Hizbullah Proves it Does Not Want a Tehran on the Mediterranean

Hezbollah began withdrawing gunmen from Beirut on Saturday and handed control of the streets to the Lebanese army, after seizing much of the city in gun battles with supporters of the U.S.-backed government.

The government backed down on its earlier demands in exchange for Hizbullah's withdrawal. Siniora has promised that the government will not fire the Shiite director of the airport and will not dismantle Hizbullah's secure communications network so that it would become vulnerable to Israeli depredations. In essence, the government has retracted the demands that provoked Hizbullah into taking Sunni Beirut.

The spin has begun. Robert Worth in his article for the NY Times reports that "some political analysts here say they believe that the government may have won a moral victory by abstaining from large-scale violence in response to Hezbollah’s aggression. Some government leaders were already accusing the Shiite group of betraying its promise to use its weapons only against Israel."

The pro-government analysts, of course, are putting the best face on the governments missteps by calling it a moral victory. Jumblatt may be taking some satisfaction in the government's predicament. He provoked the crisis with his accusations that Hizbullah was behind the string of assassinations in Beirut over the last three years and therefore had to dismantle its secure communications network, which, he conjectured, had been used to plan the various killings.

By pulling back from the city it so easily conquered and by turning over its strategic centers to the Lebanese army, Hizbullah has been gracious in victory.

It has not pressed its superior hand, putting paid to the irresponsible claim that Hizbullah wants to impose an Iranian-style, Islamic mullocracy on Lebanon's Christians and Sunnis. On the contrary, it can be argued, Hizbullah is trying to broker the type of power-sharing government that the US would only be too eager to see emerge in divided Baghdad.

It is surprising to hear that Hizbullah is not demanding more in exchange for its withdrawal. It accepted to return to the "status quo ante" on rather easy terms. The next few days will clarify whether it is not demanding more.

In the past the opposition insisted on a third of the seats in cabinet; it also hoped to push through favorable reforms to the voting law.

Hizbullah has demonstrated that it can move swiftly and decisively. It has also demonstrated that it can game out its actions and is prepared for its end-game, something that others in the region seldom seem to do. Playing out the various scenarios before launching into action is a virtue that the US and its allies, with all their resources, are capable of doing well. I have participated in several war games in Washington; they are a frequent and valuable tool on the Potomac. But if Washington didn't try to dissuade the Siniora government from challenging Hizbullah's communications system and then advised Hariri to make the several demands he did for retracting the order – the most important of which was the immediate appointment of Suleiman as President — Washington was clearly not heeding the advice of its best people. This is a recurring characteristic of the Bush administration.

Hizbullah has done what it said it would do – not more, nor less. The constant grinding among the religious communities is making Lebanon more sectarian with each new conflict. Fewer Sunnis than ever will be able side with Shiites and vice-versa. The Shiites will become ever more convinced that they cannot give up their arms without first getting constitutional guarantees that they will get their fare share of representation. As things stand today, the Shiites allocated 21% of parliamentary seats even though they may represent close to 40% of Lebanon's population. This is a lingering institutional imbalance left over from Lebanon's colonial legacy, when Shiites were discounted politically as poor sheepherders and dirt farmers. The notion that Lebanon can achieve stability before these sectarian imbalances are rectified is not a sound one.

The following links are interesting:

Lebanon does not want another war. Does it?
Despite everything that has happened in the past few days, the people have no appetite for yet more civil conflict
By Robert Fisk in Beirut
Sunday, 11 May 2008

I went to cover a demonstration in West Beirut yesterday morning – yes, please note the capital W on "West" – and then I get a text from a Lebanese woman on my mobile phone, asking if she will have to wear a veil when she returns to Lebanon. How do I reply? That the restaurants are still open? That you can still drink wine with your dinner?

 

That is the problem. For the war in West Beirut is not about religion. It is about the political legitimacy of the Lebanese government and its "pro-American" support (the latter an essential adjective to any US news agency report), which Iran understandably challenges.

Powerless US falls back on 'remote-control' diplomacy for Lebanon

Unable to pressure Syria or Iran into halting Hezbollah's offensive in Lebanon against US-backed leader Fuad Siniora, the United States has opted for "remote-control" diplomacy using its allies.

The Washington Post reported that the United States was pleased with the intervention of Russia and Turkey, which warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that they would hold him responsible for Hezbollah's actions.

Since Israel's war against Hezbollah that ravaged Lebanon in 2006 — a war that the secretary of state had supported — Rice has not set foot back on Lebanese soil where her unpopularity undermined the Siniora government.

Publicly, the United States settled for repeating its "unswerving support" for Siniora.

Hizballah humiliates March 14, Lebanon enters new phase by Antoun Issa

Reports also emerged that Hizballah and Amal fighters surrounded the Clemenceau home of PSP Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, as well as his security centres in the Chouf mountains. Nasrallah openly and sternly singled out Jumblatt in his press conference during the week, accusing him of playing lord to the Siniora government and attempting to spark a Sunni-Shi'ite conflict. Jumblatt conceded that Hizballah's military might is unrivalled in Lebanon, and warned the Shi'ite group that it can't impose its will on the rest of the country.

But will Hizballah impose its will?

Jihad Makdissi BBC on Lebanon
 

Comments (178)


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151. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,
Thank you for your sympathy.
If you think what is happeneing is good for Lebanon, I will not argue with you. When will you learn to judge things by not how bad they are for Bush, but how good they are for Lebanon?

Of course you are condoning armed action against the Chouf to resolve a political disagreement. Why am I surprised? What you mean by democracy is that your side is allowed to use violence but the other side can’t.

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May 11th, 2008, 11:16 pm

 

152. Qifa Nabki said:

Guys,

This is really shameful.

Joshua went to the trouble to write a long and informative post about SYRIA, and the single solitary comment on it has to do with Lebanon.

Meanwhile, these LEBANON-focused posts have comments numbering in the hundreds.

Shame on you! Stop talking about Lebanon! It is totally unexceptional. There is nothing interesting, groundbreaking, or newsworthy taking place there (unless you find short skirts and half-men newsworthy). Shoo!

;-)

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May 11th, 2008, 11:49 pm

 

153. norman said:

AIG,

What you see in Lebanon is not a war between Sunni and Shaia , It is between the people who are allied with Israel , the US and KSA and the people who want to deter Israel and the US from dominating the Mideast , controling Lebanon is part of that war ,

The opposition and the western backed government have Suni , Shia , Christians and Druz , so can you please stop making look like Sunni and Shia conflict.

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May 12th, 2008, 12:42 am

 

154. norman said:

AIG,

Look at the parties in Lebanon here,

http://www.rationalgrounds.com/mt-archives/2008/05/lebanon_explain.html

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May 12th, 2008, 12:51 am

 

155. Enlightened said:

QN:

I must protest although some comments here are a BIT Biased, there is nothing like the shamefull and hate filled sectarian comments on some sites. It takes only a slight sniff and the wierdos and idiots come out of the closet.

I have been absent for 48 hours here, and spent the afternoon yesterday at my mums (mothers day) family BBQ every one present (She very M14), her brother (my uncle) very pro opposition got into a slanging match, my brother (hate politics) me (thinks both sides are fools) had to calm them down.

I have made a pledge to myself ( some self restraint) that I am not going to comment on the situation until it ends. Its too emotive, and when you get get emotion in the way of having a balanced debate , there can be no reason.

I am only going to say that I am deeply offended (not the commentator here by the thread name) at some of the snide and banal responses by some of the commentators here in the last few days. Until this blows over( and I hope very very soon) I do not wish to add to the commentary.

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May 12th, 2008, 1:27 am

 

156. Qifa Nabki said:

Enlightened One (to use Ammo Norman’s appellation for you),

Wise words.

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May 12th, 2008, 1:51 am

 

157. Honest Patriot said:

Enlightened, I shall join you in solidarity. I think the true Lebanese like us are suffering and we will benefit from a lull in the blogging. I thought QN had decided to do that a short while ago but then the addictive ingredient that Josh adds to this system brought him back – and me as the fast follower of QN along. But now I’ll heed the call from down under. For one week at least. I do hope it’s all settled by then (wishful thinking :-( ).

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May 12th, 2008, 1:55 am

 

158. Alex said:

I’m betting 100 Syrian Pounds that HP will not be able to stay away from here a whole week.

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May 12th, 2008, 1:57 am

 

159. Enlightened said:

HP:

My head is in a spin from the garbage I have heard and witnessed personally interacting with people in the last 48 hours, Saturday afternoon I grabbed my wife and asked my uncle ( a mechanic) to accompany us to purchase a new car for my wife.

I got 3 hours of headaches from my uncle (pro opposition) at one point I was tempted to Leave him at the other end of the city for him to find his own way home (my wife asked me to have some patience with him and warned me against what I had in mind, it takes the sanity of your better half to give you a reality check on how to behave sometimes LOL).

Anway the moral of the story is Mrs Enlightened got a brand New Honda Accord Euro ( The winner) , I got a headache (Loser physically and financially) Enlightened Junior ( 1 year and 5 days)
had the last say when he said Daddy and smiled and made me remember what the important things in life where.

My only wish is that when I take enlightened Junior to Lebanon and Syria to see his relatives when he is old enough that we bequeth a world to him that is free from what i have experienced in the last week.

Alex:

You Tight wad cheapstake make the bet more interesting!

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May 12th, 2008, 2:11 am

 

160. norman said:

Enlighted one , QN ,HP

Are you guys trying to tell us that you will be absent from S C leaving AIG to represent you and M 14 , I would not do that if i were you, It does not look good ! .

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May 12th, 2008, 2:13 am

 

161. Bashmann said:

Ehsani2,

Thanks for the wonderful reply, I always thought of you as one of the sane voices on this blog. Your economic views and analysis brings wonderful insights into the debate on Syria. I sincerely thank you.

Now let’s get back to your comment. My comment on objectivity is only meant to set the record straight when it comes to facts. I do not expect Josh or Alex to be the champions of objectivity. I only want them to honestly acknowledge the facts about the regime in the same manners they acknowledge the facts about its opponents. This of course will never happen as you have mentioned, and I totally agree with you, because each person has a certain leaning towards one side or another.

As you know Joshua is a respected analyst and has been doing the rounds on news channels and radio stations criticizing harshly this administration’s policies towards Syria. Not that this administration ever formulated a policy towards Syria except to NOT talk to the regime and slap sanction on it. Yet Joshua’s point of view is well known and his sympathy towards Bashar’s regime is documented. I’ve followed his activities on this blog closely and heard most of his interviews. His contention with the Bush administration that they seem to be a bunch of “blockheads” when it comes to Syria and refuse to listen is not new and shared by many in Washington. I have no issues with his views on the administration even when I disagree with them. What I have issues with is his presentation of the Syrian regime. He seems to ignore the history and make-up of this regime when speaking about it. We all know, and I’m talking even the most ardent supporters of this regime on this blog including Alex, Norman, and others, of the repressive nature of this regime, yet Joshua seems to omit or on most occasions limit the discussion of it publicly. While on other occasions, as in this post, he is accusing the media of spinning things while he himself is spinning the news on HA!

Spinning seems to be the choice word of the day, as Lebanon falter under armed thug’s intent on using force to achieve political objectives. The rest of the world is condemning HA actions and Syria Comment is spinning the news in their favor.

I expected Josh as usual to do this on news that relates to Syria but to read this on news concerning HA, its mind boggling to me. HA chose the guns, after it promised never to turn them on Lebanon, to simply reverse the government decision on HA private communication network and re-instate the Airport security chief. Yet Joshua seems to think of this as a provocation by Jumblatt. What more provocation do you want than Naserllahs’ infamous inflammatory speeches? The one he made after his coup d’état is a classic example. He says “We have the right to defend ourselves against anybody and we will cut the hand that tries to disarm Hezbollah”; if this is not a provocation I do not know what is. For anyone to spin the news on HA as the rational party in the conflict is a great travesty to the science of political analysis. This is a party that have simply ran out of its usefulness and must lay down its arms and compete with all other political parties on the Lebanese scene through the civilized forum of the ballot box. It refuses to do so and stages what it calls civil disobedience supported by the power of their armed militia. An insult to civil disobedience indeed.

Cheers.

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May 12th, 2008, 2:25 am

 

162. Enlightened said:

Norman:

I am no card carrying member of M14, nor do I have any Harrirri posters up in my house! (lol)

AIG:

the positive in AIG stating that he is in favour of Democracy ( as am I, QN, and HP) is a good thing.

Over to you AIG the democracy bit is all yours! (ps me handing you my proxy speach card does not entitle you to abuse it). Remember One man one vote, not sectarianism or ethnic tribal based democracy. With a Bi cameral legistlative body.

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May 12th, 2008, 2:27 am

 

163. norman said:

Enlighted one ,,

I do not mind a democracy build on the System in the US , I do mind democracy built on set a side and quotas , on representative democracy like Iraq, Jordon , Egypt , Israel or even England , with many ethnic groups in the Arab world districts and decentralised government are more appropriate.

( Remember One man one vote, not sectarianism or ethnic tribal based democracy. With a Bicameral legislative body. )

That is my goal for Syria , Lebanon and the rest of the Arab states.

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May 12th, 2008, 2:39 am

 

164. norman said:

Bashman,

Let me make it clear to you

I was never in the Baath party or any other Syrian party,
I do not know anybody in the Syrian government and i do not need to know anybody in government ,

I look at the things that can be improved in Syria , I tend not to complain about the bad programs that they had for the last 40 years , instead i like to show them how to make things better .

I do not think that any of us should badmouth Syria on the Internet no matter who is in charge in Syria first because that will make us the laughing stock of Syria’s enemies and like a marriage , problems between husband and wife should not be mentioned to the friends and the naihbors if for that marriage to survive ,

What I fear is that your objection to the regime comes only from the fact that Bashar Assad is not Sunni, and that is shameful.

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May 12th, 2008, 3:09 am

 

165. Alex said:

Bachmann,

You continue to imagine that anyone who does nto share your anti regime anti Shia anti Alawite feelings is not objective.

I have written a million times here, and I will repeat it:

The regime is highly corrupt… Syria is very badly managed … economic reforms are going very slowly and too cautiously…. there is no freedom of political expression in Syria.

So .. there is no problem criticizing the regime. And if you go to the Syria Comment categories (above, left), you will find tens of stories about the prisoners of conscious in Syria and about other stories which are mostly negative for the regime (like blocking facebook ..etc)

Ehsani and Qifa Nabki were both asked to become authors on this blog and you know that neither one of them is a “regime supporter” .. so I find it not very convincing on your part to claim that Alex or Joshua are pro-dictatorship. Please let me know how many anti-Syrian regime sites invite and welcome pro-regime authors to post articles (not comments).

To be ready for democracy, it takes more than repeating the neocon slogans. You have to be able to practice it.

But you want us to repeat after you the same tired charges … “thugs” “criminals” … thieves” …

I happen to believe that “the regime” is the best thing out there for the stability of Syria, and on the long run, for the stability of the Middle East.

And I happen to believe that your idols in Saudi Arabia are behind many of the disasters in the Middle East … they are the ones who started the Muslim Brotherhood campaign to overthrow Hafez Assad which led to more moukhabarat power in Syria and to the sad week in Hama and to the sickness in many of you that make you till this day dream of taking revenge from the Alawites… especially those of you who believe you are actually secular.

It is your Saudi friends who started the process that led to all those undesirable outcomes … f they did not need to overthrow Hafez Assad (because he is not Sunni) we would have had much less moukhabarat in Syria (just like pre1977) and no Hama … and … and …

You want to shed light on the negatives of the Syrian regime, I want to shed light on the negatives on the Saudis … they are doing much more damage to the whole Middle East.

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May 12th, 2008, 3:09 am

 

166. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
So your idea of democracy is pointing a gun at people’s head? That is why you support what Hizballah did?

[deleted by admin]

AIG:

This was the last time you will accuse others through your Netanyahu tactics.

Am I clear? .. if I am not, write me an email

other wise, I will ban you for a week starting the next time you tell Norman or Naji or Offended or Enlightened that they support pointing guns to people’s heads ..etc.

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May 12th, 2008, 3:14 am

 

167. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
So your idea of democracy is sending armed troops into the neighborhoods of people that don’t agree with you? Is that why you support what Hizballah did?

PS You see Alex, I understand.

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May 12th, 2008, 3:26 am

 

168. Enlightened said:

ER: (where did I say I support putting guns to peoples heads?)

OK AIG: I revoke my proxy speach card on the grounds you abused it!

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May 12th, 2008, 3:30 am

 

169. norman said:

AIG ,

For you to talk about pointing the gun is laughable , you are not just pointing the guns at the Palestinians , your are shooting them , you are not even trying to show them that you care about them , so what do we see is killing and more killing Israelis and Palestinians ,

The electoral college in the US is meant to protect small states and to give a chance to candidates from small state to win an election,

Districts are better for Syria , you can start with districts with a majority ethnic group or religious ones but as long as there is anti discrimination laws in housing and employment these district will change their mix , with small districts people will know the people they are voting for and party leaders will not put their friend in power , and with time minorities will have a better chance , look at Iraq , after the new democracy the Christian are running away and there is only one representative in parliment.

Is that a real democracy , I doubt it. minorities will have a better chance if the people know them and vote for them as individuals, look at the US , The Jews who are 3% of the people in the US are about 20% of the house and that could not have been if the US has a representative democracy.

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May 12th, 2008, 3:33 am

 

170. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Norman,
Yes, the usual accusations of Israel instead of explaining your actions and why you support Hizballah violence.

And of course your understanding of democratic systems is straight out of Syrian text books. The electoral college is not meant to give a chance to candidates from small states, it is meant to give small states more say in choosing the the president.

Districts in Syria if they are not gerrymandered will result with very few representatives from minorities until people don’t vote in a sectarian way in Syria and that may take generations.

Which brings us to your fallacy that Jews would be less represented if there was a representative democracy in the US. After all the national lists could contain the same number of Jews and the results would be the same. You just do not understand how the US system works and why Jews are over-represented.

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May 12th, 2008, 3:44 am

 

171. wizart said:

Mr Israeli Know It All;)

I felt more energy keeping away from you recently! It also occured to me more people are thinking about taking a similar route to peace and health. It includes ignoring most everything you say.

You seem attracted to a lot of the negativity you generate because it gives you a sense of importance. After all, receiving negative regards must feel better for you than receiving no regards at all which is what happens when more and more people choose to either ignore you or ban you altogether for your persistent abuse. IMO.

I cast my vote in support of banning you from Syria comment blog.

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May 12th, 2008, 4:18 am

 

172. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Wizart,
Thanks for your support. As usual you contradict yourself by giving me more negative feedback while claiming that this is what I really want and shouldn’t be given. Go figure.

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May 12th, 2008, 4:29 am

 

173. wizart said:

AIG,

Humanists are a generous bunch. You’re not the only Israeli who could benefit from reading this blog. I figure your hunger is insatiable and it tends to crowd out other Israelis and countless people from more friendly countries that we often miss thanks to you who might have missed or ignored earlier posts on narcissism.

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May 12th, 2008, 6:04 am

 

174. offended said:

Habibi Ehsani,
How’s your business partner doing? I gope he’s well. Dubai is cool you know, I’d prefer the emirates towers hotel to the Phenicia hotel at any day!

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May 12th, 2008, 9:16 am

 

175. Welcome | Project on Middle East Democracy said:

[...] Over at Syria Comment, Joshua Landis provides analysis, and for Nasrallah’s May 8th press conference, click here. Marc Lynch writes on the Egyptian connection at Abu Aardvark. [...]

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May 12th, 2008, 1:02 pm

 

176. JustOneAmerican said:

As a largely disinterested American, I tend to think HA overplayed its hand here. It’s hard to see what HA will gain beyond a return to the status quo – a return paid for by further division and the negative consequences of using the resistance to solve an internal political problem. Such a limited use of force rarely provides lasting benefit, if history is any judge.

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May 12th, 2008, 3:20 pm

 

177. Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

You said:

“I do not think that any of us should badmouth Syria on the Internet no matter who is in charge in Syria first because that will make us the laughing stock of Syria’s enemies and like a marriage , problems between husband and wife should not be mentioned to the friends and the naihbors if for that marriage to survive.”

I always respect your opinions. But allow me to gently suggest that this is one of the problems that will keep Syria from evolving in the right direction. If intelligent Syrians don’t criticize the regime on a regular basis — not in a vicious way, but in a constructive one — then how can we hope for developments of the kind Alex mentioned?

Also, don’ you think it is slightly unfair to not talk about Syria’s problems so as not to make it a laughing stock, all the while ridiculing Lebanon’s problems over and over, and turning it (and many of its politicians) into a laughing stock?

I would prefer that ALL politicians and regimes be subjected to criticism. But, of course, I understand if you would prefer to not criticize because you have family still in Syria, and that you do not want to put them in difficult positions.

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May 12th, 2008, 3:29 pm

 

178. Shifting sands in Lebanon | Antony Loewenstein said:

[...] expert Joshua Landis comments on the latest news from Lebanon (and the apparent withdrawal of Hizbollah troops from the streets [...]

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November 1st, 2008, 5:30 am

 

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