Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Daily Star: "Hizbullah's divorce from the rest of Lebanese society"

Michael Young, the Daily Star's "opinion editor," offers interesting criticism of Nasrallah:
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech on Sunday formalized Hizbullah's divorce from the rest of Lebanese society, confirming there is a fundamental rift between the party and a majority of Lebanese over a vision for Lebanon. But the rhetoric was also something more prosaic. It echoed a statement last week by former Minister Wiam Wahab, one of Syria's licensed local spokesmen, that negotiations over the distribution of portfolios in the government had become "stupid," and that a more fundamental change in the political system was now needed.

Both points Nasrallah combined in a key passage of his address. Lebanon was passing through a "fateful and important period" of its history, he argued, and "the issue is not one of [an] 11-19 [distribution of ministers in the government] or 17-13; it is much deeper than that." The real issue was one of control, with the parliamentary majority seeking to impose its writ on the whole country with international, particularly American, encouragement. The only way Lebanon could emerge from its crisis was through new elections or a referendum. The Hariri tribunal would only be endorsed once the opposition introduced changes into the text, and would have to be approved by the government in a session presided over by President Emile Lahoud. The tribunal itself might be formed only after the United Nations investigation of Rafik Hariri's assassination was completed (though, Nasrallah insisted, the judgment had already been written). And Nasrallah described the four generals who are suspects in the assassination as "political prisoners" who had to be released.

While the majority and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora are taking the Security Council route to establish the Hariri tribunal under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter, Hizbullah's secretary general merely reiterated Syria's line on the Lebanese deadlock. He reaffirmed that the party's conflict with its adversaries is an existential one and, rashly, made Shiites the first line of defense in protecting Hariri's killers.

Nasrallah ruled out a civil war, and his threat that the opposition would be willing to stick to its position for two more years, until Parliament's mandate ended, suggested he is not looking for an imminent escalation. Instead, the opposition's tactic is to wear the system down through inertia, even if economic disaster is the result. Nasrallah's aim is to gain time for his Syrian allies, push the international community and the Arab world to exasperation or hesitation, so they will approve of a revitalized Syrian role in Lebanon, and, by so doing, guarantee that Hizbullah will be able to remain a military organization as well as a political one.

Nasrallah was right. Lebanon's destiny is indeed being determined today. Will the country once again become that freewheeling liberal outpost open to both East and West that it was before 1975, and which Hariri tried to recreate? Or will it become the pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian garrison state of which Nasrallah dreams, one that would allow his party to retain its weapons and secure a future as the militant vanguard of a society whose obsession would be self-defense against proliferating foes?

Nasrallah claims that he has a majority of Lebanese on his side. That's untrue since even Hizbullah's main allies in the Aounist movement don't share the secretary general's austere designs for Lebanon, at least if their political program is to be believed. One has to wonder what Michel Aoun thought of Nasrallah's statements. Does it take much more for him to realize that, in the unlikely event he were ever to become president, the primary obstacle to implementing his own ideal of the Lebanese state would be Hizbullah's ideal of the Lebanese state? [...]
Meanwhile IRIB reveals a "new US plot in Lebanon" and see the Guardian.

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