Thursday, May 08, 2008

Hizballah Undressed

By some measures, the airport-siege initiated today, and now being projected to last at least one more day, is a miscalculation - the first casualty of which is Hizballah's image ... the second may have more to do with its logistics.

Speaking to television audiences around the country and the Arab and Islamic world, Lebanon’s highest Sunni religious authority, Grand Mufti Rashid Qabbani decried the “ugly attacks carried out by Hizballah partisans”, whom Qabbani described as “armed gangs of outlaws”, calling on the Hizballah leadership to immediately withdraw them from “Sunni neighbourhoods” and warning that Lebanon’s Sunnis “had had enough”.

The Grand Mufti also pointed the finger at Iran as having a hand in today’s violence. The speech’s significance lies as much in the content as in the speaker, in that it provided the most significant drop in cover yet for a group that has continuously sought to veil its activities in the shroud of populist pan-Arabism. Instead, the Grand Mufti’s speech unveiled the group as an [Shiite] Iranian-proxy militia.

Those visualisations were reinforced by another government supporter, and leader of the [Christian] Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, who referred to Hizballah as the Mahdi Army in Lebanon. With the majority of Christians completely ignoring the proddings of Hizballah’s chief Christian ally (Michel Aoun) to descend into the streets, Christian areas were left relatively unaffected by the day’s violence; as were the predominately Druze towns and villages in the Chouf and Aley.

The emerging skirmishes, limited as they were to the mixed Sunni areas of Beirut into which Hizballah deployed their gunmen and goons, proved to be a very public and very explicit undressing for a group now clearly isolated and uncovered in its attacks on yet another state institution (Rafic Hariri International Airport), one named after a Sunni [Arab] patron, no less, whose assassination the Shiite group is believed [by some] to have had a hand...

...And the rest of the country’s political groups were content with sitting this one out [albeit uncomfortably] and allowing the show to continue [with the some drawing analogies between the group’s destructive actions and those of that other Arab nemesis, Israel].

Why Now?

For those interested in gauging the level of surprise felt by Hizballah when it is hit with an unexpected event, there is always a tell-tale sign: the group’s response time (after all, secure correspondences between Beirut and Tehran can create significant lags). And while Hizballah has been fast to call Walid Jumblatt names over the past week, it has failed to provide any adept response to the airport spying allegations levelled against it this week [a manifestation of the lag].

Without a doubt, Hizballah’s actions today were dictated by an urgent need to reverse the government’s decision to confront the group over its heavy security-infiltration of the country’s international airport, and its intensive spying on the movement of local and international politicians who make use of its executive runway.

And while knowledge of the security-infiltration has been no secret in the country for quite some time now, it is over the border that speculation leads us to answers as to the timing of Jumblatt’s revelations and the government’s lack of [its customary] hesitation.

In confronting the group over control of the airport, word on the street has it that the government has chosen to move at a time when cooperation between Hizballah and the controllers of that other favoured terrorist hub, the Damascus International Airport, has hit a low, presumably in the aftermath of the Mughniyeh assassination [in which inside Damascene involvement is heavily speculated].

With the possible loss (or reduced functionality) of one airport, Hizballah moved today to ensure that the group retained control over Lebanon’s airport, no matter what the cost. Hence the urgency in the group’s actions [which, while being well-rehearsed, failed to measure up to the group’s proficiency in executing, as witnessed in cases in which it has been better prepared] and the resorting to a desperate and an ultimately unsustainable siege of Beirut’s international airport.

And speaking of the costs, those may come in the form of UN Resolutions reinvigorated by Chapter 7 clauses. Already the government has moved to initiate the international protocols that would [hopefully] draw the way for a more robust international confrontation of the group. Whether that confrontation will be as effective as the government is hoping remains to be seen. In the meantime, the Lebanese will have to come to terms with the fact that Hizballah has now ensured that Shiites can no longer leave the country to avoid the fate the group has in store for them ...

... unless the Canadians send their boats again, that is.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous6:06 PM

    see this link:
    http://lebanon.foreignpolicyblogs.com/2008/05/08/hizballahs-secretary-general-hassan-nasrallah-in-live-press-conference/

    Hizballah didn't started the attack.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I should note that one other, and very major, indication of a low point in Syrian-Hizballah relations is the fact that the Syrian-controlled Labour Unions called off their strike yesterday.

    The position left Hizballah exposed in that it withdrew cover for its actions as those of a "labor disgruntlement".

    ReplyDelete

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