Thursday, September 15, 2011

Does Hezbollah Have Any Friends In Lebanon?

It is ironic that the Wikileaks cables have landed those who disseminated them into trouble, when all they have done (assuming we believe their authenticity, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t) has been to reveal the truth. Those pertaining to Lebanese politics have left many of us breathless by the hypocrisy they reveal. However, they have also told us much about the relationship between Hezbollah and the party’s so-called allies.

Earlier this year, we learned that former Health Minister Mohammed Jawad Khalife had warned that Hezbollah would “turn [Lebanon’s] life into hell politically” if Syria and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STC) failed to reach a solution to the case of the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri—the inference being that the party would do Syria’s bidding.

But last week came the bombshell, again from Wikileaks, when we read that Parliament Speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri, a supposed ally of Hezbollah and staunch defender of the Resistance, confirmed to American diplomats that Hezbollah was a major component of Iran’s regional strategy. He also sensationally said that he supported Israeli military actions against Hezbollah in 2006 as long as it did not backfire and create more public support for the party, and he voiced his frustration that the Lebanese army had not taken up positions in South Lebanon. Amazing.

Then on Sunday, we learned that Prime Minister Najib Mikati had referred to Hezbollah as a tumor. One might argue that Mikati cannot be held responsible for what he said five years ago, but the truth is that since then, the party’s behavior can only have caused this tumor to metastasize. It was Hezbollah, remember, that was responsible for mobilizing the 18-month downtown sit-in that brought business activity in central Beirut to a halt; that led the attempted coup of May 7, 2008, during which parts of west Beirut were overrun; and that brought down the democratically-elected government of Saad Hariri in January 2010.

We could also mention the relatively minor incidents, like the murder of Lebanese army helicopter pilot Lt Samer Hanna in August 2008, the abduction of MEA employee Joseph Sader (a crime that is widely attributed to Hezbollah), and the party’s refusal to offer (not that it would have necessarily been accepted) to assist in the fight against Fatah al-Islam militants in the summer of 2007.

And there is, of course, the small matter of the indictments handed down to four Hezbollah members by the STL charging them with planning and carrying out the murder of Rafik Hariri. It seems that every burden heaped upon the country, be it war, strife, or simply a sense of stalemate and frustration, has Hezbollah’s fingerprints on it.

The common denominating factor in all these events was that they were all carried out under the veiled threat of the party’s ability to deliver violence at the drop of a hat. (Indeed on May 7, the threat was acted on, and the guns that they solemnly promised to use only against Israeli aggression were turned inward and used with lethal force against their fellow compatriots. The three days of violence were the closest Lebanon has come to civil war in two decades.)

We can censure our politicians who ride with the hounds and run with the fox, but then again, it is no secret that the majority of Lebanon’s political class are no angels. This we know. Now that Wikileaks has exposed their duplicity, it will be up to the electorate at the next polls to decide if it is time for a wholesale clean out.

Does Hezbollah have any friends left at all? If we are to believe the veracity of the leaked documents, the party is clearly politically isolated and is only able to exert domestic influence because of its arms and its backers, Iran and Syria. It clearly has not learned from history that no one sect can dominate Lebanon, a country that is founded on plurality, whether we see this plurality as a liability or an asset.

Given the evidence, should we really be surprised that Mikati likened the party to a tumor? It only remains to be seen if it is operable.

Now Lebanon

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