After months of confusion and turmoil, Lebanon finally has a government and there is some hope it might result in being able to confront serious problems that have been left on the way side due to an inability of bringing diverse groups together. Hezbollah will have a veto on any action taken and former General Michel Suleiman will assume the office of presidency. In a sense, the trouble is just beginning for Lebanon which must decide if Hezbollah is to retain its arms. At present, Hezbllah due to its powerful military force is able to hold off any action by the Lebanese army to make it conform to government decisions.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora believes the urgent needs are regaining confidence by the world in the ability of Lebanon to govern itself and to prepare for upcoming elections. There are important goals, but more important is the role of Syria and Iran in using money and power to influence decisions within Lebanon. Frankly, the situation if too unstable and confused to have much confidence things will work out OK.
These days it requires a scorecard to keep track of the situation in Lebanon. Shiites in Iran are influencing Lebanon politics as are Sunni Syrians while Sunni Egypt and Saudi Arabia are supporting the Lebanon government. Arab foreign ministers gathered in Cairo in an attempt to sort out the situation which has paraylzed the Lebanese government. The Arab League issued a statement which implicity is critical of Hizbullah and made clear “the ministers reject the principle of resorting to armed violence to achieve political ends.” The Arab League would like to send a delegation to Lebanon but the Beirut airport is closed since all roads leading out of it are blocked by Hizbullah forces.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt are unable to play key roles because of their close association with the Lebanese government. Syria can not play a part in resolving the situation because it has close ties with Hizbullah and has helped to create the current chaos. Iran hovers in the background attempting to portray itself as being innocent for the conflict even though its support for Hizbullah is a key factor in what has happened.
It is possible the once powerful Arab League can play a role– provided it can even get into the country.
If President Bush’s record in the Middle East was compiled in the manner of batting averages, the president would be headed back to the bush leagues for some more seasoning before being allowed to play in the big leagues. Hizbullah gunmen have taken over large parts of Beirut as the US backed government backs away from any confrontation with masked gunmen who roam the streets chanting victory and waving flags. The Iranian supported Hizbullah has firm command of major sectors of the capital while the government bunkers down behind the army. Key leaders such as Walid Jumblatt and Saad Hariri, son of the murdered Lebanese leader, are trapped in west Beirut and unable to move without permission of Hizbullah.
Part of the difficulty in figuring out what is going on in Beirut is that Hizbullah is not overthrowing the government, it is not a coup d’etat, it is something, but, as of this point no one knows exactly what. The army exists and it is not controlled by Hizbullah, the government is trapped within its offices, the streets are being controlled by Hizbullah gunmen, and there is stability amidst a loss of power on the part of the government.
The only certainty is that Bush policies of trying to keep Iran out of Lebanon have failed. The Iranians are in Lebanon, they are in Iraq, and they certainly are refusing to back down to UN demands for nuclear reduction.
As expected, the Arab summit meeting in Damascus came and went without any result other than a nice trip to an interesting city. Due to US pressure only half the members of the Arab League even bothered to attend and, in most cases, the others sent low-level officials. According to Ahmed Moussalli of the American University in Beirut, “Most likely what we’re seeing is the end of the Arab initiative. Now what we will be seeing is the stagnation of the Lebanese situation and this could deteriorate into further negative interaction between the two groups in Lebanon.” Both sides in the deadlocked Lebanon government situation have agreed that Michel Suleiman should become president, but Hizbullah insists on one-third of Cabinet positions and a veto on any attempt to disarm Hizbullah or grant naturalization rights to Palestinian refugees in the country.
Professor Moussalli expects “more riots and clashes–the whole area is going through a very troubled time, not only Lebanon, but Iraq, Pelestine and with the US-Iranian and Syrian-Saudi tensions.” The problem in trying to have an “Arab initiative” is that Arabs are never in charge of their own desires because they are controlled by outside factors.
Most Americans have scant understanding how the Bush invasion of Iraq has completely destablized the entire region. The Bush failure to go south to Iraq instead of focusing on the Israel-Palestinian conflict will rank among the worst foreign policy decisions in American history.
Posted in Human Rights, Iraq War, Islam, Israel, Jordan, Military, Peace, Politics, Uncategorized, US Foreign Policy, War, World News
Tagged Arab initiative, Damascus Summit, Lebanon