Middle East


Hezbollah Militancy Impedes the Road Back to Normality

Young Lebanese youths of Hezbollah's al-Mehdi scouts carry a huge banner that reads, "Oh Jerusalem we are coming," during a parade last month to mark "Al-Quds (Jerusalem) International Day." (Photo: Mustapha Mahmoud / AFP-Getty Images)

Recently, Sheikh Naim Qassem said on Al Manar that the aim of the "resistance" is to liberate Jerusalem. Hezbollah will not settle for anything less than that. This sort of declaration is not news. Hezbollah's leadership often uses it in its rally and TV speeches as an electoral platform, but the opinion was in some Western political circles that Hezbollah's leaders are pragmatists, and that they have one speech for the masses and quite a different one at the negotiation table. If there were any doubts before about Hezbollah's seriousness in promoting a fundamentalist Islamic perspective, anti-secular, anti-Western, and anti-Israel, after the conflict it initiated with Israel, there should be none now.

As a consequence of the war, Lebanon is socially, economically, and politically in turmoil. This week, the United States repeated its warnings that Iran and Syria attempt to topple the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, with the help of the Lebanese Shiites. The international community accused Hezbollah of being a state within a state, and there are several U.N. resolutions in this direction, but the party categorically refused to obey the state laws or the international sanctions and disarm.

Lebanon was never a united country in the true sense of the word. It has a multicultural, multi-religious society with former warlords running the country. It is far from being an ideal situation, so the political establishment is in an ongoing negotiation process between the sects. The icing on the cake is that Lebanon has a president that is under suspicion of being implicated in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. Apparently, the president considered this extremely embarrassing situation as appropriate, and rejected the opposition's request to step down. He plans to continue the mandate Syria prolonged for him until September 2007. Moreover, President Émile Lahoud publicly declared that he is against the international tribunal set up to judge the case of Hariri's assassination. Why so defensive, if really innocent?

After dragging the whole country into the conflict, Hezbollah's leadership threatened "to take the streets" in case the present political establishment of Siniora will not form a national unity government, with Michel Aoun's party included. Further more, Hassan Nasrallah warned that Lebanon would be transformed into a second Iraq if anyone tries to take away its militia's weapons. Hezbollah is on Tehran's payroll and enjoys full Syrian support. With such help, no wonder it increased its weaponry stacks from 22,000 rockets it had at the end of the 34-day conflict with Israel. Now it has 33,000 rockets, all smuggled in right from Syria under the nose of UNIFIL, the United Nations force in Lebanon.

Dangerously, but not surprisingly the U.N. proved once again its uselessness, and the obsolescence of its resolutions, since not even a militia is taking it seriously. At first glance, it seems that no one is up to the game the extremist Shiites are playing in Lebanon. In reality, the EU, the U.S. and other interested parties can stop the current events if they will make a common front and stand up to Iran and Syria. The alternative is for everyone to bury their heads in the sand, and pretend to see nothing while the disaster unfolds.

In the habitual, hypocritical trend of its political conduct, Nabih Berri joined forces with Hezbollah and called for all the political leaders to engage in negotiations over the future of the country. Months before the conflict, and afterwards, the political leaders did nothing more than talk, while the country sunk. Talks are needed as a way to an end, but when there is no such end in sight, it is just a loss of precious time, in Hezbollah's favor. There should be anything else to be discussed at this stage. Lebanon has a constitution, a security and defense apparatus, the Taef agreement, and U.N. Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701 that ask for Hezbollah to lay down its weapons, and for Syria to stop interfering in its internal business. If these are not enough, what is?

Berri's initiative consists of the following:

  • The forming of a new, national government.

  • A new election law.

  • The reconstruction of the country and discussions about of its approximately $38 billion debt.

Unwisely, but hardly unexpected, the growing and acute issue of Hezbollah's weapons and presidency were not worthy of Berri's schedule. In tradition with the megalomania the party suffers from, Hezbollah announced that since it had a "divine victory" over Israel, it will take the streets of Lebanon, or in other words, hell would break loose on the country if the outcome of the negotiations does not suit its interests. Hezbollah wants to create a situation where it can hold the veto power over the most important issues, its weapons included. Any decedent Lebanese citizen should be asking if this behavior is an example of Hezbollah's patriotism or merely a proof of its agenda.

In February 2006, the Free Patriotic Movement (F.P.M.) of Michel Aoun signed an agreement with Hezbollah.

The implications of such a move on F.P.M.'s behalf are serious and even mystifying to those who know that Gen. Michel Aoun has enthusiastically endorsed the U.N. Resolution 1559.

The latest developments confirm that F.P.M. and Hezbollah made a united front against the parliamentary majority led by Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt. The very fact that Hezbollah found itself a Christian ally undermines the chances of Hezbollah consenting to renounce its militia's weapons. From an ideological perspective, these two parties could not have been farther apart. Hezbollah is promoting an Islamic ideology, while F.P.M. prides itself on promoting a secular, liberal-oriented ideology. The only thing they do have in common is the relentless efforts to stay in power. Hezbollah wants business to continue as usual, and Gen. Aoun wants the presidency. Perhaps all is fair in politics, but everything comes at a price. This alliance will not come cheap, either.

Prime Minister Siniora is facing the daunting challenge of maintaining a calm, internal environment to counter Hezbollah's aggressive political and social discourse, while keeping excellent ties with the Occident. Each time Hezbollah and its allies portray themselves as saviors of Lebanon, the Lebanese should remember that Syria has had the same rhetoric. It is not a providential savior Lebanon needs, but a stronger sense of political realism and responsibility.

View the Worldpress Desk’s profile for Manuela Paraipan.