Difficult Decisions for Hezbollah
Raghida Dergham Al-Hayat - 11/08/06//

New York - For years, Hezbollah resisted the deployment of the Lebanese army in the South so that it could extend the State's authority there. This week, it has finally agreed to the idea that the government would send 15,000 troops to the South. But this came after the start of Hezbollah's war with Israel, which has devastated Lebanon. It is good enough for Hezbollah to agree that the army should carry out its normal tasks, but the movement has not yet ceded that authority over the South rests with the State alone. Nor has it taken the only step that would put an end to the war: surrendering its weapons to the State. It is still in Hezbollah's hands to prolong or end the war, and it has the responsibility of showing its good intentions. If it thinks that by blessing the dispatch of army units to the South the Security Council will change its attitude and allow it to keep its weapons, then Hezbollah is actually maneuvering to score points, despite the horrendous costs of this war which Israel is savagely waging.

On no condition will the Security Council bless Hezbollah if it keeps its weapons, not even if the Arab League delegation tries to have the resolutions modified on the grounds that the issue of Hezbollah's arms would be channeled into the Lebanese National Dialogue. Anyone who tries to allow the idea to pass that there can be two equal powers controlling Lebanon's sovereignty - the State and Hezbollah - is doing an injustice to Lebanon, because the existence of one authority will mean the end of the other. It is hoped that the authority of the State will remain, and not that Hezbollah will end it.
War with Israel is a decision that should only be taken by a sovereign State. And if Lebanon must continue the war with Israel, then Hezbollah must give up the authority it has robbed from the State, and return it willingly by taking concrete steps that go beyond the rhetoric of Hassan Nasrallah's speeches. These steps are obvious: Hezbollah should give up its weapons to the State, the militias should be disbanded, and they should be integrated into the regular army, without conditions or bargaining.

In other words, and in all honesty, Hezbollah must make decisions that relate to more than a battle in the war or the Security Council resolution. It has the historic responsibility of deciding once and for all whether this war is a battle for the survival of the party and the movement, even if the result is the complete destruction of Lebanon and its people; or to place Lebanon above the party and regional considerations. I have repeatedly stated in this column that these are Hezbollah's basic options that will affect the future of Lebanon and its people: either prosperity, or the destruction of the country.

More than eight months ago, on January 6, 2006, an article appeared in this column entitled: "Scenarios that 'Call For' A Military Strike on Lebanon and Syria". The article warned that grave preparations and policies were underfoot at the time. It would be well to cite parts of this article.

"There is talk in international circles of scenarios that strike a vital nerve of Syria and Hezbollah's decisions that relate to their survival, and warnings of the consequences to Lebanon and Syria if Israeli cities are struck from across the Lebanese borders. Besides aggravating the situation between the Palestinians and Israel by allowing the pro-Syrian Palestinian factions to act at will, Hezbollah is the most important factor that affects the situation in Lebanon. It has the power to allow steps to be implemented, and it can delay them. For this reason, the responsibility for Israel's bombing and invasion of Lebanon rests squarely on the shoulders of Hezbollah's leadership. Today, Hezbollah must choose between protecting Lebanon from being used and from acts of retaliation, on the one hand, and sacrificing it to serve Syria and Iran, on the other."

The above is a quotation from what was printed in this column. The following are some additions to highlight what happened afterward, and why.
The Syrian and Iranian leaderships may have found it in their interests at this juncture to provoke Israel through Hezbollah and the Palestinian factions, either to draw attention and pressure away from them, or to rally anti-Israeli feelings to them for their own local and regional purposes. Any Hezbollah operation against Israel from across the Lebanese border at this stage will be calculated to incite the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. And any encouragement from Syria to let the situation develop in this direction will mean that Damascus had the intention to provoke the Israeli shelling of Syria, which would enable it to declare to the Arabs that it is in a state of war with Israel.

As for Iran, according to Ali Larijani, Secretary General of the Higher National Security Council, Tehran has already set a scenario for retaliation if attempts are made to force it to abandon its enrichment of uranium. He also added that Iran has plans to drag the region into war. The article in this column, mentioned previously, noted, "This is exactly the scenario that was discussed in international circles: there would be a regional war motivated by Tehran and provoked by Syria. This would necessitate creating sectarian or political party violence among the Lebanese, and stirring problems in Lebanon."
Finally, again, to cite from the article, there are certain noteworthy points:

"It is said in international circles that the attempt to strike terror in the hearts of the Lebanese by carrying out a series of assassinations has proved to be a failure. The reason is that Lebanon remains united and has not slipped into civil war, as Damascus had hoped. The only alternative open to the Syrians now is to change their tactics completely, both qualitatively and quantitatively, so that the confrontation would be at all levels. This it will do by exploiting all the Lebanese and Palestinian elements to provoke Israel into taking large-scale action to distract attention from the Syrian presence in Lebanon and bringing it to account on the international level for what its security leaders have done."

With regards to Lebanon, the article stated, "From a Lebanese perspective, Hezbollah shoulders the greatest responsibility because it must decide once and for all whether it is truly a Lebanese party, or if it will be the instrument of the Syrian-Iranian decision to drag the region into war and turn Lebanon into the inferno to serve Iran's nuclear interests or save Syria from being brought to account for the criminal assassinations it is responsible for. Today, Hezbollah has the choice to prove its worth. Tomorrow, it will face a difficult test."

These words were written at the beginning of the year. They were not a prediction; they were based on information. Now, the time has come for Hezbollah to prove its worth in a period where everything is put to the test.

Hezbollah tested Israel and claimed the victory of trimming its might down to size, because it has deprived the Israeli army of the ecstasy of a lightning victory. But this test, which has been very costly to Lebanon, is not a real victory for Hezbollah because the movement has caused Israel to widen and intensify its invasion of Lebanon with the result that there may be another occupation of its territory. This is nothing for Hezbollah to celebrate or feel victorious about, because, ultimately, Lebanon will be used in a way that will not be in its interests and that will negatively affect its future. The fact that Israel is despicable is no excuse for sacrificing Lebanon to Syrian and Iranian ambitions. It is time that the 'nationalists' in Lebanon and the Arab World distinguished between their obsessive hatred of Israel and what is being done because of this hatred at the expense of future Arab generations.

These 'nationalists' make hay of what is happening in Lebanon, restricting themselves to the perspective of their hatred of Israel, and the Israeli aggression. But they are being elusive, in the sense that they deny the evil axis of Iran-Syria-Hezbollah, and excuse the latter of being accountable for the destruction of Lebanon. Israel is an enemy who does not care for Lebanon and its people. It considers Lebanon a target, and feels justified in violating all of the humane and international laws and the rights of civilians in war time. It therefore commits war crimes, and the dead bodies of children are a testimony to this. This is something one cannot argue with the 'nationalists' about: to them, anyone who dares to hold others beside Israel responsible is a traitor.

The 'nationalists' face the following challenge: either they are completely with open resistance that would immediately inflame the Syrian-Israeli front, thus allowing elements from al-Qaeda to pour in - and Syrian officials had warned they would arrive in Lebanon; or they must make up their minds to either support the authority of the Lebanese State, or Hezbollah, in the name of a resistance that is confined to this victimized country.

It is time to make decisive choices unequivocally: either to be for the sovereignty of the State, which would definitely mean that Hezbollah must disarm and give up its authority willingly or by force; or to be for Hezbollah as a substitute for the authority of the State, and which is deliberately acting to undermine it according to its agreement with Iran and Syria.

Ultimately, this is a battle for existence. Hezbollah can now choose, even on the ruins of Lebanon, to be a part of a Lebanese government that exercises its sovereignty independent of Iranian influence and Syrian excuses. This will require a decision that will turn Hezbollah from a movement that is subordinate to Tehran and Damascus to an effective party that can preserve its popularity within the Lebanese social structure.

As for the warnings expressed by the foreign ministers of Syria, Iran and Qatar that there will be civil war if the Security Council adopts the resolution to cease hostilities, these sound more like an incitement to civil war than actual warnings.

It never occurred to anyone in Lebanon at the beginning of this summer that they would be plunged into the inferno, as Iran had threatened. Nor did it occur to the Lebanese that they would be dragged into a war, as Syria had planned, with Hezbollah as its instrument. As for the fact that 'The True Promise' triggered a savage Israeli response, there is no doubt that this was beyond everyone's expectations. More than any other country, Israel is notorious for its brutality when it occupies territory, and for its disregard of civil rights and humane and international laws. In no way can Israel be excused for its disgusting conduct in the war, which is an injustice to Lebanon and the Lebanese. If Israel had self-confidence and could make its threats good, it would not have chosen the weakest country to vent its anger on. This paper tiger vents its frustration on the bodies of Lebanese and Palestinian children because it is afraid to wage war where it must - against Syria and Iran.

But informed sources that justify Israel's way of thinking challenge the statement that the Israeli military is bankrupt, and that Israel is a paper tiger. These sources say that part of Israel's strategy is to leave Hezbollah and Damascus with the impression that Damascus is not considered a target in this war, and that Hezbollah dragged Israel into the predicament of war in Lebanon, whereas it is Lebanon and Hezbollah who have fallen into the predicament.
The coming hours will expose both Israel and Hezbollah's claims in this war that is being conducted at the expense of Lebanon. But the issue will not be decided by peace or war in the next few hours. These two parties who toy with war thought that they could decide its outcome. Until now, both have failed and have made mistakes. A trumped-up war, such as is raging in Lebanon, can be unpredictably fatal. The pain has come before the end. Indeed, it is a preliminary to the end, and to a great deal of construction on the bodies of Lebanon's children.