Hezbollah Militancy Impedes the Road Back to Normalcy

Posted in Broader Middle East | 13-Nov-06 | Author: Manuela Paraipan

Manuela Paraipan is WSN Correspondent "Broader Middle East".

Recently, Sheikh Naim Qassem said on al Manar TV that the aim of the "resistance" is to liberate Jerusalem. Hezbollah will not settle for anything less. This sort of declaration is no news. Hezbollah's leadership often uses it in its rally and TV speeches as an electoral platform, but some Western political circles have held the belief that Hezbollah's leaders are pragmatists who have one speech for the masses and quite a different one at the negotiation table. If there were any doubts about Hezbollah's seriousness in promoting a fundamentalist Islamic, anti-secular, anti-Western and anti-Israel perspective, these doubts disappeared after the conflict it initiated with Israel.

As a consequence of the war, Lebanon is socially, economically and politically in turmoil. This week, the United States repeated its warnings that Iran and Syria are attempting to topple the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, with the help of the Lebanese Shiites. The international community accused Hezbollah of being a state within a state, and there are several UN resolutions aimed at putting an end to this, but the party categorically refuses to disarm and thus obey Lebanese laws or the international sanctions.

Lebanon has never been a united country in the true sense of the word. It is a multicultural, multi-religious society with former warlords running the country. It is far from being an ideal situation, so the political establishment is in an ongoing negotiation process between the sects. To top it all off, Lebanon’s President Lahoud is under suspicion of being involved in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. Obviously, the president considers this an extremely embarrassing situation, and he has rejected the opposition’s request that he step down. He plans to continue the mandate Syria prolonged for him until September 2007. Moreover, President Lahoud publicly declared that he is against the international tribunal set up to judge the case of Hariri's assassination. Why is Lahoud so defensive if he’s really innocent?

After dragging the whole country into the conflict, the Hezbollah leadership threatened, "to take the streets" in case the present political establishment of Siniora will not form a national unity government, with Michel Aoun’s party included. Furthermore, Hassan Nasrallah warned that Lebanon will be transformed into a second Iraq if anyone tries to take its militia's weapons. Hezbollah is on Tehran's payroll, and is enjoying full Syrian support. With such help, no wonder it increased its weaponry stockpile: At the end of the 34-day conflict with Israel, Hezbollah had 22,000 rockets; now it has 33,000 rockets, all smuggled in from Syria and right under the nose of UNIFIL. Dangerously but not surprisingly, the UN once again proved its uselessness, and that there are obsolete resolutions that not even a militia takes seriously. At first glance it seems that no one is up to the game the extremist Shiites are playing in Lebanon. In reality, the EU, the US and other interested parties can stop the current events if they join forces to make a common front and stand up to Iran and Syria. The alternative is for everyone to bury their heads in sand and pretend to see nothing while the disaster unfolds. In the habitual, hypocritical trend of its political conduct, Nabih Berri joined forces with Hezbollah and called for all the political leaders to engage in negotiations over the future of the country. Months before the conflict and afterwards, the political leaders have done nothing else but talk, while the country sank. Talks are needed as a way to an end, but when there is no such end in sight, it's just a loss of precious time, in Hezbollah's favor. There shouldn't be anything left to be discussed at this stage. Lebanon has a constitution, a security and defense apparatus, the Taef Agreement, the UN Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701 that ask for Hezbollah to lay down its weapons and for Syria to stop interfering in the internal business. Now, if this is not enough, what is?

Nabih Berri's initiative consists of the following:

- The forming of a new, national government

- A new election law

- The reconstruction of the country and discussions about the economic debt of approximately $38 billion

Unwisely but hardly unexpected, the growing and acute issue of Hezbollah's weapons and presidency were not considered worth being added to Berri's list. In tradition with the megalomania that the party suffers from, Hezbollah announced that since it had a "divine victory" over Israel, it will take the streets of Lebanon, or in other words, hell will break loose on the country if the outcome of the negotiations do not suit its interests. Hezbollah wants to create a situation where it can hold the veto power over the most important issues, its weapons included. Any decent Lebanese citizen should be asking if this behavior is an example of Hezbollah's patriotism or merely a proof of its agenda.

In February 2006, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of Michel Aoun signed an agreement with Hezbollah. (http://www.tayyar.org/files/documents/fpm_hezbollah.pdf) The implications of such a move on FPM's behalf are serious and even mystifying to those who know that General Michel Aoun has enthusiastically endorsed UN Resolution 1559.

The latest developments confirm that the FPM and Hezbollah made a united front against the parliamentary majority headed by Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt. The very fact that Hezbollah found itself a Christian ally undermines the chances of Hezbollah consenting to renounce its militia's weapons. From an ideological perspective, these two parties could not have been further apart. Hezbollah is promoting an Islamic ideology, while the FPM prides itself on promoting a secular, liberal-oriented ideology. The only thing they do have in common is their relentless efforts to stay in power. Hezbollah wants business to continue as usual, and General Aoun wants the presidency chair. Perhaps all is fair in politics, but everything comes at a price. However, this alliance will not come cheap.

Prime Minister Siniora is facing the daunting challenge of maintaining a calm, internal environment to counter Hezbollah's aggressive political and social discourse, while keeping excellent ties with the Occident. Each time Hezbollah and its allies portray themselves as saviors of Lebanon, the Lebanese should remember that Syria has used the same rhetoric. It is not a providential savior that Lebanon needs, but rather a stronger sense of political realism and responsibility.