January 22, 2007

Hezbollah Riots in Lebanon (Continuously Updated)

Beirut Tires Burning.jpg

While I was in Lebanon gathering the material I've been publishing, Hezbollah kept threatening to strangle the country by seizing major roads, including the one that leads to the airport. I was worried I might get stuck there, but I didn't. Today, though, they finally make good on their threat. Palestinian guerillas are reportedly helping.

Future TV and LBC say there are clashes between rioters and commuters. Cars, as well as tires, are burning.

Beirut Tires Burning Night.jpg

Photos via Blacksmiths of Lebanon. Click for more.

UPDATE: Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Seniora accuses Hezbollah of intimidation and terrorism. He may be over-reacting a bit with the t-word in this context, but it's telling because he used to call them a "resistance" movement instead of terrorists. Those days are gone.

UPDATE: More pictures at The Ouwet Front. One commenter says "It looks like Gaza." Yes, it does.

UPDATE: Here is a BBC photo gallery. Below is a sample.

_42483307_smoke_afp.jpg

Lovely.

UPDATE: Violence is spreading. Three people have been shot. Sunni and Shia Muslims fought each other with sticks, rocks, and automatic weapons in Southern Beirut. Violent clashes, often involving gunfire, are erupting elsewhere in the country as well.

Smashing Cars Beirut.jpg

Michel Aoun threatens to escalate.

UPDATE: Beirut is covered in smoke.

Smoke Over Beirut.jpg

UPDATE: Just a side note here...Up until today Hezbollah has modeled its "resistance" to the elected government after the March 14 demonstations to oust the occupying Syrian army. The March 14 movement, though, never did anything remotely like this. That's because they are, for the most part, liberal and democratic while Hezbollah is a Syrian-Iranian terrorist army. Today should be a moment of clarity for the willfully obtuse.

Notice, also, that the violent clashes in the streets are mostly between Sunnis and Shia, not between Christians and Shia. This is, and was, entirely predictable. Those who think Hezbollah is a popular movement with the support of Lebanon's Muslims as a whole should think again.

UPDATE: This post is getting a lot of attention from other blogs. This is mostly a link round-up, though. In case you missed some of my recent original reporting from Lebanon, here is an interview with a liberal Shia cleric, a descendent of the Prophet Mohammad, no less, who is an outspoken enemy of Hezbollah. And here is a photo gallery of Hezbollah's "capital" south of Beirut that was devastated by the Israeli Air Force during the summer. It looks like World War II blew through there.

UPDATE: Hezbollah called off the so-called "strike." Nasrallah seems to be aware that his latest stunt was seen by Lebanese an act of war in direct violation of Lebanon's power-sharing arrangment.

Members of Parliament today described Hezbollah as "terrorists" and Beirut as "occupied." Nasrallah is learning the limits of what he can do. He can squat downtown, but he can't seize it or burn it without starting a war.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at January 22, 2007 11:57 PM
Comments

Just a note, those same Palestinian guerillas (Syrian-controlled), the Islamic Jihad Movement, claimed owernship over a set of rockets and launchers found in southern Lebanon (aimed at Israel) by the Lebanese army over the weekend.

Posted by: Blacksmith Jade at January 23, 2007 12:02 AM

Blacksmith Jade, another note: Jama3a Islamiyya claimed ownership of those rockets

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=1&categ_id=2&article_id=78832

Posted by: Lira at January 23, 2007 12:37 AM

So how long will it for Syria to express "concern" about what's happening in Lebanon?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at January 23, 2007 03:45 AM

Keep up the good work! As a former french expat, I always read your blog with my pop corn stash, watching Lebanon dissolve... Any hope for this country? :/

Posted by: Liquid at January 23, 2007 03:58 AM

Palestinian guerillas are reportedly helping

If they knew what Hizballah's cousins are up to in Iraq, they might want to think twice about that:

Shias order Palestinians to leave Iraq or 'prepare to die'

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 23, 2007 06:45 AM

MSM appears to be slow on picking this up...

Posted by: Zak at January 23, 2007 06:53 AM

Micheal,

How serious do you think this push is? Will Hizb'Allah risk a military style attack, or will they continue is this vein of racheting up the pressure?

Posted by: templar knight at January 23, 2007 07:49 AM

"It looks like Gaza"

Looks more like Paris to me

Posted by: mertel at January 23, 2007 08:11 AM

mertel,

my thoughts exactly (in the comments).

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 23, 2007 08:21 AM

This comment thread is gold.

Posted by: Nate at January 23, 2007 08:44 AM

Michael,

Excellent writeup! I'm doing my best to track the photo feeds from Lebanon over at Snapped Shot, and have added you to the roundup!

Regards,
Brian L.

Posted by: Brian L. at January 23, 2007 09:10 AM

see why i was right when i said that they should have cluster bombed the target rich environment when they still could? now good luck in fighting along each roadblock...

Posted by: Poul at January 23, 2007 09:18 AM

With regard to the timing:
On January 25th, a major donor conference is due to take place in Paris (the Paris III donor’s conference) in which the US has promised a major financial aid package to Lebanon. The Prime Minister, along with several of his ministers, are due to attend.

Hizballah is using this day as opportunity to scuttle that conference, as well as possibly taking advantage of the absence of the PM and members of his cabinet (the only branch of government currently outside the control of Pro-Syrian forces) to possibly stage some sort of grab at power (I’m going to refrain from using the phrase coup d’etat because its just too unnerving for my caffeine-saturated brain at the moment).

The head of the army is a Syrian-ally that has been wading into politics far too often this past month for it to be comforting, especially in light of the way the armed forces have acted throughout the day….

Posted by: Blacksmith Jade at January 23, 2007 09:25 AM

This is sick. Here the Lebanese are, trying to rebuild and get their country back together after last summer's war, and now this crap. Of course, it's just a coincidence that this is picking up steam this week before the meeting in Paris gets underway.

Posted by: Renée C. at January 23, 2007 09:32 AM

I've been pretty quiet lately, observing this crap unfold (i have no better word for it). But i've about reached the limit of what I can take, to be honest.

In any civilized country, blocking roads and preventing normal citizens from getting to their jobs is an illegal act and would be broken up by the Police or Army. It is high time PM Siniora stopped simply turning the other cheek. These people need to understand once and for all that the rule of law comes first (a notion quite foreign in Lebanon). I don't care who's sensibilities are hurt, be it a sect or a group or whatever. If you break the law, if you impede and endanger normal citizens, the Army or Police are going to intervene. Time for Siniora to declare martial law!

(Yes i know, unrealistic and extreme, but i'm pissed).

Posted by: BadVilbel at January 23, 2007 09:39 AM

Looks to me like Iran is getting nervious.

Two Carrier's in or approaching the Indian Ocean, three Marine amphibious ships also on their way to the Indian Ocean, 21,000 troops in Bagdad, a big-time lose in Somalia and the Saudi's softening up the Iranian economy with lower oil prices, etc. etc. Gulf Arabs cannot be happy with a powerfull Iran.

Now Iran's doing what they do best - trying a little hegemonic slight-of-hand by pulling those strings hanging over Assad's [sp?] neck and shoulders to send in the proxies to try to make the EU as nervous as possible in the hope they'll slow the US down in what appears to be our next move against the terror masters!

2007 looks like it's going to get really intersting

Posted by: dougw at January 23, 2007 09:40 AM

The way to play this is to have the army and police act as if Hez are just any old unpermitted protestors. Teargas them, arrest them, drag them away from the barricades, just don't start shooting or acting as if they're a real security threat. Let them either back off or shoot first and publicly prove they're a threat, giving you a blank check to take drastic steps.

Posted by: Stacy at January 23, 2007 10:25 AM

Note the updates on Beirut to the Beltway:

Update.

Beirut_riots Beirutriots2

The Lebanese army is being criticized for not carrying out its duty. In many instances, it looked like they were guarding the roadblocks.

"They are either failing in their duty or collaborating by protecting the demonstrators instead of opening the roads and protecting citizens who want to go to work," Geagea added. Former MP Fares Soaid, a main figure in the anti-Syrian camp, also urged government forces "not to take part in this blatant coup." "The security forces are providing complete protection for those closing the roads, but they are not providing complete protection for those trying to go to work," Soaid charged.

"If the security forces continue to fail to carry out their duty, people will go down and open the roads by themselves and there will be pressure from a popular movement," he said. Druze MP Akram Shehayyeb, a member of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority, said "the army has to carry out its duty... because if it remains neutral, there will be a confrontation among the people."

Future TV is reporting that Hizbullah is bussing people from outside Beirut to predominantly Sunni neighborhood, especially Tarik Jdeedeh. Clashes erupted between Sunni residents and "gunmen".

Hizbullah is calling this an "intifada". And indeed, their supporters are now stoning anti-Hizbullah residents of Beirut. March 14 MP Walid Eido says that Beirut is "being occupied by the Hizbullah militia...".

Update 2. LBC is showing footage of Hizbullah youth throwing rocks at the Lebanese army in Corniche al-Mazraa in true "intifada style".

Update 3. Fares Soaid is lashing out at the security forces for arresting residents trying to open the roads after the failure of the army to do so. It seems the army's strategy is to avoid confrontation and clashes at any cost, even if it means letting the protestors maintain roadblocks. In some instances where the army did try to clear rubble and burning tires, they were stoned by "opposition" members.

Update 4. Hizbullah thugs armed with sticks, rocks and in some cases guns are storming Beirut neighborhoods. Some were seen approaching the Future TV news building in Raouche. ISF and army troops trying to stop their advance are being attacked.

Security forces are being extremely lax and unorganized-- intervening only when it's too late.

Future TV reported that vans carrying covered Hizbullah women are supplying the rioters with rocks

----------------------------------

It's "the intefada". That's funny isn't it?

I wonder if there will be any awakening about Israel when the Arab press can't run the usual martyrdom crap when (if) the Lebanese army ever fires back at rock-carrying cannon fodder thug babies.

It will be different this time even though it's the same.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 10:36 AM

Oh Jesus, look how this country works:

"Speaking on the occasion of Ashoura, Nasrallah offered the Lebanese people $4 billion, his personal estimate of the damages caused by the war, for which he said he was ready to assume responsibility. 'And if I couldn't pay, take me and put me in prison.'"

Pathetic.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 10:39 AM

Stacy,

The barricades will be manned by unorganized Hezbollah rock throwers and backed by their troops. They may go as low as a squad of organized troops to a 100 rock throwers and there may be some middle ground of semi-trained militia in there as well. If the police approach in sufficient numbers to arrest the rock throwers in a non-lethal manner, the squad of organized troops will use RPGs to take out the police vehicles and then pin down the police while calling for backup.

Lots of people will die if the police try to handle this. All of the willing idiots among the rock throwers who die will be held up as martyrs and few if any of the actual trained Hezbollah troops will be taken out.

I am sorry, but approaching the cactus from the pointy part is a bad idea. They are quite good at static defense. Putting Hassan Nazrallah in jail would be nice, but finding elite troops loyal enough to do so is a problem for the legitimate government of Lebanon. Hopefully the French Foriegn Legion or one of the US Special Operations folks has a bead on Hassan and his team and can pop them.

The problem Hezbollah leadership has is that even if they are running the war from Damascas or Tehran, they've used a lot of hiding places in the last year. Maintaining security on all those hiding places is expensive and revisiting them is fraught with peril. It would be interesting to see the effect on Hezbollah if a group of Lebanese businessmen were to put a $5 million bounty on Nazrallah for as long as Hezbollah was rioting. They are losing at least that much every day, and it would cause a lot of consternation for the bad guys if they had to review all their people providing security for hideouts.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 23, 2007 11:01 AM

I understand the reluctance to come down hard on Hezbolla given the risk of civil war, but if it's inevitable, perhaps the government should be the one to strike the first blow while everyone is watching.

In a gunfight, the person who fires the first shot usually wins since it's difficult to shoot back accurately after being shot at. If Hezbollah is allowed to forment civil war on their terms, they win.

From an outsider's perspective, it seems that it's approaching the point where a choice may have to be made soon- risk war by cracking down on Hezbollah, or risk a civil war started by Hezbollah and backed by their Syrian and Iranian masters.

Posted by: Hollowpoint at January 23, 2007 11:01 AM

Do not feed trolls. I am deleting all troll comments, and I am also deleting every comment that is posted as a response. Thanks.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 11:09 AM

I guess to Hizbullah we are the occupiers of Lebanon and they are through intimidation and terrorism exercising "resistance". This is unbearable. Where do they expect us to go???

Posted by: Nancy at January 23, 2007 11:10 AM

US Special Operations folks has a bead on Hassan and his team and can pop them.

As if Seniora would ever accept American help.

That's part of why they're in this pickle. It's not that we're not human to them, its that they don't even think in terms as inclusive as "human".

If Arabs thought in such inclusive terms then the Palestinan/Israeli conflict would have ended decades ago, and Palestinians would have the same human rights as natives in all of the countries of the region.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 11:55 AM

Josh, Seniora is openly pro-American. And he's getting a lot of American help right now, including help from the CIA.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 12:07 PM

Intifada?! What must the Sunnis of the muslim world think when they hear this term? They have spent the years holding the term in high esteem because they supported the Palestinians; now this is being used to describe Shiites busing in thugs to beat up Sunnis.
I can tell you it is very strange to watch the middle-east from afar right now. Groups of people that are indistinguishable to us are battling in broad daylight, as if this is the most natural thing in the world. When people explain it to me, I nod my head and keep waiting for reasoning that make sense to me, but I just don't get it.

Posted by: Keith at January 23, 2007 12:09 PM

This seems to me to be nothing but an invasion of Lebanon by Iran.

Posted by: Don Cox at January 23, 2007 12:10 PM

I thought I saw something like this coming yesterday. It's going to take violence to clarify the situation.

Posted by: Todd Grimson at January 23, 2007 12:12 PM

Cool to be wrong (if embarassing), though I have to doubt a newspaper article that claims to know America's "secret" policies. So the Telegraph has a "secret" rating as do all of their readers?

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 12:14 PM

Can anyone see anything emerge from this other than a full scale civil war?

Posted by: mertel at January 23, 2007 12:16 PM

But I guess that explains the anti Seniora hysteria I ran into on a British Muslim web site where they called him (and everyone in his government) corrupt American puppets.

Maybe that's why Hezbollah is rioting. It's the great satan!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 12:19 PM

mertel the result will be that Disney will open a theme park in Beirut...

Sometime after hell freezes over.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 12:20 PM

Josh,

Hezbollah calls the March 14 government "the Felton regime," named after the US Ambassador to Lebanon.

I'd say that's hilarious, but Nasrallah does have a (small) point. Seniora is genuinely pro-American.

The US just promised military aid to Lebanon, and sent a downpayment of Humvees, to bolster his government. The real problem with the Lebanese army, though, is that the Syrians still own some of the officers.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 12:38 PM

Mertel: Can anyone see anything emerge from this other than a full scale civil war?

I hope not! I have to agree with DougW, and Don Cox, though. Iran. Back in December the UN gave them 60 days to get their act together regarding their nuclear issues. Then, January 10th Bush announces his surge in Iraq, but sends Patriot Units, Carriers, etc, into the area to send Iran a message. Bush will only wait so long on the UN. Iran knows that someone has to do something. Ahmadinejad can read the signs of the times just like anyone else can. Whenever he gets into a tight squeeze, then it's time to cause a crisis elsewhere to get our eyes off Iran.

And what does Iran care if Lebanon goes up in flames, and takes the Middle East along with it? From what I've read, the more chaos, the better, to impress that 12th Imam. What a heartbreaking mess this all is.

Posted by: Renée C. at January 23, 2007 12:42 PM

What you see in Lebanon right now is a proxy war between the Syrian-Iranian axis on one side, and the US, France, and Saudi Arabia on the other.

Saudi Arabia is on our side in this one. Lebanon may be the only country in the world where Saudi foreign policy matches mine.

The reason the Saudis are on the March 14 side is two-fold. One: The Sunnis are with March 14 and the Shia Iranians are with March 8. Two: The Saudis want one freewheeling Arab country they can visit on vacation. Seriously. The Saudis love Lebanon just the way it is. Huge numbers of them go there during the summer for drinking, gambling, and sex.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 12:43 PM

And he's getting a lot of American help right now, including help from the CIA.

Back in July, many Americans were wondering why Israel didn't just directly hit Syria, since they were strong enough to do so. Now we have to ask ourselves the same queston...

Michel Aoun threatens to escalate.

I take back everything I said about understanding the Aounists' point of view.

Posted by: mary at January 23, 2007 12:44 PM

"Can anyone see anything emerge from this other than a full scale civil war?"

I can't. I mean, from reading Mike's reports, I gather that:

1. Hezbollah (or Hizb'allah or Hizbullah, whatever flavor you prefer) has the most capable military force inside Lebanon's borders, and
2. Hezbollah sits in the Lebanese government even while its illegal militia is allowed to begin wars with Israel, and
3. Hezbollah is an Iranian proxy, being used to snuff out any pro-Western sentiment while damaging American interests in the region, and,
4. The loyalty of the Shia members of the Lebanese military force is extremely questionable, and likely owed to Hezbollah before Lebanon, and
5. The majority of the Shia in Lebanon are blindly pro-Hezbollah.

When I add all that up in my head, I see no way in which the solution to this issue arises from anything but a full-scale civil war. The sad part is, the only way I can see that war being won by anything resembling Seniora's pro-Western government is with direct American intervention against Hezbollah. And by direct intervention, I'm not talking about Predator strikes on Nasrallah; I'm talking 20,000 marines landing on the beach. I'm unconvinced in the extreme, form what I read here, that Labanon's "security forces" are much more than an inside joke, helping maintain a facade of intersect harmony.

Short of Hezbollah and their Aounist tools just backing down, I see no strategy for success in Lebanon. I would very, very, very much like to believe that is not the case, but I haven't seen any commentary or rationale (yet) which could sensibly deal with the issues Lebanon faces.

Then again, about all I know about the Middle East and its major players I know from what I read here, and in the mass media. I would love for someoene to come up with something heartening to say, right about now.

Posted by: Nate at January 23, 2007 12:44 PM

From the article quoting Aoun: Aoun, in a series of interviews with opposition media organizations said he is "satisfied with the strike that covered all the Lebanese territories, from the border to the border."

Satisfied. And how many dead and wounded?

Posted by: Renée C. at January 23, 2007 12:47 PM

MJT,

The Sunni axis re: Lebanon still seems somewhat mysterious.

You never hear of Wahhabist influence in Lebanese circles - yet Saudis fund fundamentalist mosques throughout the Arab/Muslim world and the West.

Are they doing this in Lebanon too? Or are they really trying to preserve a sole Arab playground?

It seems that would offend certain members of the Royal family who would work to actively undermine that kind of thing - maybe the fundamentalists have too much on their plate in the rest of the world, but it does seem odd.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 23, 2007 12:51 PM

Isn't another reason the Saudis oppose Hezbollah/Iran is because of their own minority Shia population?

Posted by: Todd Grimson at January 23, 2007 12:52 PM

"Satisfied. And how many dead and wounded?"

Yes. Not to mention the economic damage this will surely do to Lebanon, maybe for onths and years to come.

Investors put their money in preceived stabilty and growth; certainly, not the picture Lebanon is painting for the world, right now.

Which is just the way certain people like it.

Posted by: Nate at January 23, 2007 12:54 PM

That Siniora -- what a character. The Hezbollards murder Jews, and they're a "resistance"; they riot in Lebanon, and they're committing "terrorism."

With "moderate" leadership like this, Lebanon is doomed in the medium run, rather than in the long run.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 23, 2007 12:56 PM

The Paris III conference for international aid to Lebanon is in three days. Hassan Nasrallah wants it to fail, of course.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 12:58 PM

Sorry, it's in two days, not three.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 12:58 PM

With "moderate" leadership like this, Lebanon is doomed in the medium run, rather than in the long run.

If they were more moderate than that they'd lose the public. The problem isn't the leadership, it's the horrible, bigotted state of the culture.

Anyway they're still the best the Arab world has to offer, by a long shot.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 01:07 PM

MJT,

You mention Lebanon as a "party zone" for the Saudis. Isn't that function served by (the much closer) Bahrain? Bahrain is linked to SA by a causeway, and they have no restrictions on alcohol, and the women are actually allowed to drive and travel alone. It's not as free-wheeling as Lebanon, but it's been safer for quite some time, thanks to Hezbollah and its foreign masters.

Posted by: timekeeper at January 23, 2007 01:07 PM

I have never been to Bahrain, but I know it's nothing like Beirut, which has more in common with Amsterdam and Hong Kong than any other Arab city.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 01:09 PM

Very interesting! With any luck, Hezbollah will have to put its "world class" clinics to good use once all of its militiamen come down with lung cancer.

Posted by: Robert Mayer at January 23, 2007 01:31 PM

So does anyone still believe that this is not an attempt at a coup?

i recall reading all sorts of opinions about a month ago about how the word "coup" was exageration. And how the hezbollah "protests" were peaceful, and no different than what March 14 did 2 years ago...

Well, behold...

Posted by: BadVilbel at January 23, 2007 01:35 PM

Hello, my name is Lydia Sizer and I am working on a thesis through Brown University in the United States looking at blogs. I am looking at how blogs affect mutual understanding among people of different ethnic backgrounds and I was wondering if you would be willing to take a survey I have prepared for my research. This research would give you a voice in determining whether blogs would be useful in aiding global security and counteracting racism. If you are interested, don't hesitate to email me at Lydia_Sizer@brown.edu. Thank you so much for your time. For convenience, please enter "thesis survey" as the subject of your email as I will not know who is writing to me. Thanks again! In addition, you will receive an email later from lscello@aol.com. This is because my school email is routed through my home email. Thanks!

--Lydia Sizer

Posted by: Lydia Sizer at January 23, 2007 01:48 PM

"Hopefully the French Foriegn Legion or one of the US Special Operations folks has a bead on Hassan and his team and can pop them."

Naah, The French are too busy drinking wine in southern Lebanon and their politicians are too busy trying to figure out how to fuck the Americans.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 23, 2007 01:54 PM

Coup?

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/news.php3?id=120135

SNIP--The prime minister condemned the violence, saying “Today’s general strike turned into actions and harassment that overstepped all limits and rekindled memories of times of strife, war and hegemony.”

Siniora vowed to retain control of the government. “We (the Lebanese people) will stand together against intimidation……… together against strife,” he said in a televised speech, adding that if necessary, he would consider other measures.

“The duty of the army and security forces does not allow any flexibility or compromise regarding the public interest, order and civic peace,” he warned.

“This is a coup d’etat… a revolt in all sense of the word,” declared Samir Geagea. The Christian leader was interviewed on the Saudi-backed Lebanese television network, LBCI.

Youth and Sports Minister Ahmed Fatfat agreed. “The opposition is attempting a coup by force,” he said. “This is not a strike. This is military action, a true aggression and I’m afraid this could develop into clashes between citizens.”

Posted by: Renée C. at January 23, 2007 01:59 PM

Hello, my name is Lydia Sizer...

Hi Lydia Sizer - I've seen your comment on some other blogs. These blogs, coincidentally or not, tend to concentrate on Lebanese and Israeli issues.

You're also multilingual. (JA asam jedan student kod Brown Univerzitet pa JA je udivljen da to je moguć umjesto te za ispuniti..)

What ever your research is about, it must be interesting....

Posted by: mary at January 23, 2007 02:00 PM

If you look at a map, the movements by Iran make sense. Control Syria and Lebanon in the north and gain control of Gaza in the south. Classic pincer move. Once they establish control of Iraq they have a choice: Take on Israel then or consolidate the Caliphite first by taking Jordan and moving south. This is their game and they have a long term plan. They aren't doing this just to cause a distraction to us. This is all part of what the West is facing right now. The term "war on terror" is meaningless. It is like calling World War II the "Tank War" because of Hitler's successful use of the Panzer. This is the "Caliphite War" and what we are seeing is two-fold. A war to establish a resurgent Caliphite and struggle as to whether it will be a Sunni or Shia Caliphite.

Posted by: Dale at January 23, 2007 02:15 PM

Michael, good reporting, thanks. Btw, I thought you said you were deleting trolls?

Dale: 'This is the "Caliphite War" and what we are seeing is two-fold. A war to establish a resurgent Caliphite and struggle as to whether it will be a Sunni or Shia Caliphite.',/i>

Posted by: Nick at January 23, 2007 02:20 PM

Naah, The French are too busy drinking wine in southern Lebanon

The problem isn't The French, but the mandate they operate under. At least they actually volunteered troops for the mission

and their politicians are too busy trying to figure out how to fuck the Americans.

This kind of anti French sentiment is irrational, sad and also well past its sell by date - on this occasion the US and France happen to be on the same side.

On another note, the BBC News report on the riots pointed out (and showed) that the Lebanese army did nothing to clear the blockades - including the one on the main road to the airport.

Posted by: Dirk at January 23, 2007 02:38 PM

"This kind of anti French sentiment is irrational, sad and also well past its sell by date - on this occasion the US and France happen to be on the same side."

True as far as Lebanon is concerned, but to a point.

Sorry mate, it is not irrational. The French have refined self-interest to an art form. The history of French foreign policy in recent history demonstrates a willingness to counteract American policy at every turn, presumably as a result of the fact that has very limited influence on its own.

Posted by: ankhfkhonsu at January 23, 2007 02:50 PM

My apologies for the ramble Nick, I was just trying to place the current events in Lebanon in the context of Iran's long term ambitions. Apologies also for the spelling of Caliphate.

Posted by: Dale at January 23, 2007 02:54 PM

MJT: Today should be a moment of clarity for the willfully obtuse.

Very much indeed. The leftists and post-colonialists/post-moderns who wish to blame each and every act of atrocity by Islamists, on the west, should really take notice. A 20% minority of Islamists (Hezbolla followers) want to get VETO POWER over the government by force - totally ignoring the rights of the other 80% citizens of Lebanon. After all, they have the guns, and they refuse to turn in their tools of violence.

And furthermore, the Hezbollahis who receive $200 million of pay from Iran annually, and act as an occupation army of Lebanon with their guns and RPGs and rockets, disallow open and honest debate about their fascistic organization among the rest of Labanon's Shias, Sunnis, and Christians. Any criticism of agent-dictator Nasrolla, is met with assassination.

This is a shameful day for leftists who have now consciously and openly sided with the ultra right-wing forces of religious totalitarianism, oppression, and supremacism in the middle east.

The leftists are now the most reactionary, anti-democratic and anti-enlightenment forces of civilization. They are more reactionary than right-wingers, and it is hilarious that they defend themselves with the well worn trope of being the good left vs. the bad right. There is nothing substantially progressive left of the leftist anymore. Their post-cold war slide into reaction, disdain of human rights in the 3rd world, and support of fascist dictatorships and violence has been well documented now.

Posted by: manda at January 23, 2007 03:02 PM

a few points of clarification for the comments:

"intifada" in arabic just means "uprising" -- it's not specific to the palestinian intifadas, nor does the word have as intrinsic a connation with them as it does outside of the region. the march 14 "cedar revolution" is more commonly referred to locally as the "independence intifada," for example. since HA loves to accuse the govt of being us-israeli pawns, it may be they hope people will make an association with the palestinian uprisings, but they are certainly also trying to evoke parallels with march 14's rise to power, and to a large extent, simply using a standard vocabulary word.

timekeeper & socal justice, re: saudis in lebanon:

bahrain presents an acceptable weekend alternative, but it's no lebanon, and in any case, you'd be crazy to summer in the gulf. most saudis & gulf tourists stay in the mountains, which are quite cool even in the hot summer months. as for the royals being theoretically opposed to lebanese liberalism & hedonism, well, a lot of royals vacation here... make your own conclusions. plus, the royal family is very, very close to the hariris.

re: saudis spreading wahhabism in lebanon, not sure (though i doubt it, on any significant scale at least), but al qaeda support in the country is virtually nil.

Posted by: carine at January 23, 2007 03:03 PM

Micheal, thank you for keeping us posted (I don't have many news channels here that cover this news sigh). I just saw one of your articles posted on Ya Libnan website from Jan 21 2007
http://yalibnan.com/site/archives/2007/01/guided_tour_thr.php

Thank you for your outstanding work Michael

Posted by: CindyPDX at January 23, 2007 03:31 PM

great post

Posted by: mynewsbot at January 23, 2007 03:36 PM

The fact that two carrier battle groups, plus a jeep carrier, are coming on station, near Diego Garcia, apparently is concentrating minds wonderfully in Tehran. I am not one who believes that this uprising in Beruit is either spontaneous or coincidental with the fact that there is a buildup of American ground, naval, and air power in the entire region. God knows what is pouring in to Diego Garcia. Likely the entire 509th Bomb Wing is moving in and out of there.

I fully expected Lebanon to start brewing up as the Iranians started to sweat. Do not expect the Levant to settle down any time soon. In fact, now that the Hez are rearmed, I give even odds for the Second Round of the Missile War to restart before May 1st.

The Iranians need the distraction.

Posted by: section9 at January 23, 2007 04:57 PM

carine,

re: saudis spreading wahhabism in lebanon, not sure (though i doubt it, on any significant scale at least), but al qaeda support in the country is virtually nil.

I think it's interesting - and very good for Lebanon - that at least some of the Saudis (the Muslim World League/WAMY/Al-Haramain types) haven't tried to do something with the Sunni Lebanese population.

They seem to infiltrate mosques and Muslim communities everywhere they can - including the U.S.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at January 23, 2007 05:27 PM

Dale, thanks. However, I disagree that Iran somehow has some grand scheme to destabilise the Middle East and foster a Shi'a revival resulting in a Shi'te Caliphate. It is, frankly, an exageration and dangerous distortion of the facts. Fears of a 'Persian Menace' are largely unfounded.

Iranians have as many grievances against the US as the US does against Iran. Many Iranians are still bitter about the overthrow of Mossadeq in '53, and still resent US and British support for the Shah, who was no sweetheart. Many Iranians can't forget Western support for Saddam and the ongoing sanctions. Many Iranians can't understand why their country continues to be isolated. Other countries invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, but Iran gets the blame for the resulting chaos.

President Ahmadmuppethead is a crank, but no more than that; whatever popular grievances he rode on to get into office, he has failed to follow through on his election promises and now the economy is crashing.

Allow me to make a book recommendation: Ali Ansari, Confronting Iran: The failure of American Foreign Policy and Roots of Mistrust, (Hurst & Co., 2006).

Posted by: Nick at January 23, 2007 05:29 PM

Many Iranians are still bitter about the overthrow of Mossadeq in '53, and still resent US and British support for the Shah, who was no sweetheart.

Utter bullshit. What are they planning to do, assasinate Harry Truman?

Politics is about what is going on in the world, not bullshit about men long dead. Talk about Truman is pretext not reason. And Amadinejad is a puppet of the Mullahs, not a crank.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 05:35 PM

"The problem isn't The French, but the mandate they operate under. At least they actually volunteered troops for the mission"

Actually the problem is the French, and all the people who were screaming for a ceasefire. After all they led the way to call for a ceasefire agreement before taking the time to care about little things like an EFFECTIVE MANDATE. The effective mandate should have been decided upon BEFORE the French jumped in and stopped the fighting. Now we witness the results. Hizb'Allah intact and terrorizing, rebuilding its war stocks while doling out Iranian blood money to buy the loyalty of the Shia.

The Lebanese and French had their chance, neither of them had the gull to SOLVE the problem by making the disarmament of Hizb'Allah their mandate. They didn't, instead they have left the status quo in place. Remind us all, how many resolutions have been put out calling for the disarmament of Hizb'Allah as a necessary first step to solving the Lebanon problem? Remind us all, where are all the other militias that used to counter Hizb'Allah? Oh that's right, you had them disarmed then left Hizb'Allah because they wouldn't do it. Who cares that the real problem is left in place and now the other groups have no protection.

What do you call people who keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results?

I call it stupid, which is what leaving Hizb'Allah in place is.

By the time this is over, it will cost more lives than if Israel had just dropped a tactical nuke on Hizb'Allah's homes in Beirut.

Status quo = neverending death

Posted by: Naieve at January 23, 2007 06:01 PM

By the time this is over, it will cost more lives than if Israel had just dropped a tactical nuke on Hizb'Allah's homes in Beirut.

You know it's times like this that I'm SO glad that internet nutcases don't actually make political and military decisions.

But of course if there had been a useful mandate, then the French wouldn't have voluntered. They're only interested in appearances, never accomplishment.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 06:30 PM

Ji77a, by way of response I will repost this from a Beirut to the Beltway commenter:

I just want to point out that all that is going on in Lebanon is "normal". All the irreconcilable factions and their respective leaders that form what we all refer to as Lebanon were previously forced to either live together under Syrian rules or to suffer the consequences, and many did.
With Hariri's death and all the ensuing events, especially the Syrian withdrawal, there was nothing holding these factions and leaders together anymore. A power struggle was the natural result. Given that most Lebanese people and their leaders are sectarian and lack any understanding of democracy this power struggle manifested in various forms. One of them culminated in the July war. That tactic failed to achieve its objective. The next stage is what we are seeing now. It will also fail.
However, it would be a mistake to think that the failure of HA and its allies to achieve their objectives means any victory for March 14. And even more, victory for March 14 does not mean victory for progress or democracy per se, only a very small pience in the foundation for the future.
The point behind this whole rant is to stress that Lebanon is infested with sectarianism and a dive into an internal physical war against HA will not further the cause of democracy but rather be very detrimental. In such an event, the Lebanese will show their true sectarianism and the war will morph very quickly (as it already seems to be doing) into a Sunni-Shiite war. Nothing more than a projection of the larger Sunni-Shiite struggle taking place in the region. That must be avoided at all costs.

To that end, a way must be found to strengthen the military and security forces and their loyalty to the state. These institutions need to assume their responsibilities so that Sunnis don't confront Shias and Geagea supporters don;t confront Aoun supporters.

Finally, I think the most dangerous thing that took place was the army and security forces' failure to act to preserve the peace and keep the roads open. Apparently, they are much more fragile than previously believed.

The road is still long... even longer than we could have imagined.

Posted by: R | Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 07:49 PM

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 06:52 PM

Ji77a is Hezbollah Lover. His comment has been deleted.

I know when you post, HL, because I'm smarter than you. You cannot hide behind false identities any more, so you might as well stop trying. This is the second time I've busted you today.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 06:54 PM

"You know it's times like this that I'm SO glad that internet nutcases don't actually make political and military decisions."

I'm not advocating nuking Beirut, I'm saying the road we are taking will cost more lives then it would.

What we should have done is enforce the disarmament of Hizb'Allah as provided by UN Resolutions.

We didn't now many many more people will die for the status quo.

Posted by: Naieve at January 23, 2007 06:54 PM

When and how will all of the turmoil in Lebanon be blamed on the Jews?

Posted by: andy at January 23, 2007 07:04 PM

"To that end, a way must be found to strengthen the military and security forces and their loyalty to the state. These institutions need to assume their responsibilities so that Sunnis don't confront Shias and Geagea supporters don;t confront Aoun supporters.
Finally, I think the most dangerous thing that took place was the army and security forces' failure to act to preserve the peace and keep the roads open. Apparently, they are much more fragile than previously believed."

All offense intended, if I am an internet nutcase for drawing a parallel to what most consider the worst thing that could happen in an attmept to make people understand the long term implications of their choice, you must be way out there.

Do you really think the Lebanese Army will ever be more then an accomplice to Hizb'Allah?

You sound like one of those people who say we should have kept Saddam's army.

The Lebanese Army, like Saddam's, is irrevocably corrupted. The only hope for Lebanon would have been an international coalition coming in and disarming Hizb'Allah.

Instead we will witness perpetual warfare as nothing is ever solved and the fighting continues relentlessly.

It would have been much better with a UN vs Hizb fight, keeping the majority of Lebanese out of the line of fire. Now it will be Lebanese vs Lebanese for the immediate future, which will lead away from a solution and further complicate the situation.

Posted by: Naieve at January 23, 2007 07:07 PM

I hope this is as bad as it gets. If it is will the sectarian divide seem smaller than before? No more civil wars:)

Posted by: mikek at January 23, 2007 07:31 PM

When I read this stuff two mental pictures come to mind from the past: a photo following the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon, long before the attack on the barracks, showing a building with a McDonald's sign blown to hell; and when I was in Munich in 1972 at the Olympics watching German police try to rescue the Israeli team. It was a forecast of what has come to pass -- civilization is defenseless against terrorists and extremists -- unless it is willing to do what is necessary to destroy them. Have the WILL to kill all of them, regardless of which side they are on, if they are not on our side. That's what it comes down to.

Posted by: JimboNC at January 23, 2007 07:49 PM

Sigh. While I feel a bit responsible for suggesting rather extreme deleting on your site, but here I go again.

You should probably delete the pro-Western kill-them-all types along with the fascist Jew haters. JimboNC sounds like an instant delete and Naieve should at least be warned for that "By the time this is over, it will cost more lives than if Israel had just dropped a tactical nuke on Hizb'Allah's homes in Beirut" crack.

Feel free to delete this too.

If your journalism wasn't so interesting in it's own right, too much deleting would risk shutting down your comment section. But with this wonderful journalism, you're in no danger of that, and it will no doubt improve it.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 08:04 PM

I agree with Josh. Knock off the kill-them-all bullshit. Dinner is ready and I have better things to do than babysit. Seriously.

(Although I think JimboNC was referring to terrorists rather than Shia.)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 08:08 PM

From the naharnet link:
...as the pro-government majority urged its followers to be on stand-by to "lift the siege off Beirut" if the army does not carry out the mission.

"If the army does not carry out the mission"???

Who knew the Army wasn't loyal enough to carry out missions?!!!

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 23, 2007 08:44 PM

Who knew the Army wasn't loyal enough to carry out missions?!!!

I've been trying to explain this problem for months. It comes up every time someone says the army should disarm Hezbollah. The army can't even clear frigging road blocks, let alone disarm a powerful terror militia.

The Syrians deliberately degraded the army during their 15-years of occupation, and Assad still partly controls it. Purging that regime's tentacles from Lebanon will take a very long time.

Also it'a a conscript army and a third or so of the soldiers are Shia. Many of them are more loyal to Hezbollah, which is loyal to Syria and Iran.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 23, 2007 08:52 PM

Josh Scholar is totally right-on. Mossadegh happened about 60 years ago, and in fact the Iranians must take the lion's share of blame for that. The monarchists in collusion with the army and anti-communist Sumka party (Nazi party) fascists and in collusion with the Shia Islamist mollas all conspired to bring down the democratic government of Mossadegh, which by the way came to power with the help of a British push for democracy in Iran, post WWII. The CIA spent a measily $300,000 to pay some pro-Monarchists to agitate against the spread of communism by the Tudeh party in Iranian politics.

3 generations of Iranians have passed since the time of Mossadegh, and the politics of memory is a cheap substitution for emancipation and enlightenment. Until when do you expect the Iranians to self-flagellate in order to appease the bloody conscience of the anti-west leftist and the reactionary post-modernist moral relativist?

The Iranian people are hugely more culpable than some foreign nation who spent next to nothing to interfere. As if the Saudis and Chavez and Ahmadinejad don't spend money in the US or their neighboring countries (Bolivia, Peru, Nicaragua, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, etc.) to influence elections.

Any leftist who claims that Mossadegh is purely the fault of the Americans is talking out of ignorance and deep intellecutal poverty.

The past is a different country.

Live and let live with it and move on.

Leftists and postmodernists, get over your prejudices and learn about the 3rd world as it is today, not what you ignorantly and idealistically think was the case 60 or 100 years ago, and see the millions living TODAY miserable lives of destitution and oppression and injustice perpetrated by assorted dictators and religious fascists that you support and cheer in the name of reactionary ideals of "independence" and "nationalism" and "identity".

Posted by: manda at January 23, 2007 09:24 PM

Dale, thanks. However, I disagree that Iran somehow has some grand scheme to destabilise the Middle East and foster a Shi'a revival resulting in a Shi'te Caliphate.

Dunno. The caliphate was Bin Laden's dream, wasn't it? Kind of a re-tread of the old Pan-Arab noise from the mid-to-late 20th C, but with 'traditional islam' as the guiding principles instead of socialist technocrats?

I don't think the Iranians buy into that. They're ethnic persians and that combined with the shia thing kind of makes them the outsiders in the big family of arab sunnis.

It is, frankly, an exageration and dangerous distortion of the facts. Fears of a 'Persian Menace' are largely unfounded.

Dunno. I hear they were kind of obnoxious back in the bad old days (several centuries back).

Iranians have as many grievances against the US as the US does against Iran.

Irrelevant bullshit. Running a foreign policy based on past grievances is for losers. Smart people run a foreign policy with future advantages in mind, and that is what the current Iranian government is doing.

Many Iranians are still bitter about the overthrow of Mossadeq in '53, and still resent US and British support for the Shah, who was no sweetheart. Many Iranians can't forget Western support for Saddam and the ongoing sanctions.

...while conveniently forgetting an incident at a certain embassy.

Funny how people have great memories of how they've been screwed, but tend to ignore the times when they were doing the screwing.

Nothing happens in a vaccum.

Many Iranians can't understand why their country continues to be isolated.

Then they need to get out more.

Other countries invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon, but Iran gets the blame for the resulting chaos.

...because Iranian agents are hip-deep in all three places.

President Ahmadmuppethead is a crank, but no more than that; whatever popular grievances he rode on to get into office, he has failed to follow through on his election promises and now the economy is crashing.

Yup.

Happenings abroad are a great way to distract people from events at home. The real question is if the current stupidity in Lebanon is Nasrallah's doing, or if the Iranians told him to crank things up a notch.

I dunno which it is, you could make a decent case either way.

Posted by: rosignol at January 23, 2007 09:45 PM

Context son.

Stop with the normal democratic ignore what you don't like tactics.

"I call it stupid, which is what leaving Hizb'Allah in place is."
"Notice the subtle suggestion as to what I think should be done? You know this sentence, the one you left out when quoting me?

"By the time this is over, it will cost more lives than if Israel had just dropped a tactical nuke on Hizb'Allah's homes in Beirut."

Now I say this because I am trying to make you realize how many people are going to die in Lebanon and Israel as this goes on endlessly. Taken in context you knew exactly what I meant and PURPOSEFULLY cropped my writing to ensure the context was lost.

"I'm not advocating nuking Beirut, I'm saying the road we are taking will cost more lives then it would.

What we should have done is enforce the disarmament of Hizb'Allah as provided by UN Resolutions."

Did you perhaps miss this post entirely?

Enjoy watching the next Hizb'Allah Israeli war, and the one after that, and the one after that.

Posted by: Naieve at January 23, 2007 10:15 PM

Yes! Iran is getting nervous.
The pictures reminds me of similar tactics the Mullahs use during Iranian revolution when I was just a student there.

Iranian hands are all over this and the explosion in Karbala today. Iran is indeed getting nervous. Good, it's about time.

And I am glad that Fouad Seniora has finally used the "T" word to describe Hezboullah...they are!

Posted by: Frieda at January 23, 2007 10:53 PM

Michael, once again you have completely misread the situation. "Willfully obtuse" is a great phrase, perhaps you should ponder on it a bit.

What happened today is what happens when a government comprised primarily of billionaire Sunnis systematically excludes participation from Christians and Shiites by rigging elections.

What happened today is what happens when a prime minister ignores a demonstration--a la marie antoinette--of 1.5 million people in a population of 3 million. Sanioura is asking for a revolution, and he may get it.

ALL acts of violence perpetrated today were petpetrated not by Hezb, not by FPM, and not by the Army. ALL acts of violence were perpetrated by the LF, the PSP, and the FM.

Sanioura can solve all of this with the wave of a magic wand by agreeing to a new electoral law, and new elections. Do you have any thoughts as to why a government would resist a fair electoral law and new elections? Hmm?

Shame on the world that has placed Lebanon in a position where a terrorist group like Hezbollah is asking for elections, and being called terrorists for daring to make the demand.

Posted by: John Lennon at January 23, 2007 11:43 PM

Interestingly criticism of Ahmadinejad is on up within Iran, with the clerical hierarchy clearing tiring of his antics - or at least the way he conveys them:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6290101.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6267105.stm

The people at the top who really pull the strings over there don't appear to be complete idiots and have some notion of self interest. Perhaps they'll have had enough of Ahmadinejad playing President and will be ready to clip his wings a bit.

There's been a lot of talk about making a deal with Syria and prising the Syrians off from Iran, but is the opposite such an unlikely alternative? Maybe from a Lebanese point of view it would actually be more desireable.

If the deal the Iranians proposed three years back of stopping support for militant groups (such as Hezb and Hamas) and a nuclear deal in exchange for ending sanctions, the US should definitely take it as it would solve a lot of problems at one stroke (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6274147.stm)

After all, who would have thought five years ago that it was possible to rationally deal with Gadaffi - a very unpleasant character and enemy number one in the Middle East during the 1980s - and yet the US is about to reopen its Tripoli embassy and US oil firms are back in the country.

Posted by: Dirk at January 24, 2007 12:05 AM

Sorry, just to add to that, the reason why a deal to prise Iran away from Syria (as opposed to the other way around) might not be possible is that the Saudis and the Gulf states would never stand for it. It's interesting that Cheney, who has strong Saudi connections was the one who vetoed the original deal.

But getting back to Lebanon, it might be a better solution for the Lebanese as the motivation for Syria and Iran seems to be very different:

Iran is there simply to stir up as much trouble as possible.

But correct me if I'm wrong - Syria's interest in Lebanon stems from the fact that Syrian Governments have never really got their heads around the notion of Lebanese sovereignty.

Don't Syrians believe that Lebanon is really Syria (in the same way that Saddam thought Kuwait was always Iraq) and was artificially separated from Syria by the French before WW2?

Posted by: Dirk at January 24, 2007 12:21 AM

I would like to point out that regardless of your particular views on French policy, or the conduct of their regular troops in South Lebanon, their special operators have shown the capacity and the historical willingness to engage in effective action. The French have trigger pullers who will get in, pull the trigger, and put the rounds where they need to be. More importantly, the French get away with doing exactly this much better than the US does.

If the French have to choose between letting the Hezbollah leadership live at the cost of putting 15,000 troops in South Lebanon indefinately or authorizing the eradication of the 25 biggest jerks around, they might well pick the wet option. The downside for them to be brutal is much less than it is for the US, nobody expects the French to exercise anything but self-interest.

It is much easier to deal with a cactus at its roots.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 24, 2007 01:17 AM

Dirk: Sorry, just to add to that, the reason why a deal to prise Iran away from Syria (as opposed to the other way around) might not be possible is that the Saudis and the Gulf states would never stand for it.

Why not?

Don't Syrians believe that Lebanon is really Syria (in the same way that Saddam thought Kuwait was always Iraq) and was artificially separated from Syria by the French before WW2?

Yes.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 24, 2007 01:46 AM

France definately has the ability to do what the Israelis cannot. If they went in to pull the plug on Hezbollah once and for all, Lebanese would happily help them. It would be ugly, and it could last a long time, but it would have a chance of success if the French didn't blink.

I don't think this is at all likely to ever happen, but it could work in theory if they did it right.

Syria and Iran would still be there, though, stirring up mayhem and chaos. The best way to deal with Hezbollah is cut them off -- forever -- from their patrons and armorers in Tehran and Damascus.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 24, 2007 01:51 AM

Well, whaddyaknow, history runs deep. I note my orginal reply to Dale has stirred up a lot of comment - most of it thoughtful and considered, especially from Rosignol. I made references to the past because many opponents of the current Iranian regime (of whom I am one) like to portray them in a less than flattering light by referring to past events, such as the suicide bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in '83, in order to construct a pattern of Iranian attempts to destabilise the region. It is relevant to draw attention to Iranian grievances (justified or not) because events in the Middle East are increasingly beinng viewed through an anti-Iranian prism.

Posted by: Nick at January 24, 2007 02:06 AM

MJT,

Just my humble 2 cents; the civil war has started. Three things are worth noting;

1- Aoun's weakness; his partisans were beaten up, and his road blocks would have been cleared had the army not protected them. The FL supporters who opened the Aouny road blocks were beaten up by the army.

2- The army helped the other side, in some regions, it was even blocking the roads itself. In others, it did nothing.

3- There was a show of force amongst Druze and Sunnis, a lot of weapons were "out in the open". Maybe this is what stopped them from escalating further today...

Still, it has barely started. Watch this Saturday.

Posted by: Jeha at January 24, 2007 02:24 AM

Jeha,

What is happening on Saturday?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 24, 2007 02:26 AM

MJT, did you see evidence that the Lebanese army was protecting the roadblocks and/or the Hizbollahi thugs? Or was it simply to separate the two sides and try not to inflame the situation by dismantling the roadblocks?

If the army has indeed turned against the state or moved outside its control, which I tend to doubt, then all bets are off. The army may split, but it would be doubtful that they wholeheartedly take the side of Hizbolla.

Posted by: manda at January 24, 2007 03:22 AM

I understand the protests may resume over the weekend. The "word" was initially for 2 days, but they were faced with physical threat from FL, PSP, and Northern clans. So they decided to "stop" yesterday.

To be sure, a lot of weapons came out, and there were many dead, more than 8. And among the wounded, there were many "ugly" ones; open skulls, broken spines... Not the hollywood flesh wound type.

The "word", however, is that they will resume over the weekend, in one form or another, some say Saturday.

Posted by: Jeha at January 24, 2007 03:27 AM

"If they knew what Hizballah's cousins are up to in Iraq, they might want to think twice about that"

Does anybody still think that Palestinian terrorists care about Palestinians?

It's the same with them and Hizbullah. If they care about their "clients", they would not bring Israel's wrath on them all the time.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at January 24, 2007 03:54 AM

MJT, "France definately has the ability to do what the Israelis cannot. If they went in to pull the plug on Hezbollah once and for all, Lebanese would happily help them. It would be ugly, and it could last a long time, but it would have a chance of success if the French didn't blink."

What has France done in the last 100 years that would allow anyone to think that they would help Lebanon (unless Lebanon would allow the French to be their Masters)?

I guess my perception of France is that on the World Stage they are a wanna-be, and have been since 1917.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at January 24, 2007 04:01 AM

I guess the question would be: In what way is Lebanon in France's current national interest, insofar as actual military action with the possibility of casualties go? Is there an existing pretext that would allow the French to take this sort of action (one I would cheer, for sure)?

Second, a question for Mike. Do you believe it's actually possible for Hezbollah to be severed entirely from its Syrian / Iranian support? What sort of action, do you think, would be required to facilitate this end, and is it within the bounds of reality, at this point?

Posted by: Nate at January 24, 2007 06:01 AM

There are ways and means to stop Hezbollah. France and S. Arabia are one of the ways. The question is: are they willing?................

Posted by: diana at January 24, 2007 06:40 AM

The Lebanese have brought this on themselves; they bargained with Hezbollah, and didn't bring a long enough spoon . . . and there isn't a long enough spoon.

It will be interesting to see how Siniora and company negotiate the next stage of their surrender to Nasrallah.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 24, 2007 07:08 AM

I don't think that MJT was suggesting that France would help the Lebanese -- I think he was pretty explicit in saying that he thought it unlikely -- I think he was arguing that they could, although it would be long and bloody.

(I disagree with him, mind -- I don't think that they have the capability, either in terms of military force or national will.)

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 24, 2007 07:12 AM

That's why I ask. Capability aside, I don't see any compelling reasons for the French to "pull triggers" anywhere, especially considering the fragile relationship between their state and its large Muslim population. If France attempted to take Hezbollah "in hand", couldn't that be a spark to more and larger Muslim riots across the French countryside?

I just don't see the French doing much more than buying up Lebanese wines and sitting back to "document" the carnage.

Also, some comical rantings coming from Ahmadinejad about all this. I can't help but wonder if he and Baghdad Bob are somehow related.

Posted by: Nate at January 24, 2007 07:45 AM

MJT -- do you have a sense that the quickie violent riot was for show to prevent funds reaching Siniora's gov't from the Paris meeting?

One message an observing foreign gov't or financial center might take away is "we can flush your reconstruction money down the crapper in a matter of days -- and when we take over the government, HB will gain control of whatever funds you have released."

I assume by minimizing money to the Siniora side, HB looks like the only source of support and recovery to a lot of Lebanese, not merely their very hard core Shia followers, and can rebuild as they wish. "Coming soon: Lovely downtown Beirut high-rise with top-floor free day-care nursery and vast concrete-reinforced underground... parking garage."

Posted by: Pam at January 24, 2007 07:51 AM

Re: The French
They may have the capability (which I'm dubious about) but almost certainly not the will. Sure the death of Harriri did the imposssible by uniting Bush and Chirac but that's very different from France committing troops to Lebanon in an offensive capacity

Posted by: Ansar at January 24, 2007 08:21 AM

"When and how will all of the turmoil in Lebanon be blamed on the Jews?"

Strangly enough it will be: "They did not finish the job last summer and now we (Lebanese) have to deal with Hezbollah."

Posted by: leo at January 24, 2007 08:51 AM

"Strangly enough it will be: "They did not finish the job last summer and now we (Lebanese) have to deal with Hezbollah.""

Fair enough.

Posted by: Andrew Brehm at January 24, 2007 09:19 AM

Josh Scholar.

Please, stop this "delete this, delete that" thing.
Have faith in our ability to understand what is good and what is bad.
We have enough of censorship in our lives as it is.

Posted by: leo at January 24, 2007 10:26 AM

"I would like to point out that regardless of your particular views on French policy, or the conduct of their regular troops in South Lebanon, their special operators have shown the capacity and the historical willingness to engage in effective action. The French have trigger pullers who will get in, pull the trigger, and put the rounds where they need to be. More importantly, the French get away with doing exactly this much better than the US does."

The French would only do so if it were their territory and the world did not care.

The world is watching, the world cares how France acts. So France will do what it thinks the world wants.

The problem with the French and war is not their soldiers, it is their leadership.

Who cares if they can put bullets on target if they are not allowed to fire them?

Posted by: Naieve at January 24, 2007 10:39 AM

Patrick Lasswell: your analysis is flawed because you're assuming that the Hezbollah problem could be solved with 25 bullets, properly targeted. It isn't; you're off by orders -- plural -- of magnitude.

And if they're not perfectly targeted (and they won't be) add on an order of magnitude or two to that.

Josh Scholar: you're quite correct. The fatal flaw in the Lebanese leadership is a reflection of the fatal flaw in the Lebanese polity ... and the longer that the Lebanese refuse to handle the flaw, the worse it's going to be, eventually. (For the survivors. For the others? Dead is dead.)

"Can anyone see anything emerge from this other than a full scale civil war?"
In the short run, sure, it's not only possible, but just this side of certain: the moderates, such as they are, will make enough additional concessions to the Hezbollards for them to, temporarily, call off their dogs until they're ready to demand more power, more concessions.

That's the short-term result.

In the long run? It's going to be worse -- for the Lebanese -- than the sort of full scale civil war that they've seen in the past.

But, regardless, there will be a civil war in Lebanon -- as some of us were explaining last summer; the rest of the Lebanese can't stop that by making concessions to Hezbollah, but only by defeating Hezbollah -- they can just put it off, at the price of having a more powerful Hezbollah to face once they finally admit that they have to.

And, yup, the non-Hezbollard Lebanese will be blaming Israel (appropriately, IMHO) for not finishing the job once it was started.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 24, 2007 10:59 AM

Leo I've seen online fora (the plural of forum?) after online fora destroyed. If they're not policed then eventually abusive and stupid people drive away everyone who would have something interesting to say, so it's not about censorship, it's about creating a social space that isn't so poisoned that it becomes useless.

An odd thing about abusive people, they're not bothered by abuse and so they form social groupings that normal people find unbearable.

Posted by: Josh Scholar at January 24, 2007 11:01 AM

Josh is absolutely right. I will protect this place from abusive trolls or I will have to shut it down.

I've shut it down in the past, and will do it again if I need to.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 24, 2007 11:05 AM

Apparently things are back to how they were on Monday... I spoke to 5 different people in Beirut from journalists and academics to tourists... the roads are open, the earthworks have come down, the airport is taking flights, all the schools/banks/shops are open...

There are shooting incidents reported in Tripoli, but this may be clan violence that was brought into the open by the Tuesday rioting...

I think that the leaders of the strike got a nasty lesson in how fragile Lebanese socity really is...

Anyway, Michael, I will be back in Beirut on Friday and was hoping you were going to e-mail me some contacts for various non-HA Shia you'd met...

Can you still do that or am I also persona non grata for not being an anti-HA type? I see you have effectively banned HA sympathisers from commenting these days...

Cheers,

db (M)

Posted by: Microraptor at January 24, 2007 11:09 AM

Source: Saudi, Iran working on deal to end Lebanon crisis

By News Agencies

Saudi Arabia and Iran, backers of the main rivals in Lebanon's political crisis, are negotiating a deal to end the standoff, Lebanese political sources said.

According to the sources, Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan held talks with senior Iranian official Ali Larijani in Tehran to try reach an agreement that both the Lebanese government and the opposition would accept.

The Lebanese sources did not give many details on the proposed deal but one source said it covered formation of a unity government and an understanding on a UN-backed international court to try suspects in the killing of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.

The source said if there was an agreement in Tehran, the Saudis would present an initiative to resolve the crisis at an international aid conference for Lebanon in Paris scheduled for Thursday.

Ahead of the Paris conference, France on Wednesday said it will offer the Lebanese government a 500 million euro ($650.3 million) loan on very favorable terms, a spokesman for French President Jacques Chirac said.

MORE HERE

Posted by: Renée C. at January 24, 2007 11:15 AM

Apparently things are back to how they were on Monday... I spoke to 5 different people in Beirut from journalists and academics to tourists... the roads are open, the earthworks have come down, the airport is taking flights, all the schools/banks/shops are open...

There are shooting incidents reported in Tripoli, but this may be clan violence that was brought into the open by the Tuesday rioting...

I think that the leaders of the strike got a nasty lesson in how fragile Lebanese socity really is...

Anyway, Michael, I will be back in Beirut on Friday and was hoping you were going to e-mail me some contacts for various non-HA Shia you'd met...

Can you still do that or am I also persona non grata for not being an anti-HA type? I see you have effectively banned HA sympathisers from commenting these days...

Cheers,

db (M)

Posted by: Microraptor at January 24, 2007 11:21 AM

Microraptor,

No, you are not persona non grata. Not at all. I just forgot to email you. Very sorry. Check your inbox and you will find the information I promised you.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at January 24, 2007 11:29 AM

Thanks mate.

:)

Interesting times ahead methinks....

Posted by: Microraptor at January 24, 2007 11:44 AM

Joel,

Part of the problem with the Hezbollah leadership is that without a Lebanese face to the Iranian trainers and Syrian suppliers, they can't call up the rock throwers. Without the rock throwers and other human shields, they are a Regimental Combat Team effective at static defense and harrassment fire. It sure is a pain to dig them out of their holes, but without the popular support they have marginal capacity to act except in defense.

Because so much of the Middle East is built on personal loyalty instead of institutional committment, twenty-five deaths changes the calculus of power something fierce. The ties holding the groups that compose the Hezbollah movement together are personal, not institutional. I'm not saying that the horse learns to sing after 25 or 250 of the biggest jerks in Lebanon die. I am saying that the capacity of Hezbollah to act coherently and cohesively falls off dramatically.

For those of you who thought I was advocating a long-term committment of French force, I wasn't. I am saying that a short term committment of French lethality is possible and potentially effective at diminishing Hezbollah coherence below the critical mass they are currently operating with. I am not talking about nation building, I am talking about dispersing a swarm.

As I have stated previously, there are only so many secure hiding places in Lebanon, and just about all of them have been used repeatedly or are now rubble. Hezbollah security has to know that everybody is watching and that they have to use the same address repeatedly. Sooner or later, somebody is going to come knocking.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 24, 2007 11:47 AM

With everything else that is going on, some good news from Lebanon for a change:

The oil spill off the Lebanese coast that resulted from the July war has now largely been contained

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6296057.stm

Posted by: Dirk at January 24, 2007 12:13 PM

"Leo I've seen online fora (the plural of forum?) after online fora destroyed. If they're not policed then eventually abusive and stupid people drive away everyone who would have something interesting to say, so it's not about censorship, it's about creating a social space that isn't so poisoned that it becomes useless."

Sorta like someone who purposefully takes a comment out of context to start a spat?

Omission is a lie you know.

Posted by: Naieve at January 24, 2007 12:28 PM

Patrick, you're substituting hope for analysis.

Oh, sure, it would improve things if the top 25 or 250 Hezbollards were to be converted to fly food . . . but it wouldn't improve things much, or for long, or change the underlying fundamentals: the non-Hezbollards in Lebanon would continue to make concessions to the new Hezbollard Kleagles, and the Shiite followers who like the taste of blood and power would generate a new set of leaders.

Why? Because they see that -- as MJHT noted, and agreed with, I believe -- as being preferable to the unthinkable: restarting the civil war to get rid of the Hezbollard infestation.

Why? Because it has been preferable, so far, from their POV. And that won't change when Hezbollah pushed the Siniora government into calling new elections (and the smart members of that government heading out of the country). Hezbollah has been instinctively moderate in its power grabs -- they don't demand it all at once, but merely more than they can get, and then scale back a bit. Master bargainers in the souk, they know how to, with their Iranian financiers, spend just enough money and political capital for the next step.

That doesn't change if Nasrallah and his top 25 buddies become, err, biologically unviable.

That said, we're not going to see the top 25 or 250 knocked off, for the same reason that that sort of thing didn't happen during the Lebanese civil war -- knocking off the heads of factions was rare, and when it happened, as with Gemayel, faction heads were soon replaced.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at January 24, 2007 01:52 PM

Re: the relationship between FPM + Hizb'allah, the NYT reports:

"On the coastal highway north of Beirut, supporters of Gen. Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian group and a Hezbollah ally, fought with men loyal to Samir Geagea, a government ally, in especially violent clashes."

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/24/world/middleeast/24lebanon.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Posted by: catchy at January 24, 2007 02:13 PM

Mr. Scholar, thank you for the word "fora"; I rather like it.

Strongly agree with MJT's policy of keeping the quality of these comments at an appropriate level/tone. It is his blog after all, and most of us have seen a number blogs where the comments element have become unbearable due to abuse.

My mind is aflutter with the nuances of the Lebanese situation, though even under the most positive outcome I think that it will be a multi-generational effor for the Lebanese to restabilize their country.

Posted by: Ron Snyder at January 24, 2007 04:18 PM

This thread has been focusing on Iran and Hizballah, the intifada, rockthrowers, backward terror promoting Shia's, and finally the advocates of a Shivs. Sunni war.
But on this very day, in those very pictures Christans are battling fellow Christians in the northern suburbs and streets of Beirut in a bid of brotherly disagreement. Anyone even care to comment on that?

Posted by: Wissm at January 24, 2007 05:00 PM

The LF are a bunch of thugs led by a war criminal - what more to say?

The PSP are similarly led by a war criminal.

So are Amal.

Hariri - and therefore the FM - takes his orders from Saudi Arabia.

Nasrallah - and therefore Hezbollah - takes his orders from Iran.

The only person working to build a strong Lebanese state based on equality, fighting corruption and independence is General Michel Aoun and his FPM. They were attacked by the LF yesterday but they did not respond. They are not thugs and they do not want a civil war.

Most of what you hear coming out of Lebanese media outlets is propaganda: LBC puts forward the LF view, Al Manar puts forth Hezbollah's view, FTV puts forward the FM's view, and so on. Foreigners are simply clueless as to what is going on in the country. The only way to know what is really happening is to hear what each leader is saying and see what they are doing.

Here are some facts:

1. The electoral law that resulted in the current government was designed by the Syrians to benefit their lackeys: at the time, these were Siniora, Jumblatt and co. These very same people have been in the government and staunch pro-Syrians for over 15 years. Hence why the FM won 70 seats with less total votes than the FPM, which won 20. All of a sudden, these people are anti-Syrians? Or are they liked by the USA because they are corrupt and easily controlled? Democracy be damned.

2. The Christians have been marginalised for over 15 years from government and still are. This is why the FPM wants a fair electoral law and new elections. If the government has a majority, it should win. No need for the government to incite their supporters to violence in the streets against fellow Lebanese.

3. This government allied with Hezbollah in the elections and following to form a government. The FPM was left in opposition. The Government called HA's weapons pure and of the resistance. It has not worked to solve peacefully the issue of HA's weapons. In its Ministerial Statement, the Government legitimised Hezbollah's weapons.

4. This government is made of the very same people responsible for Lebanon's $40+ billion debt due to their corruption and theft of public moneys. On the backs of the Lebanese people, they have become billionaires.

What is needed in Lebanon is an international tribunal under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter to bring to justice all those war criminals that were involved in Lebanon's "civil" war, and those who collaborated with the Syrian regime in crimes against humanity afterwards, and those who stole public money to line their coffers. Only then will the Lebanese be rid of their criminal leaders and perhaps a new chapter of Lebanese history will open.

Posted by: A.G at January 24, 2007 06:21 PM

The electoral law that resulted in the current government was designed by the Syrians to benefit their lackeys: at the time..

Who are Syria's lackeys now?

Posted by: mary at January 24, 2007 06:48 PM

The only person working to build a strong Lebanese state based on equality, fighting corruption and independence is General Michel Aoun and his FPM.

...and he's doing it by cozying up to Hizbullah and it's Iranian masters?

Sorry, I'm not buying any of that.

Posted by: rosignol at January 24, 2007 08:06 PM

Well, I'll buy the corruptability of the large majority of Lebanese leaders, like leaders pretty much anywhere the system is loose enough to let tens of millions get siphoned off.

And it's hard to have any respect for the current gov't -- I mean, Siniora seems like... like Bud Selig. No backbone, bottomless pockets, soul on sale to the highest bidder, yet some delusions of making a historic name for himself -- but that's just a genuinely uninformed impression. Heck --Maybe his weenie-ness is what has kept him alive.

God knows politics does make strange bedfellows, and vice versa, but to say someone who cozies up to HB is honest or honorable is really torturing common sense.

Posted by: Pam at January 24, 2007 09:01 PM

Who are Syria's lackeys now?
The SSNP mainly, as well as some Sunni groups in the north. Some Palestinian groups in the camps certainly. The Marada are "pro-Syrian" to the extent that Franjieh is personally friendly with the Assad family.

Hezbollah is "pro-Syrian" to the extent it requires Syrian support to arm itself and does not want to burn bridges with the Syrian regime. That does not mean they want Syria to come back into the country and rule. They would lose in such a situation. When Syria was in the country, Hezbollah was confined to operations against Israel and was not allowed to enter political life. Political life was left by the Syrians to Hariri, Siniora, Jumblatt and co. Now, Hezbollah has the chance to properly represent its constituents' interests in government, something they were denied before. It is unlikely to give that up, considering it is actually pushing for democratic elections under a fair electoral law.

The propaganda being run about Aoun becoming "pro-Syrian" is simply false. His stance is quite clear. He is for Lebanese independence and therefore against intervention in the internal affairs of the country (also illegal under international law) by ANY outside powers. That outside power was previously Syria, hence his war against Syria. But now that they have left, there is no point making them an enemy (nor bending to their demands). The only loser out of that would be Lebanon, which relies on trade through Syria for much of its exports, imports and labour, and so would be paralysed economically were Syria to close the border.

As far as the current government, specifically the FM and PSP, currently marketing themselves as "anti-Syrians": what would happen if there was a regime change in Syria and Assad lost power? They would welcome the Syrians back as quickly as they ditched them if that meant they would remain in power. It was the LF and FPM that demonstrated against Syria, got beaten, tortured and disappeared during Syria's time in Lebanon, while the FM and PSP leaders collaborated in this action against their fellow Lebanese, as long as they remained in power. And they are still in power today. Hence why the overwhelming majority of Christians, joined by the overwhelming majority of Shiites, wants the government to fall and new elections under a fair new election law.

...and he's doing it by cozying up to Hizbullah and it's Iranian masters?
In the end, HA is a Lebanese problem and they represent most of Lebanon's Shiites. They cannot be dealt with by force unless the Lebanese want to embark on another 15 year civil war and then Syrian tutelage after it is over.

In that regard, the FPM sat down with HA and talked about ways to resolve their issues peacefully, including that of HA's weapons, which the Christians are also not comfortable about. Hence the Memorandum of Understanding between the FPM and Hezbollah, which provides guidelines and agreement for peacefully resolving many previously disputed issues. Far better to try this option than the military one. The government, on the other hand, does not even attempt to deal with the problem. Actually, when formed, it believed there was no problem: HA's arms were then declared a good thing and legitimised.

As far as I and many other Lebanese Christians are concerned, the MoU saved Lebanon from a civil war. Not only that, it has opened doors that were previously closed and brought many Lebanese closer together and made them less polarised. That is a good thing. It is hardly cozying up to Hezbollah and all that implies. It is simply resolving grievances in a civilised and dignified manner.

--

And as far as the Christian presence in Lebanon goes, the time under Syrian hegemony and since has simply gone from bad to worse. The same politicians are in charge. Owing to the bad economic situation in the country thanks to its corrupt government, thousands upon thousands of generally well-educated Christians cannot find jobs and are forced to look for work abroad. The other sects have their own billionaires funding their charities, whether from Iran or Saudi Arabia, and so do not have the same pressures to emigrate.

Were I to attribute bad intentions to the ruling group, I could conclude that theirs is a policy to run Lebanon into the ground economically. For what reason? For one, it would get rid of the Christian presence without having to start a war to do so. Secondly, it would allow them to make some sort of "deal" whereby Lebanon's debt would be written off or substantially reduced in exchange for naturalising the Palestinians in Lebanon, hence "solving" one outstanding problem in the Middle East.

This would accomplish peacefully what the Lebanese civil war started by Sunni and Palestinian groups failed to achieve militarily.

Personally, I wonder why the IMF and other relevant institutions don't force Lebanon to undertake economic reforms to reduce its debt like they do with other countries around the world with spiralling debt levels (that are still below Lebanon's). I'm sure it's not because they like us so much.

Posted by: A.G at January 24, 2007 09:41 PM

Joel,

You are attributing a degree of cohesion to the people gathered by Hezbollah not present in Lebanon. I spent three weeks with Michael over the last year talking about Lebanon and the Middle East while we were in the Middle East. Please read some of the older posts and you will see that the fascist fantasies of Hezbollah fanatics are a lot thinner on the ground than they are in the media.

Please also note that I am not suggesting removing the heads of Hezbollah, I am talking about removing the joints...where they connect with their allies. Some, perhaps many, of the people who are most essential to the current critical mass are in Paris, not Beirut. The people who fund the events, gather the herds, and keep the rallies going are more viable targets because they have to be exposed and are not expecting the action.

I have been avoiding the term brutality, because that is what we expect from Hezbollah. But children are going hungry and the sick are going untreated so that Hezbollah can illegally push for power. I am much less bothered by targeted brutality towards political and financial apparatchiks than by Hezbollah's unguided rockets or the suicide bombers Hamas sent after me in Tel Aviv last year.

Posted by: Patrick S Lasswell at January 24, 2007 11:34 PM

Let's all get on our knees and pray to Saint General Michel Aoun! LOL

Yes A.G. Michel Aoun will save us. Michel Aoun is Mr. Perfect. He is not a warlord right? He didn't get involved in Lebanese dirty politics right?

So wait, he is not the same guy who was the Army General in the 80s? Is he not the same guy who got into wars against LF? (hence making him on the same level as them?) Isn't he the same guy was Prime Minister for a while? You remember? Right before he fled his palace, keeping his men, wife and daughter at the palace under Syrian attack?

I think you've been drssed in orange for a while... take out the orange flag and bring out the Lebanese flag. Enough following warlords/politicians as if you're a herd of sheep!

Posted by: rampurple at January 25, 2007 07:49 AM

Josh Scholar,

"If they're not policed then eventually abusive and stupid people drive away everyone who would have something interesting to say"

I understand what you are saying but I also think there is another way to deal with 'cheap' staff.

You will always find people you like and people you detest. It is not who they are it is how you deal with them.

Even though we do not know each other, over time each of us earns reputation. I read or skip someone's comments based on that.

Usually people who are ignored get frustrated and leave or they change their behavior. To me it is the best kind of censorship.

PS. Off topic. This one is for our host. Sir, would it be possible and easy to add sequential numbers to comments? Thank you.

Posted by: leo at January 25, 2007 09:02 AM

Some, perhaps many, of the people who are most essential to the current critical mass are in Paris, not Beirut. The people who fund the events, gather the herds, and keep the rallies going are more viable targets because they have to be exposed and are not expecting the action.

Could you elaborate on this a bit, please? I was aware that Paris was Mrs. Arafat's preferred residence, I was not aware that others had chosen the same locale.

Has anyone bothered to follow the money?

Posted by: rosignol at January 25, 2007 05:04 PM

So what does everyone think.

Will we witness a Lebanese Civil War or will we witness another Hizb'Allah Israeli War?

Obviously nothing is going to be solved under the current situation, so we might as well try and figure out which way this will head.

Personally I think there will be no civil war, there is no longer any organizations in Lebanon able to takeout Hizb'Allah. Remember, we disarmed them all and left them at Hizb'Allah's mercy. I think in another 10 or 15 years we will witness another Israeli Hizb'Allah war once the Israeli's once again get fed up with living next door to terrorists. Eventually Israel will once again be pushed to far and I expect the next war will be much bloodier. This time around the Israeli's were so concerned with collateral damage that it impeded their ability to strike Hizb'Allah who was hiding behind civilians. With the complete and utter failure of a low collateral damage campaign, the next time Israel has no real reason to hold back. They held back this time and were still villified. Next time I expect they will just drop on all Hizb'Allah positions figuring they will be villified anyways and might as well attempt to reach some sort of partial solution.

Posted by: Naieve at January 25, 2007 06:05 PM

Will we witness a Lebanese Civil War or will we witness another Hizb'Allah Israeli War?

Depends. The Israelis aren't done reorganizing, and are not yet ready for a large-scale engagement.

This could be a factor in why Hizbullah is willing to escalate in Lebanon- they know they will not be trapped between the Lebanese government and the Israelis.

Posted by: rosignol at January 25, 2007 09:23 PM

dear MJT,
the pictures you posted of the 2 cars that were attacked, was not by michel aoun's supporters and i bet you know it very well coz it made a big scandal coz one of the attackers was Eddy abi lamaa a lebanese forces supporter who failed in the election in Metn against Aoun.
go ask your freinds in lebanese forces if you really dont know who did this and without throwing accusations.
and by the way this my last time posting at your blog coz you are clearly changing the facts, "pay attention other reader", i will do it before you block me from commenting as you did for others whom you didnt like their opinions.

Posted by: cynthia at January 26, 2007 03:14 PM

I don't think Israel dares to have another war again with Hezbollah. Not after Hezbollah won the July 2006 Israeli-Lebanese war. No country/party in a country ever dared to have a war with Israel, and Israel can't nuke any part of Lebanon. It would devastate Israel just as well as it could devastate Lebanon because of the size. So I suggest you don't talk about things you don't know about. And by the way, Hezbollah may be an Islamic group, but it is not an extremist group, and nor does it follow the Jihad.

Posted by: Maya at January 27, 2007 04:37 AM

"I don't think Israel dares to have another war again with Hezbollah. Not after Hezbollah won the July 2006 Israeli-Lebanese war."

Hizb'Allah won? Why because they didn't die? Israel didn't go with it's low collateral damage style campaign for no reason. The world's attention was briefly drawn to Hizb'Allah and a disarmament mandate is all that kept Israel from a victory here, but most decidedly Hizb'Allah won nothing.

"No country/party in a country ever dared to have a war with Israel, and Israel can't nuke any part of Lebanon. It would devastate Israel just as well as it could devastate Lebanon because of the size."

Actually I didn't say they should nuke Lebanon, I guess reading comprehension is beyond you and that other guy. I was saying leaving the current status quo in place will only lead to what it always has, another war. Then some terrorism, then another war. The Katyusha shooting record for Hizb'Allah is quite clear on this.

I am saying not disarming Hizb'Allah is a worse idea.

"So I suggest you don't talk about things you don't know about. And by the way, Hezbollah may be an Islamic group, but it is not an extremist group, and nor does it follow the Jihad."

I thought we were talking about the group whose original charter consisted of the destruction of Israel as its primary goal, making Lebanon all Islamic, and getting rid of western Imperialism. Their list of terror attacks are well documented, but apparently that's not extreme to you.

If the Israeli's started lobbing Katyusha's into the Shia areas of Lebanon would you consider that extreme?

Posted by: Naieve at January 27, 2007 06:16 AM

Bahrain is also another Saudi playground.

Posted by: Marcus Aurelius at January 28, 2007 08:44 PM
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