Tag Archives: Lebanon

Lebanon Walks Tightrope Of Coalition Government

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.

Inside Hizbullah In The Streets Of Lebanon

Hanady Salman, writing for Al-Ahram from the streets of Beirut described how policies of the United States, Saudia Arabia, and inept leaders of Lebanonon forced Hizbullah fighters to openly oppose the government. Hizbullah militants went a gainst the wishes of their own leaders in asserting power against government forces. “It did not mater how many times the secretary-general of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, asserted he did not want an Islamic republic in Lebanon. It did not matter how many times he explained that his party’s sole aim was to have a fair share in the decision making of the country. He repeated his patience had an end vis-a-vis the government’s decision that were alienating both the party and his followers…Finally, they pushed him into the corner.”

For months, Hassan Nasrallah, has been expressing his willingness to dialgoue with Israel even to the point of offering an extended cease fire, but the Bush-Olmert mentality that speaking with the enemy means accepting everything the enemy desires, has blocked efforts at negotiating with Nasrallah.

Salman argues the Lebanese government has been accepting advice and support from outside forces like the United States and Saudi Arabia which have turned Lebanon away from both internal and external negotiations and compromises that might result in stability. Instead, chaos is growing and only Hizbullah may have the power to impose its will upon opponents.

As Salman observes, “And, someone has to convince the U.S. that it cannot keep supporting a group of Lebanese politicians that cannot deliver the way U.S. backed politicians did when the US invaded Iraq. Does the US want another Iraq?”

Arab League Mediators Mediate Lebanon Crisis

Arab League mediators announced a deal on Thursday to end Lebanon’s worse internal fighting since the civil war which began when the US backed government challenged Hizbullah. The opposing sides met in Qatar and finally resolved their issues — for the moment. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad announced, “We declare an agreement sponsored by the Arab League to deal with the Lebanon crisis. The parties pledge to refrain from returning to the use of weapons or violence to realise political gains.” Hizbullah agreed to end its civil disobedience campaign as well as taking down roadblocks which hamper transporation in the country.

Hizbullah’s deputy leader, Sheikh Naim Kassem, promied “we want to return to a settlement which leads in the end to there being neither victor nor vanquished.” Both parties agreed any final settlement would result in army commander General Michel Suleiman becoming president of the nation. The remaining issues deal with which party gets which cabinet posts.

Sunni Muslims To Hezbollah–No Surender!

Lebanon’s Sunni Muslim leader, Saad Al-Hariri pledged there would be no political surrender to what he termed a bid by Hezbollah and its Syrian and Iranian backers to impose their will on the nation by force. Hariri said they”simply are demanding that we surrender, they want Beirut to raise the white flag..This is impossible.” He promised Hezbollah and its allies “they will not be able to obtain Saad Ali Haririr’s signature.. on a deed to surrnder to the Iranian and Syrian regimes.” Hezbollah forces have routed western backed government forces in Beirut and in mountainous areas around the city. The success of Hezbollah has ruined the credibility of the Saniora government and its main patron, the United States. Saudi Arabia warned Iran if it endorsed Hezbollah’s actions it would impact how other Arab nations relate to the Iranian government.

In Tehran, President Ahmadinejad denied any involvement with Hezbollah and insisted “Iran is the only country not interfering in Lebanon.” The entire Middle East knows Iran has been supplying Hezbollah, but Ahmadinejad continues trying to deny the obvious.

Future historians will note that every action undertaken by the Bush administration in the Middle East has wound up disastrously. The world awaits anxiously for a new administration which simply has to do better than Bush who is batting, zero in the success campaign.

Hizbullah Seeks To Control Lebanon

Lebanon’s Social Minister Nayla Moawad told the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, that Hizbullah is engaged in a coup to take over the government and establish its ideology in the nation. She insisted the government had given many concessions to Hizbullah but each time they were given one thing they demanded even more. “Hizbullah has been preparing the coup wich took place just now for two years” and has been supported by huge shipments of arms from Iran and Syria. The ostensible reason for the current conflict is over demands by the Lebanese government for Hizbullah to dismantle its extensive military communication network which spans the entire country and is not controlled by the government.

She believes the Lebanese army made a wrong decision when it did not act decisively in recent weeks but has withdrawn from conflict in order to avoid plunging the nation into another civil war. ” I think,” she said, “the Lebanese army is simply overwhelmed.” She admits “as far as Hezbollah is concerned, they can take control of the whole of Lebanon within just a few days if they want to.” They already control west Beirut and are taking over other areas of Lebanon. She argues, “Hezbollah wants to force its ideology on Lebanon. It’s an extremist, theocratic ideology that comes from Iran and that Iran would like to see dominate the whole Arab world.”

Ms. Moawad is furious “the international community hss reacted to this coup with a markedly loud silence. It’s shocking because Lebanon has been taken hostage.” She is both disappointed in Europeans and the Arab League which has stood by and allowed the Shiite group to control Sunnis and Christians.

There is scant doubt Iran and Syria have played important roles in arming Hizbullah and working to undermine the Lebanese government. But, equally sad, is mistakes on the part of Israel which has refused to negotiate with Hamas or seek a genuine compromise with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. This refusal to work cooperatively has played a role in allowing Hizbullah to gain power.

Middle Eastern Lebanon Scorecard

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.

Lebanon Army Restores Calm To Beirut

The Lebanese army moved into action in an effort to restore peace to Beirut before another civil war erupts which could destroy the nation. It is placing itself between the Hizbullah and the government in a crisis that began when a Hizbullah ally who headed security at the airport was fired by the government. Military leaders called upon all concerned parties to be calm. “The army command calls on all parties to (help restore clam) by ending armed protests and withdrawing gunmen from the streets and opening the roads.” The Army pledged to investigate the firing and claims that Hizbullah was running a telecommunications network that endangered peace.

Hizbullah gunmen began evactuating areas in which they were lodged and some sense of calm has been restored although there are still reports of deaths in various parts of the country.

Bush Strikes Out Again In Middle East

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.

Arab Summit Never Left Ground Zero

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.

Arab Summit-Who Exactly Will Show Up?

Meetings of Arab leaders over the years invariably produce initial sounds of determination to resolve critical issues only to produce nothing but the sounds of silent pessimism. Once again an Arab “summit meeting” is taking place in Damascus but most of the key players in the Arab world will not be present. Only 12 of the 22 delegates from Arab nations represent even someone at the foreign minister level which may signify growing disgust with Syria’s role in the Middle East. Syria is held responsible for the mess in Lebanon, not all agree with its policies of providing weapons to Hamas and Hizbullah, and the persecution of Sunni Muslims in Syria does not resound positively with many Muslim nations.

In an interview with Al-Ahram, Hesham Youssef, of the Arab League, agrees, “Yes, there are differences among Arab countries abut the issues of relations with the United States and Iran,” but all seek some way to resolve problems and avoid further military action. Everyone essentially agrees General Michel Suleiman should become president of Lebanon and end the current impasse, but things are blokced by disputes as to who has which powers in the Lebanon Cabinet.

There is no question Israel has repeatedly made blunders in its policies toward Palestinians, but they are aided in this inability to find common ground for peace by the ineptness of Arab leaders to curtail violence in the region. Unfortunately, Arab nations of the Middle East lack a personage of the stature of a Nelson Mandela who can assert leadership and move ahead toward peace. If Iran had a leader with vision, it might help, but that most probably will not occur in the immediate future. It may well be that Turkey offers the last opportunity for leadership in moving toward resolving issues within the region.