May 14, 2008

Hezbollah's Third Botched Coup Attempt

By Tony Badran (cross-posted at Across the Bay)

In three years, since the murder of former PM Rafik Hariri, Hezbollah has attempted three coups -- and failed.

On March 8, 2005, Hezbollah thought that by rallying supporters they would nip the independence movement in the bud, maintain the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, and move on as though nothing happened.

One week later, March 14 happened, in large part as a reaction to Hezbollah's rally. It secured the expulsion of the murderous Assad regime's occupying force.

Then in 2006, with the July war and its aftermath, especially the movement in December 06-January 07.

In their first attempt in January 23-25, Hezbollah tried its coup and relied on Aounist elements. That proved a disaster as the Aounist riffraff were done away with in a matter of hours, ending any prospect of relying on Christian proxies to do Hezbollah's bidding. The Lebanese Forces' Samir Geagea, whose supporters were instrumental in dispersing the Aounists, was the central figure during that coup.

Then came this last attempt, which Nasrallah deliberately placed in parallel to the aftermath of the Hariri assassination: i.e., this was intended to be the official reversal of the independence movement.

After Hezbollah took west Beirut, attacking civilians in their homes, ransacking and terrorizing neighborhoods and media outlets, following a conscious decision by Hariri not to put up a fight, the Iranian militia foolishly thought that it can just as easily overrun Jumblat on his own turf in the Shouf.

Hezbollah had another thing coming. For three days of intensive fighting in the Shouf, and contrary to the lying info ops and disinformation of Hezbollah water carriers like this clueless Hezbollah willful tool (on whose propaganda for Hezbollah I've written in the past and will soon be ripping to shreds once again), not a single village in the Shouf fell to Hezbollah. Not Niha, like that Hezbollah watercarrier MacLeod wrote, not anything.

Quite the contrary. According to the PSP and other local sources, more than three dozen Hezbollah fighters were killed and a number of their vehicles were destroyed. The fact that they had to introduce artillery and vehicles (mounted with heavy machine guns, like so, and recoilless rifles, like so) only showed that they could not make advances into the villages.

Not just that, but Hezbollah's attack has led Talal Arslan's fighters to switch and fight alongside the PSP against Hezbollah, undermining Hezbollah's tiny Druze ally -- which is precisely why Jumblat put him in the forefront from the get go (it was not, as shrill commentators and dishonest flacks read it, a sign of "weakness." It was a shrewed move by a master tactician.).

At the end of the day, the PSP maintained control of the strategic hills of the Barouk to the east and Ras al-Jabal west of Aley, overlooking the Dahiyeh.

And so, Jumblat and the Shouf played a historical role these last few days (and I will have a lengthy post on Jumblat's role in this crisis asap) and have essentially botched Hezbollah's coup.

All the idiotic commentators, from Paul Salem onwards, who talked about a different "political balance" as a result of the fighting, don't and never did know what they're talking about. This is political suicide for Hezbollah, who has already made contacts with Hariri through a third party informing him that they're looking for an exit. They know they're in a jam.

Not just that, now the government is in a position to leverage rescinding its decisions -- which it could never implement to begin with! -- and we're already seeing M14 and government sources expressing that.

For one, all M14 officials -- including Hariri who made a powerful, uncompromising speech yesterday -- are now unanimous about placing the fate of Hezbollah's weapons as the first item on any "dialogue" agenda. Gone are the days of the "sanctity" of the weapons of the "resistance." Minister Joe Sarkis has added that any rescinding of the decisions has to be met by not just a withdrawal of armed men from the streets and the reopening of all roads, but also the evacuation of the tent city in downtown Beirut.

The mere fact that M14 and the government are bartering the rescinding of a decision that was never going to be implemented (and if the government was illegitimate, according to Hezbollah, then why even bother focusing on its decisions and thereby affirm its legitimacy?) suggests, regardless of outcome, that they know that there's no "new balance" advantageous to Hezbollah that forces them to capitulate.

Army Commander Suleiman is now under tons of pressure. Hariri himself criticized the Army's performance, and we know that 40 senior officers submitted their resignation (which would've split the Army) in protest of Suleiman's handling of the situation (and we also know that criminal pro-Aounist officers were particularly egregious during the crisis). Saudi outlets have even criticized the Army's performance, putting more pressure on Suleiman to get his act together if he wants to become president (especially now that any gambit about Hezbollah tilting the balance has failed). The US, which also has leverage through its aid to the Army might also do the same. These kinds of pressures, domestic, regional and international, and Suleiman's susceptibility to them, is why Syria won't take a chance with him. Anyone who doesn't fall and lick Bashar's boots without hesitation at a moment's notice cannot be trusted as far as the murderer of Damascus is concerned, and it's why Syria knows that it must return militarily to Lebanon in order to rule it. Even doing it by proxy, through Hezbollah, hasn't worked.

This is far from over. In fact, this has only just begun.

Posted by Tony Badran at May 14, 2008 9:53 AM

Michael, we've heard exactly the opposite of this report! According to all the news I've read online, and heard on the news, Lebanon "capitulated to end the blood shed"!!! Thank you for setting the record straight from the ground! What would we do without the likes of you and Michael Yon? Repeat Viet Nam, and worse, that's what.

Posted by: DagneyT Author Profile Page at May 14, 2008 10:36 AM

That was Tony's post, not Michael's.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood Author Profile Page at May 14, 2008 11:25 AM

Thank you Michael and Tony for setting the record straight.

I did read the Guardian article and almost fell off my chair for it totally contradicted what I was hearing from my family up in the Aley region.

I sent a a complain letter to their editors and I encourage others to do so as well. They should know that spreading rubbish info doesn't go unchecked.

Posted by: realist000 Author Profile Page at May 14, 2008 11:37 AM

Realist000, I'm glad you wrote the Guardian. I will soon be writing about this Hezbollah hack at length. As you saw from my linked older post about him, this is not the first time this tool participates in Hezbollah information operations. This guy has made it a habit. He's willfully made himself into a Hezbollah media asset and should be treated as such. That's certainly how I will treat him. Any self-respecting paper would be foolish to publish anything by this tool.

Posted by: Tony Badran Author Profile Page at May 14, 2008 11:47 AM

Hi Tony - thx for the work you've done here in Michael's absence. You may (or may not) recall that we spoke last year as I was planning a trip to Syria. Anyhow, in an effort to supplement the reading I do about Iran and the militias it controls I've been seeking out quality documentaries on 1. Ayatollah Khomeini, 2. Hamas, and 3. Hezbollah. In all 3 categories quality docs were hard to find. Could you recommend any?

Thx & best regards,

Posted by: scottmoshen Author Profile Page at May 14, 2008 1:47 PM


I've written reports from the ground in Lebanon before, but this isn't one of them. Tony Badran wrote it. And while he's Lebanese, he isn't there at the moment either. No one has been able to get into Lebanon thanks to Hezbollah's closure of the airport road.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 14, 2008 2:09 PM

Seems to me Hezbollah understand the futility in assuming absolute control.

As far as their concerned, the only thing that is important is their right to maintain their weapons and they've made that a red line for the march 14th movement.

Since Sanioura has capitulated on their first attempt at disarming Hezbollah, there is no point for Hezbollah to continue their assault.

I'm still amazed just how pathetic the resistance was to hezbollah's take over.

Posted by: Joe Rushty Author Profile Page at May 14, 2008 7:13 PM

Did anyone hear anything about Halba Massacre, which happened two days ago?

Supposed story was that FM/LF got into heavy fight with SSNP and after SSNPers had given up FM/LF lined them up and shot while LAF watching it.

At least this is how I heard the story at one popular FPM blog.

Thank you

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at May 14, 2008 9:40 PM


I have heard about a massacre of SSNP guys by FM members, and also about a massacre of Druze by Hezbollah. Both might be real, both might be bogus. I don't know, and am looking for more solid evidence for both -- as much as I can from a distance.

I have seen video and photos of both, but it is impossible to tell in these videos who actually did what to whom. Somebody massacred somebody, though. Of that there is no doubt.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 15, 2008 7:08 AM


Why do you keep deleting my comments regarding Halba? It's very disappointing -- as should be obvious from my blog, I'm instinctively M14, or at least anti-Hezb and pro liberal democratic movements -- to feel that you are being censored by someone you respect.

Posted by: vimothy Author Profile Page at May 15, 2008 8:42 AM


I have never deleted a single one of your comments. This is the first time I have ever seen a comment from you. I don't know what the problem is, but until now your comments have not actually made it onto the site. Maybe whatever the problem was had been fixed, though, since the comment above from you has appeared.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 15, 2008 10:14 AM

Maybe whatever the problem was had been fixed, though, since the comment above from you has appeared.

If I include more that one link in a comment, disappears. That's happened to me here and on other sites...

Posted by: maryatexitzero Author Profile Page at May 15, 2008 11:41 AM


Thank you for the answer.

Yes, that is pretty much what I heard.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at May 15, 2008 9:26 PM

Hmmm interesting theory, but it does raise the point. Since Geagea's LF and Gyamayal's KP have wisely, in my opinion, chosen to sit out the fight. And Hariri's Secure Plus and it's Future Trend camp followers have been annihilated. And contrary to what you may wish to believe, Jumblatt's PSP has surrendered after getting routed by Hizb-e-allah. So what is to stop Nasrallah from marching on the Seriel? If he wanted to, what would stop him? The LAF? The Americans? The Saudis? The Israelis? The answer is no one would stop him, more accurately no one could stop him. And since he hasn't done this, then is it only logically to conclude that the only thing restraining him is that he simply doesn't want to rule Leb'nan. In fact, who really does these days? After these events he will get a veto and after all that's all he's ever asked for.

Posted by: Azr@el Author Profile Page at May 16, 2008 1:52 AM


I was trying to post links to info on the Halba massacre. For some reason, your site seems to have eaten my posts. When I wrote them, I got a message saying that the posts have to be approved by the site owner. Yet they never appeared.

Sorry, but I assumed that you were simply not approving them because they show FM in a bad light. I shouldn't have jumped to such a conclusion. Perhaps there is a problem posting external links?

Posted by: vimothy Author Profile Page at May 16, 2008 3:29 AM


I have heard from others about problems when trying to include links. It's an anti-spam measure. Unfortunatley, no comment appeared for me to approve.

Sorry about the trouble. I don't know if it is even possible for me to fix this.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at May 16, 2008 3:50 AM


Try hiding links from spam filters by replacing dots with spaces (or commas; for example) and skip 'http;//' part. I cannot guaranty it but it might get through.

Posted by: leo Author Profile Page at May 16, 2008 5:08 AM
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