Monday, May 12, 2008

Round 1 to Hezbollah

A great deal has been made over the alleged neutrality of the Lebanese Army in the last few days by sitting out the confrontation while an armed milita took over the streets of Beirut. But when a sitting and duly elected Prime Minister of Lebanon demands the army chief of staff send in the Lebanese Army to confront an armed milita taking over the streets of Beirut and refuses…well, that is called taking a side and its not the duly elected government’s.

The Lebanon Daily Star is reporting the Lebanese Army has now overturned one decision undertaken by the duly elected government of Lebanon and taken the other decision under advisement.
BEIRUT, May 10, 2008 (AFP) - The Lebanese army said on Saturday it had frozen measures taken by the government against the Shiite Hezbollah movement, and called for all armed militants to withdraw from the streets.

"The army command calls on all parties to (help restore calm) by ending armed protests and withdrawing gunmen from the streets and opening the roads," the military said in a statement. It said that the head of airport security, who had been reassigned from his job, would remain in his post pending an investigation and that the army would look into a communications network set up by the militant group.
"The head of airport security, Brigadier General Wafiq Shqeir, will remain in his post until appropriate procedural measures have been taken after a probe," the statement said.

"As for the telecommunications network, the army will look into the issue in a manner that is not harmful to the public interest or the security of the resistance" against Israel, it said.

The military said it had taken these decisions in the light of a government wish that it rule on these matters. The army statement came shortly after Prime Minister Fuad Siniora made a televised address to the nation.

Of course, it did not take long for the EU weanies to find a spin to blame the Israelis for Lebanon’s political instability. Ha’aretz
European diplomats familiar with the events in Lebanon claim that in the past year the United States has refused to provide the Lebanese army with advanced weapons that would have helped against Hezbollah and other militant groups. They said this was because of Israeli requests.

Since the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the deployment of the army in South Lebanon that followed, the international community has tried to rehabilitate the national armed forces. The European diplomats told Haaretz that although Lebanon asked the U.S. to provide heavy weapons such as antitank missiles and assault helicopters, the U.S. aid has concentrated on training Lebanese army units and supplying light arms and ammunition. They say the U.S. refused the requests because of Israel's fears that heavy arms could be used against it in the future or even fall into Hezbollah hands.

In light of current events, the decision not to equip the Lebanese army with advanced weaponry is rather prudent given the army’s alleged neutrality and indifference to an armed milita taking over the streets of Beirut.

Hezbollah gambled and won this current round of what passes for politics in Lebanon but at what price and for how long? Any gains made under the The Taef Agreement to shore up support for peaceful resolution between confessional divides has been lost. Only the naïve will think the various confessional divides will look to Hezbollah’s conduct and figure now is not the time to build up its forces.

Hezbollah has been at great pains to show it is a ‘national’ rather than secretarian movement and needed its arms to protect the nation from the “Zionist enemy”, and yet, the events of the last few days (beginning with the military takeover of West Beirut and resulting in the deaths of Lebanese citizens at their hands) has effectively put an end to that lie.

Even now Hezbollah’s spin masters are attempting to show it was necessary to take over West Beirut with a show of arms to end the political stalemate caused by the Lebanese government. Of course, Hezbollah conveniently ignores the role its own demands played in creating that political stalemate. Nonetheless, Hezbollah does not seek a ‘true’ takeover of Lebanese politics, and has no interest per say in the running of a large scale administration but it does seek to be a power over and above the state - an entity which has no responsibilities but the implementation of its own agenda.

If Hezbollah’s aim was the total control of the state it would not have been so careful to avoid attacking Christian neighborhoods and strongholds. Besides, the party of god needs someone else to blame for the price of bread or the cost of living.

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