Sunday, May 11, 2008

From Beginning to End

Given the hectic events of the past several days, it has been hard to keep up with all the material and analysis [some of it excellent] being presented on the present crisis. In this post I highlight two posts, one – by Michael Young [DailyStar] – from the first day of Hizballah’s attack, and another – by fellow blogger Abu Kais [From Beirut to the Beltway] – from the day the group began withdrawing its militia from the streets of Beirut. Both are excellent and I encourage readers to carefully read each one on its own.

We start with Michael Young:
Long ago we learned that Hizbullah could not, in any real sense, allow the emergence of a Lebanese state free from Syrian control. Soon after the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the party tried to suffocate the 2005 "independence intifada" in the egg, realizing that Hizbullah had no future as an autonomous armed group in a state that would seek to reimpose its writ after decades of subservience to Damascus. That effort failed on March 14, 2005 - mostly useful as an event in showing that a majority of people would not be intimidated by Hizbullah's rally of March 8.

Post-Syria Lebanon has posed existential problems for the party, problems that began when Israel withdrew from most of South Lebanon in 2000. The irony of this situation - that Hizbullah was always most comfortable when both Syria and Israel were present in Lebanon - the latter to fight against, the former to safeguard that fight - says a lot about the party's future options.

In picking a fight with Hizbullah over its cameras next to the airport, Walid Jumblatt did something different than what the public imagined. The reality is that Hizbullah doesn't need cameras to know what is going on at the facility. Through its authority over the General Security directorate, the airport's security unit, and sympathetic employees, Hizbullah has all the information it needs on air traffic. Rather, what Jumblatt did was provoke a confrontation and, to dig up the old Soviet jargon, heighten the contradictions between Lebanese society and Hizbullah. Now the party's true intentions are out there for everyone to see. Hizbullah can no longer hide behind its "resistance," a fictitious "national opposition" or imaginary social protests. It is confirming on a daily basis that its minimal goal is to keep alive a Hizbullah state within the state and to force most Lebanese to accept this, even as the party infiltrates the government bureaucracy and has free rein in the airport and ports.

The Lebanese state cannot live side by side with a Hizbullah state. This theorem is becoming more evident by the day, as the party's actions in the past three years have been, by definition, directed against the state, the government, the army and the security forces, institutions of national representation, the economy, and more fundamentally the rules of the Lebanese communal game. We've reached the point where Hizbullah, and more importantly the Shiite community, must choose. Will it persist in favoring a Hizbullah-led parallel state that will surely continue to clash with the recognized state? Or will Shiites try to find a new arrangement with their countrymen that forces Hizbullah to surrender its weapons?
Following announcements made by the Army and Government [and perhaps more importantly, the leak of a letter from the Army to the Government by Lebanese media outlet, LBC] Abu Kais writes of the anger and disappointment felt by many:
I know many of you are angry at March 14 and Siniora. You have every right. I am too. They have blown many chances in the past. But in this past episode, something must be said about the decision to not fight back. Hizbullah feeds on violence … and if this country is to continue being a nation for all its sects, March 14, a peaceful movement, cannot turn into Hizbullah.

Let’s direct our anger at the right people. Hizbullah today, and Amal, stand responsible for stirring an unprecedented amount of hatred towards the Shia community, and widening the sectarian rift. And Michel Suleiman, who watched the masked criminals shoot people and sabotage the media, also stands responsible.

It doesn’t matter if this was a March 14 trap or not. It doesn't seem like one anymore … Hizbullah has made it extremely difficult for the country and for the Shia community to co-exist. This is the tragic consequence of their irresponsible and criminal behavior of the past 4 days. This might not be the end of it.

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