the patriarch must have been "turned on" by the widows and mothers who visited him.

It is no wonder then that many Christians stayed home after such insults were hurled at the patriarch-- an act seemingly condoned by Aoun, who, in addressing the Shia Islamists and pro-Assad crowds, wore his secularist garb and delivered a boring and defensive speech.

"My conscience is clear," he began his speech. Many in the Christian community believe the former general sold his conscience for his presidential project.

Dwarfed by Hizbullah and Amal deputies on either side, he berated TV stations for differentiating between Christians and Shia in counting the number of protestors. Many stations reported that hundreds of thousands of Shias descended on the central district, as opposed to only "a few thousands" of Christians. He unsuccessfully tried to justify the smaller Christian participation by arguing that there is no difference between Christian and Shia since they're all Lebanese. This is coming from the man who constantly brags about representing the majority of Christians and speaking in their name.

Aoun called on the cabinet to resign and PM Fouad Siniora to "be replaced by another Sunni with better knowledge of the Lebanese composition." He claimed that his criticism was not directed at the Sunni community.

Aoun inexplicably claimed he was not seeking to isolate the ministers (!) but wants to put the country on stronger foundations and restore the "free decision". He described any international support for the cabinet as "not friendly" and "conspiratorial". He did not comment on Hizbullah's hijacking of decision making in July, or the Iranian-Syrian support that his Islamist ally openly brags about. Hizbullah's 30,000 rockets were also absent from his speech.

LBC quoted protest organizers as saying they were planning on keeping groups in downtown Beirut on a rotational basis until the government resigns.

Hizbullah has convinced its supporters that the cabinet conspired against Hizbullah during the war.

Hezbollah has criticized Siniora's cabinet over what it says was its failure to back Hezbollah during the July-August war with Israel. "The government was negligent during the war. That's why we want a national unity government," Ali Aboud, from south Lebanon, told Reuters.
"We're here to bring down the government. We, the resistance, don't want any influence from the United States," opposition supporter Najwa Bouhamdan, 41, said.

Downtown businesses, which suffered great losses during Hizbullah's summer season war, are not happy. It is unlikely that Shia villagers will frequent the posh nightclubs and restaurants. Many companies located in downtown will be forced to shut down.

The plan is to paralyze life in the country until the government resigns. Finance minister Jihad Azour has warned that the country stands to lose $70 million per day.

March 14 asked all its supporters to stay home and stay calm.

"This an attempted coup but we will remain strong… We will stay home, we will hang Lebanese flags ... and when they decide to return to dialogue, we will welcome that…" said Walid Jumblatt.

He said the Lebanese army had to pull back some of its units from south Lebanon to beef up security in Beirut, wondering whether this would lead to pulling out all Lebanese troops from the south which could "hamper implementation the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping force" in the volatile region bordering Israel.

"Maybe they don't want to implement (U.N. Security Council Resolution) 1701 and they don't want to implement the Taef accord," which ended the 1975-90 civil war.

The Taef agreement called for reviving the 1949 armistice accord with Israel which bans both nations from using their respective territory for acts of war against each other.

Jumblat said: "They want south Lebanon to remain an arena for an open war so that it can be a commodity used for negotiations by the Iranian and Syrian regimes."(Naharnet)

He said dropping an article in the Hariri tribunal plan that would have classified the assassination as a crime against humanity provided immunity to heads of states such as Bashar Assad and Emile Lahoud.  "This wasn't enough for them… now they want to save the rest of the criminals."

Although they don't admit it, Hizbullah and the pro-Syrian parties are going out of their way to sabotage the formation of the international tribunal, and this protest is one facet of it. The Shia ministers resigned right before a cabinet session tentatively approved the plan, and described another session that approved it following UNSC endorsement as "unconstitutional".

The plan needs to be approved by parliament, but the parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, is a Hizbullah ally and generally follows Syrian and Iranian orders.

The sit-in/protest official slogan is "we want a clean government."

Finally, this joke, courtesy of Assad's representative in Lebanon, puppet-president Emile Lahoud, who is openly calling for civil disobedience.

Lahoud also accused Saniora's government of being a puppet administration controlled by the United States and France. "It must be replaced, but what is holding it together is pressure from the United States and France," he said.  I have received many death-threats, and feel betrayed by this government, but it's my duty to be here, because if I went, believe me, it would be much worse," said Lahoud.

At the end of the interview, Lahoud said: "What I want for Christmas is a miracle: that Lebanon be left alone by external forces to decide its own future and live with a new government in peace. (Naharnet)

Update. The Hizbullah militia has laid siege to the government building, trapping the prime minister and cabinet ministers inside. Roadblocks were set up by Hizbullah members in what can only be described as coup d'etat.

The Lebanese army had to call Nabih Berri, and the Saudi King had to intervene through his ambassador, to "partially" remove the siege. Hizbullah "tents" are still on the roads, isolating the government building.

The Saudi king phoned the cabinet and spoke to all ministers one by one, affirming his support. The only countries NOT supporting this government are Syria and Iran.

March 14 is "watching and observing".

Posted by Abu Kais at December 1, 2006 08:08 AM
Comments

Auon must be one of the most cynical, opportunistic individuals in Lebanon!

Thanks for the rundown, Abu Kais. Very imformative, as usual.

Posted by: Zak at December 1, 2006 09:16 AM

Hitler, like Nasrallah never had a majority in elections. Elections as all 'weaknesses" of democracy are exploited to the fullest by the fascists.

Once Hitler had his "national unity" government--once he became Vice-Chancellor and obtained some of the levers of power, the transformation began. Lebanon now finds itself in the same position that Germany was placed in 1933.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at December 1, 2006 09:33 AM

What a joke, that Lahoud. I swear every time he opens his mouth something even more ridiculous comes out. Same with Aoun.

Seriously, time for marshal law. Arrest the traitors and throw them in jail.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 1, 2006 09:41 AM

"I wish that the prime minister and his ministers were among us today, not hiding behind barbed wire and army armored carriers. He who has his people behind him does not need barbed wire," Michel Aoun, a Christian leader and Hezbollah ally, told the crowd.

So who is more of a coward then: Aoun and his allies at the rally or the prime minister and his ministers?

Posted by: Solomon2 at December 1, 2006 09:52 AM

Bad Villbel, you used to be prone to making nuanced and realistic arguments. Has someone stolen your screen name?

Abu Kais, boy, do you ever have a different editorial slant on street protests when it's someone other than your buddies conducting them, don't you? You seem like as much of an example of the dyfunctional mindset of Lebanese politics as Hizballah does, frankly.

Posted by: glasnost at December 1, 2006 10:30 AM

glasnost,

It's kinda hard to be nuanced when you're being murdered. Don't ya think?

I'm all for nuance, reason and dialogue. But at what point do you give up on that?

Abu Kais,

Interesting, in your update, about the "siege" information. It's becoming pretty freaking clear that this is nothing more than a coup. (Well, to those who didn't think so to start with).

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 1, 2006 10:38 AM

World leaders seem to be ominously silent as this goes on...

Posted by: Zak at December 1, 2006 10:49 AM

Boy, this Michel Aoun sounds like a serious piece of shit.

Solomon2, what kind of a moron are you? Buying into the bully rhetoric of the thugs surrounding the residence of a democratically elected government? Jesus, what a 'tard.

Ditto for Glasnost. Nuanced and realistic arguments about a beer hall putsch? You guys are too clever by half.

Posted by: MarkC at December 1, 2006 10:53 AM

The US and western allies have been shaemfully quiet about this- there should be one message- Seniora's government is the only recognized government and demand Syria and Iran leave Lebanon or face military reprisal.

It is a subtle message that only dictators can understand.

Posted by: Ayatollah Ghilmeini at December 1, 2006 11:00 AM

Bad Vilbel,

I have enjoyed reading your comments and occasionally debating with you since the Lebanese crisis began. Things must be getting pretty bad for you to advocate martial law. Are you losing hope?

Posted by: jdwill at December 1, 2006 11:05 AM

Marshall law wrong. With approximately 40% of the Lebanonese army allied to Hezbolah just who do you think will be under marshall law?

Posted by: davod at December 1, 2006 11:18 AM

jdwill,

The feeling is mutual. And yes, I do think things ARE that desperate right now in Lebanon. Hezbollah is staging what amounts to a coup. For the past 2 years, every olive branch has been extended to them, even though they brought destruction to the country, started wars with our neighbours (without, i might add, consulting the government or the people) and acted like a typical blackmailer: You give em some ground, they just ask for more. They've been offered posts in government, even though they lost elections, that wasn't enough. They've walked out on government repeatedly, and then demanded veto power as a condition for their return. They have walked out of the 2 "national dialogues" when their demands were not met.
Typical blackmail tactics. This is no negotiation. Negotiating involves compromise, meeting the other side halfway. HA has not budged from their stance a SINGLE TIME.

At some point, you have to either surrender to them completely, or say "Enough is enough". It's that simple.

I realize marshall law is not practical in Lebanon, for the simple reason that a good chunk of the Army is shia and will not turn against their co-religionists (namely HA). And that's what makes this situation so desperate. There simply is NO way out. But i'd like someone to do SOMETHING. Hell, ANYTHING!

Posted by: bad vilbel at December 1, 2006 11:24 AM

Some fun with English:
We could try Marshall Law - get Marshall Matt Dillon (from Gunsmoke) and have him clean house. With Festus too, and a pony for D-P-U.
As opposed to martial law (the army).

Posted by: jdwill at December 1, 2006 11:26 AM

Bad Vilbel,

My attempt at humor preceded your post. I take this situation very seriously as I believe Lebanon is a microcosm of the larger struggle we are entering worldwide. My prayers go out to Lebanon, and my hope remains that she will find her way to a true peace.

Posted by: jdwill at December 1, 2006 11:29 AM

We could try Marshall Law - get Marshall Matt Dillon (from Gunsmoke) and have him clean house. With Festus too, and a pony for D-P-U.
As opposed to martial law (the army).

From the commentary over the last few days, there seem to be a lot of people wanting ponies.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 1, 2006 11:32 AM

jdwill,

I haven't lost my sense of humor yet ;)

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 1, 2006 11:33 AM

Can someone answer a question - if 40% of the Lebanese army is pro-Hezbollah, why was Hezbollah so determined not to allow the army into Southern Lebanon? And why was Israel happy to have them there?

Posted by: Mertel at December 1, 2006 12:32 PM

"He who has his people behind him does not need barbed wire," Michel Aoun. This was stated by a guy who was behind bulletproof glass. Does anybody see any irony here?

Posted by: Abu Daboo Doo al Bedrocki at December 1, 2006 12:44 PM

It's kinda hard to be nuanced when you're being murdered. Don't ya think?

Are you being murdered, Bad Vilbel? You're very coherent if so. Man, I'm glad that the Syrian troops are out of Lebanon, and I wish they could be forced, even bombed, into the ending their string of assasinations. But it's not Hizballah murdering the Lebanese, and you won't be able to kick Hizb out of Lebanon, because, as the million man protest demonstrates, they're wildly popular among the most numerous ethnic group in Lebanon.

If this is a "beer hall putsch", then was the Orange Revolution a beer hall putsch? It's a series of protests, and popular ones. If you want to fight politically for the future of your country, you need to be trying to work out compromises with Hizballah.

Please regard the current example of Iraq. Is your situation really as bad as Iraq's right now? Do you want it to be? That is the path of the mindset I see here. Michael Aoun, and Walid Jumblatt as well, understand that.

All the external actors - US, Syria, Israel, Iran - will cheer their respective factions on as you merrily drag Lebanon to the grave. By all means, stand up to Hizballah. Support Siniora. But don't confuse protests with a coup. And for that matter, don't confuse granting Hizb entrance into the government with the burgeoning yoke of Syrian dictatorship.

Posted by: 815804 at December 1, 2006 12:54 PM

You and I know very well that i meant "murdered" in the figurative sense. Don't be dense.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that Hezb is acting in the interests of Iran and Syria. So I don't understand how you can claim on one hand that you're glad the Syrians are gone, but on the other hand, support the very people who are trying to bring them back.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 1, 2006 01:02 PM

Hez is acting in the interests of Hez, and of its constituents.

Shiites are nearly 50% of the population and they want at least as much political power as the Christians who are less than a third of the population.

That is actually a reasonable demand. March 14 is at least as beholden to the US, France and Israel as Hez is to Syria and Iran.

If the people of Lebanon prefer Syria and Iran to the US, France, Israel and Saudi Arabia, then they should have a government that reflects their preferences.

And if that can be accomplished non-violently, then that is a good thing.

Posted by: Arnold Evans at December 1, 2006 01:32 PM

815804/Glasnost -

If this is a "beer hall putsch", then was the Orange Revolution a beer hall putsch?

No, it was a series of popular protests, resulting in an election which the March 14 parties then won fair and square

If you want to fight politically for the future of your country, you need to be trying to work out compromises with Hizballah.

Erm, I may be a little hazy on this whole democracy business, but I've always understood the drill to be that the 'opposition' criticises and even protests...but bides it's time until the next election comes around

It's a series of protests, and popular ones.

Oh come on now. You know full well that this isn't a popular protest in the usual sense.

We're talking about a movement whose commitment to the notion of democracy is pretty suspect, backed up by its own private army, which drew the country into a war it didn't want, and has close links with two foreign powers.

Posted by: Dirk at December 1, 2006 01:51 PM

Arnold old boy, perhaps you hadn't realized that there was an election in Lebanon? It was a free election where even the hizbonazis could run candidates. So how is it that now the democratically elected government must now give way for more hizbonazis and their stooges without a further election?

Ordinarily the opposition has to wait for the next election. In the meantime, they can continue to participate/assist a program of strategic politicial assasinations to reduce the majority of the government.

Obviously you don't understand the nature of the dynamics of parliamentary democracies or the spirit in which they are supposed to operate.

Actually either do the hizbonazis.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at December 1, 2006 01:57 PM

The constitution allows for early elections if the government loses the confidence of the parliament.

Hezbollahs plan is for peaceful demonstrations to cause parliament to call for early elections.

Of course, the war, the US rushing bombs to Israel for use on Lebanese civilians, Condi saying civilian deaths are "birth pangs" have made Lebanon's people less pro-US than it was immediately after the Hariri assasination. If Lebanon's government does not reflect the people, it probably should be replaced.

Also the "fair elections" were not on a one-person one-vote basis, but discriminated strongly against the Shiites. Hezbollah's plan is for peaceful demonstrations to empower a parliament that will rectify that situation.

Posted by: arnold evans at December 1, 2006 02:10 PM

Anyone have any projections about how likely a civil war is now, and under what conditions?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 1, 2006 02:15 PM

Shiites are nearly 50% of the population

That's one of the amusing things about the middle east, the way people always exaggurate without the slightest trace of shame.

In Iraq both Shiite AND Sunni leaders claim that their respective religions have a majority in the country. We know which one is lying in this case.

A couple of months ago an Egyptian (who was pretending not to be a Muslim just because he noticed that my name is Jewish) told me that most religious people in the world are Muslims... That's a wonderful one spread among statistically illiterate Muslims.

By the way, not only are there less than 1/2 as many Muslims as Christians, but if Muslims allowed conversions or simply allowed born Muslims to say that they're not religious, there would be 50% fewer Muslims the next day.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 1, 2006 02:21 PM

From the commentary over the last few days, there seem to be a lot of people wanting ponies.

Found the source of the problem in Lebanon, have you?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 1, 2006 02:28 PM

Where was Nasrallah today? too scared to show his face? afraid his stupid beard will catch fire? I guess he figured out he won't live to be an old man. He is not tough enough to be doing this, you can tell. Hezbo started out as a resistance movement in the South, but now it's much bigger than him and I bet he's scared sh..less.

Posted by: RebLeb at December 1, 2006 02:33 PM

Could someone - anyone - explain Aoun's turn around?

As I understand it, Michel Aoun was anti-Syrian before it was cool. In 1989 (IIRC) he started a small war against the Syrians, who defeated his forces and surrounded his bunker. He was exiled to France thanks to international pressure.

In France, he remains a critic of Syria and its occupation of Lebanon. He returns to Lebanon after Syria leaves, makes some pro-Western noises, but then joins the Syria-Hezbollah-Amal camp.

Is this really all about ego (the 'presidential project' mentioned above)? If he only wants to be president (or have other power), why'd he fight the Syrians in the '80s when they were expanding their control?

Maybe he looked at the West's resolve and correctly judged that he might as well stick with the Syria-Hezbollah-Amal lot since the West would lose interest sooner or later? And maybe being a Syrian tool as president is better than being holed up in a bunker again?

Anyone?

Posted by: Matt at December 1, 2006 03:24 PM

Matt,

I'll try to answer your question with a post I made elsewhere. Based on my knowledge, Aoun's followers are for the most part Christians (although not ALL christians). He appealed to a large segment of the Christian population (and to a lot of muslims too) back in the late 80s, when he launched a war of liberation against the Syrians. At the time, he claimed to want a unified secular state, free of both Syria and Israel. This hit all the right notes with anyone who's patriot enough in Lebanon.

After Syria took over Lebanon, Aoun went into Exile in France. His followers continued the crusade and were firmly in the anti-Syrian camp (which technically would have put them right in the same line as March 14). The problem is that Aoun has a bit of a napoleon complex. He thinks he's god and wants to be the next President. And over the years, a lot of his supporters lost sight of the true cause (Lebanon) and became blind followers of their demi-god (Much like the Hezbollah guys and Nasrallah). Those who put loyalty to Lebanon above loyalty to a person have long distanced themselves from Aoun (i think). Those left are the idiots who will follow a leader like sheep, no matter what he says. (Hence my use of the word "idiotic" when it comes to a large chunk of the Lebanese populace).

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 1, 2006 03:33 PM

'If you want to fight politically for the future of your country, you need to be trying to work out compromises with Hizballah.'

Compromise on what? Hezbollah wants the elected government to resign, Siniora doesn't want the government to resign. Compromise: part of the government resigns?

But if (I think) three more minister resign, the cabinet doesn't have enough members and the government falls completely.

What else are Hezbollah asking for? A 'national unity' government. It was a national unity government, in the sense that all major sects were represented in the cabinet, until the Shia parties resgined. (I even heard protesters on the radio complaining Shia aren't represented in the government!) They don't want 'national unity', they want 'more power'. The problem with that is there were elections, and they didn't do all that well.

Why should Lebanese 'compromise' with Hezbollah? They are threatening to overthrow a democratically elected government unless they recieve power they have not earned through the ballot box. Hezbollah respect the concept of the Lebanese state so little that they fight wars and take hostages without government approval.

'Can someone answer a question - if 40% of the Lebanese army is pro-Hezbollah, why was Hezbollah so determined not to allow the army into Southern Lebanon? And why was Israel happy to have them there?'

Hezbollah might not have been able to pick which part of the army would be sent to the south. If most of the 40% who support you are guarding central and northern Lebanon, they don't do you much good in the south. Part of it was probably simple ego.

As for the Israelis, Olmert and Co are the most incompetent government in the history of Israel. They still think UNIFAIL is working.

Posted by: Colt at December 1, 2006 03:40 PM

Bad Vilbel

Thanks for the reply. Great, a personality cult. What a shame. From what little I understood about Lebanon, after the Syrians left, I thought he'd be an asset rather than a tool of the enemy he'd fought for so long.

Odd that he doesn't hold a grudge against Syria, though. Maybe with Hafez dead...

Posted by: Colt at December 1, 2006 03:44 PM

Unfortunately, there are a lot of personality cults in Lebanon (Nasrallah comes to mind).

A lot of people thought he'd be an asset. Turns out he's a lowly opportunist, only looking out for himself and his ambitions. That became apparent when he chose to turn his back on March 14, even though they had the same cause pre-Syrian withdrawal and go his own way, for nothing more than electoral gain.

Way to be principled there, General.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 1, 2006 03:49 PM

Regarding his electoral gain, it was clear March 14 would do well. Hezbollah and Amal would have support, but he's a Christian with a powerbase in the north (IIRC). Why join the losing team? Perhaps he thought with someone as dominant as Saad Hariri leading March 14, he wouldn't be a major figure. But Nasrallah is surely more of a dominant figure within the Hezbollah-Amal-Aounist-pro-Syria group.

I guess he thought a Christian president, replacing Lahoud, would give the jihadis in Hezbollah a respectable face. And with his anti-Syria credentials from the 80s, the Syrians would like him in their pocket.

Posted by: Colt at December 1, 2006 04:01 PM

Close! Good analysis.

At the time, there was much debate over whether Lahoud would stay or be removed (remember that Lahoud's term was extended illegally, by Syria).

Aoun believed that Syria would always have a say in who Lahoud's replacement would be. He thought that March 14 would have to allow Syria a say in the selection of Lahoud's successor, in return for the pro-Syrian side letting go of their support for Lahoud. And Aoun also knew that if he were to play with March 14, there's a very good chance they wouldn't support him as president, and would prefer one of their own.
So he did what was best for his presidency aspirations at the time: Aligned himself against March 14 and alongside Syria and Hezbollah.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 1, 2006 04:04 PM

Bastard...

Thanks for the information, very interesting.

Posted by: Colt at December 1, 2006 04:13 PM

BV,

Not to defend Aoun today, and correct me if I am wrong but didn't March 14, before the elections, want to ally with Aoun and just offer him like 2 seats in parliament or some ridiculous number like that?

Talk about compounding mistakes,these guys did nothing right once the Syrians left.

Posted by: JoseyWales at December 1, 2006 04:38 PM

So I don't understand how you can claim on one hand that you're glad the Syrians are gone, but on the other hand, support the very people who are trying to bring them back.

Here's how. You can't wish Hizballah and the 40% of your country that supports them away. Hizb's support of, for, and by Syria is a tactical neccesity, not, to my knowledge, a core ideological precept. They both hate Israel, and they're both useful to each other. That's the end of it. So, coexisting with Hizb does not equal Syrian control of the country. It had better not, because you have no choice about the former.

None of that means you should support Hizb. It just means that it's in your and Lebanon's interest to have bounded competition with Hizb instead of a zero-sum war for survival.

The hyperbole aside, your conflict with Hizb is still well short of full available intensity. For your own country's sake, you should strive to keep it there.

Equating a series of protests to a coup d'etat is a step in the wrong direction as far as that goes.
In Israel, massive protests were mounted after the Lebanon war, and calls went out for Olmert to resign from every corner. Was that a coup d'etat? No. Did Olmert have to resign? No. Did civil war ensue? No. Was it good that civil war did not ensue? You bet your a**!!

Lebanon's political system is a parliamentary system with mechanisms for the resignation of the government and the declaration of new elections. It's a flawed system, and it needs to be changed, but in the meantime, that's the system and the rules of the game for everyone.

Syria's assassinations are no part of that game and are alien, offensive, destabilizing and the whole shebang. But think about this: Syria would love a serious armed confrontation between pro and anti-Hizballah forces. The outcome of that would end with them having a lot more control than they currently have, over everyone.

So support March 14, but I would avoid putting Hizb in a corner.
Which Israel and the US are trying as hard as possible to do. Like all great powers, they like to play fast and loose with other people's countries.
It's just not in the best interests of your country. Frankly, I don't think that Lebanon would survive another civil war as a single entity.

Posted by: glasnost at December 1, 2006 04:58 PM

By the way, not only are there less than 1/2 as many Muslims as Christians

Wow. If that's the case, Christians are really being screwed by the confessional voting system. Do you advocate abolishing it in favor of direct one-person one-vote elections?

(I thought not. Hezbollah actually does favor direct one-person one-vote elections, against the strenuous opposition of March 14, the US, France, Israel and Saudi Arabia)

Posted by: Arnold Evans at December 1, 2006 05:23 PM

Michael, we've been trying hard to keep on top of the news going on in Lebanon.
Your recent post of this here stating :
Update. The Hizbullah militia has laid siege to the government building, trapping the prime minister and cabinet ministers inside. Roadblocks were set up by Hizbullah members in what can only be described as coup d'etat

Michael, please can you post the SOURCE link to this news on your blog? I'd greatly appreciate this.

TC
Cindy

Posted by: Cindy at December 1, 2006 05:52 PM

glasnost,

You're basing your argument on a fallacy:

Here's how. You can't wish Hizballah and the 40% of your country that supports them away. Hizb's support of, for, and by Syria is a tactical neccesity, not, to my knowledge, a core ideological precept. They both hate Israel, and they're both useful to each other. That's the end of it. So, coexisting with Hizb does not equal Syrian control of the country. It had better not, because you have no choice about the former.

This right here is false. Hezbollah's ideology is Iran, not Lebanon. So it's hard for me to believe their actions are based on any sort of tactical decisions while they have Lebanon at heart.

I realize the Shiite population of Lebanon is not going to disappear. That's not at all what we're talking about here. We're talking about Hezbollah, specifically. We're talking about a party that has furthered other country's agendas at the EXPENSE of the very people they claim to protect (the shia from the south are the ones whose homes were destroyed thanks to Hezbollah's war this summer, for example).

Then you talk about finding a way to deal with Hezbollah. That was the first choice, of course. I advocated that very notion all summer long, when this very blog was teeming with "Why don't the Lebanese take out Hezbollah?" comments from Israelis and others. The thing is, it's been tried. March 14 has tried negotiating with HA and accomodating them. They were given government posts. Never once did Siniora come out and speak against them. Even when they started their war with Israel, Siniora came out and meekly praised the "resistance". March 14 sat down with them every time they had a demand (the national dialogue, etc) and each and every time, HA acted like bullies, refusing to compromise one inch and expecting the other side to just comply to their demands as if these were divine rights.

So forgive me if my patience has ran out. Dialogue is fine as long as the other side is actually willing to dialogue with you. But if they're already made up their minds, what are we discussing at the dialogue table?

I hate all the Hitler analogies (because i think they are overused these days), but do you think that there was anything the west could have done to avert WW2? Do you think more concessions would have stopped Hitler? It has been shown that Hitler was going to continue taking and taking, until there was nothing left to take, or until those he took from finally stood up and said enough. I see the exact same dynamic at play here today.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 1, 2006 05:58 PM

correction to my above post

Please Abu Kais , could you provide a SOURCE link to this update you posted on the blog?

Thank you for your time

Cindy

Posted by: Cindy at December 1, 2006 06:03 PM

Cindy--

The source is LBC News. It was in the news on at least two major Lebanese networks. And it was confirmed by Reuters, which quoted a Hibzullah official saying that they're imposing a blockade "until Siniora falls."

Posted by: Abu Kais at December 1, 2006 06:54 PM

glastnost,

A Syrian, Iranian alliance has been in the works since '87 (or earlier).

Hizb is Iranian all the way.

So you are right about Hizb/Syria not being fundamental. Hizb/Iran is fundamental.

Read 'em and weep.

Posted by: M. Simon at December 1, 2006 09:40 PM

dont you notice that all the problem in the world come from the west by americans and from the east by israelis and sunnis, bin laden is sunni, saddam is sunni, the quaida are sunnis, seniora is sunni, harri is sunni, they all have a superior complex for being a sunni, we are done and please open up to the world, you are not alone to make whatever you want.

Posted by: chris at December 2, 2006 02:05 AM

This word "siege", I do not think it means what you think it means.

Ditto for "coup d'etat".

My point is that if Hezbollah were actually sieging, you'd know it. We'd be talking about newly-installed prime minister Nasrallah right now.

Posted by: Swan at December 2, 2006 07:25 AM

Swan, in those cases we'd also be speculating how many years of civil war lies ahead.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at December 2, 2006 08:33 AM

Gotta love the idiot who lists all the sunnis that he considers to be a problem, and leaves out guys like Khomeini, Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, etc.

Posted by: Bad Vilbel at December 2, 2006 09:53 AM

Democracy demonstrations don't look so great when it's a fanatical-religious-thug sect doing the demonstrating, eh, Michael?

BTW you convinced me about the Kurds. Let 'em have their own country. They deserve it as much as anyone. If Iraqis can eff up their own destiny, why not the Kurds, a far more coherent and legitimate nationhood? Screw Turkey.

Posted by: Diana at December 2, 2006 10:51 AM

Chris,

Americans are just trying to clean up the mess the Brits, French, Germans, and Belgians made.

Posted by: M. Simon at December 2, 2006 11:20 AM

Diana,

Every country gets the government it deserves.

Posted by: M. Simon at December 2, 2006 11:21 AM

Swan -

Hezbollah is playing their cards this time, using everything wihtout force yet.... they are using the threat of force... if they fly Hezbollah flags as in their last 2 or 3 "protests" or "support for Syria" rallies... then they can be shown as foreign agents.

Since they started the war and planned for its aftermath they have gained Lebanese political capital, and they're piling all their chips politically behind it now.

They are betting the following -

1) The AP, Reuters, BBC, CNN, CBC, even the Daily Star will frame the "debate" to their liking... ie.... they're "protestors" and the Lebanese gov't is "US backed".... (it's backed by everyone except Syria and Iran btw) (forget Al Jazeera etc... they're a given for Hezbollah Aoun has been all over Al Jazeera)

2) They are betting on the Europeans. A great bet to make. The Europeans 'back' the existing gov't but they don't have the stomach or balls and with just the "slightest use of pressure/force" will fold like that..... Hezbollah knows they can wear down the Europeans and get them easily to force at the least major concessions and 'talks' if necessary on the Lebanese Gov't.... (scary how much this is like pre WWII btw)

3) Hezbollah is in a 'win win' situation. The only countries with any fortitude here is the US and Australia 50/50 on Britain... and the rest of Europe and the world is more concerned about being anti-US than supporting the elected Lebanese gov't... Hezbollah knows this and they know they have the media on their side.

Wars today are fought in the media and noone is going to soon be able to compete with Al Jazeera, Al Manar, State Run Arab TV, and their sympathizers in Reuters, AP, Guardian, BBC etc... Left wing outfits will eagerly bash Jerry Falwell but won't say a word about the virulent hate coming from the Muslim world....

CONCLUSION -

It's going to get worse and worse until the worst elements take over in Europe and then real old fashioned style European hating comes back to the fore.... The Islamists know they have a lot of mileage ahead they can gain before anything or anyone in the Western world really does a thing about it.

Maybe Hawking's prediction about the need to colonize distant stars in distant galaxies is more necessary sooner than we think.

Mike

Posted by: Mike Nargizian at December 2, 2006 02:38 PM

I realize the Shiite population of Lebanon is not going to disappear. That's not at all what we're talking about here. We're talking about Hezbollah, specifically. We're talking about a party that has furthered other country's agendas at the EXPENSE of the very people they claim to protect (the shia from the south are the ones whose homes were destroyed thanks to Hezbollah's war this summer, for example).

Well, if the actual people you're reffering to saw it your way, Hizballah wouldn't exist. But it does, and they don't. Whatever Abu Kais would like to believe, looking at his latest post, it doesn't appear to me that Hizb's popularity among the Shia has come about through a reign of terror. It looks to me like you're in a sect-based system and Hizballah speaks for the Shia sect, and the Shia happily endorse them.

And no wonder. When the war ended in the summer, did the Lebanese government rush in to build bridges with the pulverized Shia in the south? No, they sat on their behinds.

I'm sure you're right that Hizb is not a model of generosity in negotiations. It's not me suggesting anyone should give them what they're asking for, either.

On the other hand, have the Shia yet run a government in Lebanon's history? Until they get their shot, you'll have to reckon with this. But
my point is not about whether or not Saniora should resign.

My point is simple: protests are not a coup, and when you call them a coup, you're inviting armed conflict. That's a terrible idea. If Hizballah can't, won't or doesn't dare attempt a genuine seizure of power, that's a good thing. That's a bounded conflict.

Think about how you can keep it that way, not about how to help Syria light the fuse and toss it into the vegetable market.

Just my friendly advice, from someone who doesn't want to see Lebanon become a theocracy.

Posted by: glasnost at December 2, 2006 04:30 PM

It was all Fun & Games as long as Hizballah was just chucking rockets at those pesky Jews. I don't believe anybody has mentioned it but the irony of this when it is counter-pointed with the disscussion you all had back when Israel invaded is to....ironic. All that interesting talk about how the Lebanese couldn't do anything about Hizballah and how it was the "rational" thing to not stop them from chucking rockets at the Jews because you couldn't possibly fight the Splodeydopes.

Hizballah learned more then you guys did it would seem. You guys talk and sputter while the Splodeydopes watch and act.

Guess who wins?

It's always funny until someone gets an eye put out.

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