Posted by Joshua on Monday, September 17th, 2007
Was Israeli raid a dry run for attack on Iran? (Thanks to Deborah Campbell)
Lesch "concludes that there have been a number of missed opportunities—spurned opportunities, in the case of the Bush administration—for dialogue and cooperation with Syria on suppressing Islamic terrorism, making peace with Israel, and creating political space in Lebanon. He blames neoconservative ideological hardliners in the administration and their allies in Congress for the sharp turn from constructive engagement to a complete disengagement. He says that while there have been hints of a possible softening of this policy in recent months, there is little evidence for thinking that there will be dramatic change in policy under the current administration"
Dr. Omri Nir: The strengthening Shi'a community in Lebanon is not merely a matter of political mood or tactics, but also reflects the country's real situation. Given the demographic shift, I believe this is a kind of slow social and political revolution, which will eventually make the Shi'a the leading community in Lebanon. Neither the West or Israel is likely to have any influence on this process, though the Syrians could. Equally, it does not seem likely that there will be a serious alternative Shi'a leadership to Hizballah in the near future…
The strengthening Shi'a community in Lebanon is not merely a matter of political mood or tactics, but also reflects the country's real situation. Given the demographic shift, I believe this is a kind of slow social and political revolution, which will eventually make the Shi'a the leading community in Lebanon. Neither the West or Israel is likely to have any influence on this process, though the Syrians could. Equally, it does not seem likely that there will be a serious alternative Shi'a leadership to Hizballah in the near future…
Prof. Barry Rubin: I hope, though, that no one underestimates the forces opposed to Hizballah within Lebanon. Clearly, the government coalition was not deterred by assassinations or other attacks, and the fact is that this side could well represent 60 to 65 percent of the population. They are not going to give up and may well be able to resist a Hizballah takeover or letting that group have veto power. This will be especially true if the Lebanon government gets a sufficient amount of external help…
Dr. Omri Nir: Regarding the situation in Shi'a politics, there are some new opposition voices to Hizballah. But these rivals don't have mass popular support. The only potential alternative is AMAL, which seems will continue to be weak in the short term. Still, AMAL controls 15 seats in the Lebanese parliament while Hizballah controls only 14. In south Lebanon, AMAL controls 84 village councils while Hizballah controls 87, which isn't much more.
The question is, what is preventing AMAL's leader Nabih Berri from being the alternative? There are reasons for such. The current political crisis is actually helping Hizballah. It prevented the possibility of the government, which had traditionally identified with AMAL, from leading a reconstruction effort, and thus left all projects to Hizballah and its Iranian funding. In contrast, Hizballah is the second largest employer in Lebanon after the government. More than 35,000 families receive salaries directly from Hizballah.
The other reason is that Berri has taken on a role as a mediator among factions, a situation that Hizballah accepts as benefiting itself. This is both his power and his weakness.
Lee Smith: A majority in Lebanon has stood up to Hizballah and seems willing to do so even at the risk of civil war. … Lebanon is an extremely important example of how we can help a Middle East state behave like a state. A parallel–or contrast–should be drawn between the Lebanese government and the failed Fatah rule, through the Palestinian Authority, over Gaza.
Dr. Paul A. Jureidini: As for the Lebanese army, it held together in recent years, because everybody in Lebanon wanted it to. The minute a Lebanese party like Hizballah decides it doesn't care about whether the Lebanese army unravels, the Lebanese army will unravel. It's as simple as that….
The Shi'a community as a whole has no great respect for Nabih Berri. In contrast, the Syrians have full trust in Nabih Berri, because he is their man. They created him, they continue to support him…. The Shi'a community as a whole looks at Hizballah as a religious link with Iran. It has that kind of legitimacy.