Posted by Joshua on Thursday, April 17th, 2008
The People's Army of Hizbullah
Ma'ariv by Jacky Hugi — (Thanks to Timur Goksel, the man in Lubnan)
Quietly and efficiently, Hizbullah has turned into the Lebanese 'people's army' in the past months. The Shiite organization has established special units for Sunnis, Christians and Druze, and now they have even been joined by former SLA (South Lebanon Army) fighters, who were loyal to Israel.
The details were revealed by the US-based Christian Science Monitor, in an investigative report conducted by its correspondent in Beirut. According to the investigative report, "Hizbullah militants regroup amid war jitters," carried out by British journalist Nicholas Blanford, service in Hizbullah is not limited to Shiites only. Special units made up of other ethnic groups, known as saraya ('companies'), have been set up within the organization and are mainly intended to serve as reserve forces.
These non-Shiite activists, whose number was not stated, join Hizbullah of their own volition. Hizbullah thus expands its ranks and enjoys great legitimacy in Lebanese society. For the Sunni community, this is a problematic development since its leaders have traditionally been considered to be opposed to Hizbullah. The Christians, in contrast, have become closer to the Shiites in recent years and some of them have even become their allies.
'I assume that this was a result of pressure that was put on them,' said a former SLA officer who lives in the Galilee panhandle, who was surprised by the report. 'After all, Hizbullah controls everything there and it has the ability to threaten people. In addition, their livelihood is also at stake, and the economic situation there is also a pressure factor.'
If this is not information aimed at psychological warfare, and Hizbullah has indeed recruited young Sunnis, Christians and Druze, then it is an interesting development. If it should become stronger and branch out into other realms, the day is not far when Hizbullah will turn into a multi-ethnic organization under Shiite control, and will effectively realize its plan of conquering the hearts of the Lebanese people by peaceful means.
Anyone who has been closely watching the events inside Lebanon in recent years will not be surprised. Many Lebanese, irrespective of religious affiliation, give Hizbullah very high marks. After decades of weak and atrophied Sunni-Christian control of Lebanese politics, Nasrallah and his men represent a refreshing governmental model for them: Modest living, care for the weak, efficient management, a spirit of volunteerism and above all lack of corruption. All this, without religious coercion and while lending an attentive ear to non-Shiites.
The gaps dividing between Hizbullah and large sectors of [Lebanese] society are still very great, but it is no secret that many Christians admire Nasrallah for his strength and moral character, particularly after surviving the war in the summer of 2006. Had we said this only ten years ago, it would have raised eyebrows. Today, it is an established fact. Hizbullah is well aware of this, and presents an intriguing alternative to the public. On the day the order is given, when the people will have to choose what is best for them, [Hizbullah] hopes to be there before all the rest.
One imminent test is already just around the corner. These is the Lebanese parliamentary elections, which are due to be held in exactly one year. The parliament, which is elected by the public in the ballot boxes, will appoint the government. Hizbullah hopes to make use of its improved image in the general public to further its standing in the legislature and advance into the government, all in a legitimate manner. From there, Nasrallah and his men will aspire to change the constitution and give the Shiites slices of the governmental pie, which will properly express their share of the population. This vision is not immediate, and it may take time before it materializes, but it is not imaginary.
Conspiracy of Silence
Ma'ariv by Jacky Hugi (op-ed) — Two whole months have passed since unknown figures assassinated Imad Mughniyah, commander of Hizbullah's jihad wing, on Syrian soil. Everyone is waiting for a Syrian response, or at least an announcement about the conclusions of the investigation. But Damascus remains silent.
The Syrian silence is not self-evident. One could expect a country whose sovereignty was crudely violated to respond in some way. This is true for any country, and particularly for the proud Syrian regime, which took another blow five months earlier, the reverberations of which have not yet subsided: The mysterious strike by IAF jets on September 6.
In both cases, the Syrians preferred to keep a low profile, to restrain their response and direct feeble accusations at Israel. The reason is Bashar Assad's dilemma. If he accuses someone, he will have to react. And if he reacts, he could become entangled in another blow, particularly if Israel is the party in question. Assad, unlike Nasrallah, he has something to lose in such a clash. He is not the leader of belligerent militias, but the leader of an orderly state, which is exposed and vulnerable. An Israeli chain reaction would undermine his stability even further.
From the first moment, Syria understood the complexity of its situation. Therefore, it maintained a thunderous silence. The revelations of a member of Hizbullah's Shura Council, in the Al-Haqiqa newspaper, which were published this week in the Israeli press as well, show the depth of Syria's embarrassment. The senior source related that after Assad learned that Nasrallah and his men had succeeded in smuggling Mughniyah's body under the nose of Syrian intelligence, on the night of the assassination, Assad demanded that Nasrallah remain silent. The latter objected, and was the first to tell the world about the fall of his friend.
The same rules from the Mughniyah affair apply to the attack on the secret installation in September. Assad knows full well what was attacked and who was behind the operation, but he is not able and does not want to get into a head-on collision with Israel. The truth is that he does not really have to. Hamas, to which he extends his sponsorship, punishes Israel every day.
Official Jerusalem kept quiet in both cases, despite the fact that the Americans blabbed, for their own reasons, after the strike in September. According to reports from the past week, Israel applied pressure to Washington so that it would not reveal details from that night in a discussion in Congress. The Americans have their own interest in clarifying the truth in this issue, due to the suspicion that North Korea was involved in the Syrian nuclear program.
In its care to maintain silence, Israel is assisting Assad in the effort to enable Arab public opinion to forget both affairs. The result is a rare convergence of interests between Damascus and Jerusalem. Each of them is keeping silent, so as not to force Assad to be shamed publicly and forced into an act of revenge. In the meantime, we can certainly send him a bouquet of flowers.