Around The Horn on Lebanon
From the ThreatWarch 15/11/06

Several recent writings provide excellent analysis and commentary on the situation in Lebanon pertaining to Hizballah’s political power grab which, as Dr. Walid Phares has been saying, was Hizballah’s reason for sparking the Israeli war over the summer. While excerpts are provided here, readers concerned about the situation in Lebanon would find it well worth their time investment to read each in full.

First among the notable efforts is from Rick Moran with Hezbollah’s End Game In Lebanon Taking Shape.
What it comes down to is what has always been the greatest threat to Lebanon’s democracy; Hezb’allah and their guns. Faling to disarm the militia as they were required to do under UN Security Council resolution 1559, the March 14th Forces paid for their inability to rally enough popular support to suppress Hezb’allah first with the Israeli War and now with an existential threat to the existence of a free and independent Lebanon. Perhaps it was inevitable given the enormous difficulty in governing a country so riven with factional and sectarian divisions. But history’s judgement will be no less severe if the small group of brave democrats cannot find a way to stop Nasrallah from carrying through with his plans.

As for the United States, there is very little we can do to assist. Siniora is already battling charges that he is Washington’s stooge – charges that ring true with many ordinary Lebanese thanks to effective Hezb’allah propaganda spewed forth from Al-Manar, the terrorist media organ in Lebanon. And as Dr. Phares points out, Nasrallah’s push for power has not taken place in a political vacuum; both he and his patrons in Tehran and Syria know how to read US election results.
Rick refers to Dr. Phares’ analysis at The Counterterrorism Blog titled Hezbollah’s offensive in Lebanon has begun. In his analysis, he details the likely steps Hizballah will take in relatively short order in order for the Islamists to wrest control of the government from the March 14 coalition.

5. The projected scenario is as follows: Hezbollah and Amal movement ministers will resign from the Government calling for the resignation of the Government. The next move is to have Hezbollah, Amal, and their allies in the Parliament also resign, thus creating “conditions” for what they will coin as new elections and a collapse of the cabinet. Most of these moves have already been accomplished or are on the eve of being implemented. The pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud will declare the Government and the Parliament as “illegitimate,” and call for early legislative elections. The latter, if they take place will be under the smashing influence of Hezbollah’s weapons (a show of force was performed in the summer) and of the cohorts of militias and security agencies. Result: a pro-Syrian-Iranian majority in parliament, followed by the formation of an “axis” government in Lebanon. The rest is easy to predict: A terrorism victory.
The question today is, how to stop this from happening?

No look at Lebanon would be complete without including Michael Totten, who possesses the inate ability to communicate his informed observations in a naturally flowing and readable style that is truly rare, especially considering the topics often discussed. In A Perfect Storm?, Totten draws upon his personal experiences and knowledge of both Lebanese society, Beirut politics, personal friends on the ground and his own face-to-face experiences with Hizballah.

The Lebanese government says Syria and Iran aim to overthrow the elected government in Beirut and reconquer the country. Whether they are actually trying to do this right now or not is unknown. There should be no doubt, though, that if they don’t have a plan to execute now it’s because they want to do it later instead.
Meanwhile, a group that calls itself “Al Qaeda in Lebanon” appeared from Lord-only-knows-where and directly threatened to destroy the March 14 government. “Al Qaeda in Lebanon” may or may not exist as a wing of bin Laden’s Al Qaeda. If they do, they’re serious. If they don’t, they’re a Syrian proxy. Either way, it doesn’t look good. This is not a prank phone call.

These threats to Beirut’s elected government are concurrent with Hezbollah’s and Amal’s resignation from the Lebanese cabinet. Hezbollah and Amal quit for two reasons. The first is that the March 14 bloc refused to give Nasrallah and friends who lost last year’s election more power in a “national unity” government. The second is because it was time for the cabinet to move ahead on the Hariri tribunal. Hezbollah will not tolerate the prosecution of their patron in Damascus.
Both Rick Moran and Michael Totten refer to Charles Malik and his observation that the apparently coming Lebanese internal violence just may take place without much participation from the Christians, divided as they are in their support for the given factions. Malik asks at the Lebanese Political Journal, Will the Assassinations Prompt Sectarian Clashes This Time?

Rumors are running rampant that sectarian clashes began immediately after the Shia ministers resigned from the government. A friend in the Future Youth Organization said that young people no longer feel safe going out in the evening, and that the FYO was expecting bombs to go off the night the Shia ministers resigned. This, obviously, did not occur, but people are preparing themselves for the worst. Sadly, preparing oneself for violence, like stockpiling weapons, often makes one too quick to respond aggressively when violence is not necessary.

There has been much discussion (including on this blog) about the divisions within the Christian community. Interestingly, this division might make the Christians safer. The Christians proved last year that they would not respond to violence with violence. With the Lebanese Forces in 14 March and Michel Aoun aligned with 8 March, the Christian community will not be at the center of any sectarian clashes for, perhaps, the first time in modern Lebanese history.
While there is much to be considered, each of the above writers are a tremendous resource with their observations, comment and analysis…not to mention readable styles. I for one appreciate the way they reference each other’s ideas, considering and incorporating them into their own writing. Readers here would be well served by checking in on each of the above as they look to make sense of the Lebanese situation.