Hizbullah's Struggle to Change the Lebanese Regime
By: Shimon Shapira and Yair Minzili
Middle East Strtegic Information MESI
A Pattern of Hizbullah Subversion
The publication of Hizbullah's subversive plan against Egypt and the exposure of a Shiite group headed by a Hizbullah activist, that planned to act against Egyptian targets under the cover of "logistical assistance" to the Palestinians, diverted attention from the challenge that Hizbullah has made against the very foundations of Lebanese authority.
One can safely assume that Hizbullah activity in Egypt was performed with the full knowledge of Iran. The weapons shipment that departed Iran for Gaza was dispatched with Tehran's blessing. Iran was undoubtedly aware that the Egyptian security authorities could uncover Hizbullah's subversive activity, but believed that the Egyptians would prefer to turn a blind eye and allow the passage of the weapons inventory to Gaza. Even if this was not the case, the Iranians posited military assistance to Hamas as a supreme interest of the Islamic Revolution and were prepared to pay the price of a deterioration in relations between the countries. The attacks by Hassan Nasrallah against Egypt, including a summons to the Egyptian army to overthrow the Mubarak regime during Israel's Gaza operation, would not have been made had Nasrallah not understood that in this fashion he was serving the wishes of his masters in Tehran.
Ever since the disclosures, the mass media in the Arab world and in the West has been preoccupied with the dispute that has erupted between Hizbullah and Egypt, and have almost totally ignored the struggle that Hizbullah has initiated to change the face of the Lebanese regime.
While Britain adopted the questionable decision to open a dialogue with the "political wing" of Hizbullah and in practice recognized Hizbullah as a legitimate movement, it would appear that the artificial distinction drawn by the UK between the political and the military wings of Hizbullah has totally collapsed with the discovery of Hizbullah's subversion in Egypt, which merely compounds what was previously discovered in Morocco. In that Sunni Arab kingdom, the king severed ties with Iran in March 2009, accusing it of supporting Shiite Islamic missionary activity.
Hizbullah's Election Platform: Setting the Stage for an Iranian Takeover of Lebanon
On April 3, 2009, Hizbullah published its political platform in advance of elections to the Lebanese parliament scheduled for June 7, 2009. The document calls for the abolition of sectarian politics and for the enactment of a new election law that would alter the equation of sectarian forces in Lebanon. (The English text of the 2009 Hizbullah platform appears at the end of this essay.)
The 2009 election platform joins a series of basic documents of the Hizbullah movement: These include the Open Letter (Risala Maftuha) from 1985, the first Hizbullah election platform for parliament from 1992, the Hizbullah political document ratified at the movement's Third Congress in 1993, Hizbullah's election platform for the 2000 parliamentary elections, and its platform for the municipal elections of 2004.
These two components - the unequivocal call to abolish sectarian politics and the enactment of a new election law - were placed at the very beginning of the platform in order to emphasize Hizbullah's priorities. In the electoral platform of 2000, Hizbullah had called for establishing a national body for the abolishment of political sectarianism, but only in the fourth section of the platform. It is assumed that in this manner Hizbullah seeks to advance its aspiration to destroy the foundations of the sectarian regime in Lebanon agreed upon in the National Pact of 1943 that has been preserved by the Lebanese state ever since, amidst repeated crises. The abolition of the existing political system will advance Hizbullah toward its fundamental goal: the establishment of an Islamic state that provides political expression to the Shiite majority and a complete Iranian takeover of Lebanon.
What is missing in the new Hizbullah platform? There is no reference to its militia and weapons, as well as to the call from inside Lebanon to dismantle Hizbullah's military capability and to integrate it into the Lebanese Armed Forces. Hizbullah ignores this aspect and insists on keeping its independent military wing as a "resistance" force against Israel.
However, it is clear that the preservation of Hizbullah's military strength is intended primarily to allow the movement to translate its military power and demographic weight into a fundamental change of the Lebanese political system. In addition to this purpose, and no less important, Hizbullah's military power serves as the cutting edge of Iran on Israel's northern border, enabling the Islamic Republic to employ the military power that it erected in Lebanon to serve its strategic interests.
In recent years, and in the course of the severe political crises that have struck Lebanon since the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in March 2005, Hizbullah has not concealed its intentions to realize the mission entrusted to it by the Iranian Revolutionary regime. The movement is to seize power in Lebanon and thus create another stable and trustworthy link in the Shiite axis of evil under Iranian leadership. In the Lebanese political realm, Hizbullah has labored to reinforce "the (Shiite) Opposition Camp" by aligning with powerful factions beyond the Shiite community against the Sunni-Shiite coalition headed by Saad al-Hariri. In practice, Hizbullah scored a major success by attracting to its side the Christian Free Patriotic Movement headed by Gen. Michel Aoun, and has strengthened its alliance with extremist Salafist Sunni groups. In a show of force, Hizbullah undertook an unprecedented brutal action when it effectively took over Beirut on May 7, 2008, in response to a government attempt to bring about the dismantling of Hizbullah's independent communications infrastructure within Lebanon.
Hizbullah's call for ending political sectarianism, coupled with the enactment of a new election law, came after this demonstration of power and self-confidence, and constitutes the apogee of its indefatigable efforts to attain power in Lebanon. The formulation of an electoral program in a manner that awards Hizbullah the deceptive image of an authentic Lebanese party operating on the basis of Lebanese interests was calculated to attract maximal representation and perhaps even a majority in parliament. However, its political rivals at home will seek to exploit Hizbullah's recent entanglements in subversion against Egypt in order to expose Hizbullah as a disruptive force operating in the service of Iran and Syria.
Once again, it has been demonstrated that all the scholarly analyses that define Hizbullah as a Lebanese national movement are baseless. What Lebanese national interests are served by subversive activity in Egypt? What Lebanese interests seek the transfer of Iranian arms from Sudan and Sinai to Gaza? What national Lebanese ideology seeks to subvert the delicate sectarian structure upon which the modern Lebanese state is predicated? The responses to these questions may be found in the framework of relations between Revolutionary Iran and its protégé in Lebanon, and between Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his loyal and obedient representative Hassan Nasrallah. The essence of the tie between them is not simply religious, but has far-reaching political implications influencing the range of Hizbullah behavior in the Lebanese arena and beyond, and symbolizes the growing influence of Iran in the Arab world.
The Hizbullah Platform for the June 2009 Parliamentary Elections
Mohammed Ra'ad, the head of Hizbullah's parliamentary bloc, presented Hizbullah's election platform on April 3, 2009:
With the approach of the parliamentary elections on June 7, we are seeking to reformulate the political process and deal with the collapse of authority that has resulted in crises that have adversely influenced national life and have plunged this country into a cycle of instability.
UN Resolution 1559 of 2004 [which calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias in Lebanon] constituted in some respects a portal for an internal civil war and opened the gates to regional and international intervention that occasioned bitter divisions. These divisions were exploited by international forces headed by the United States in order to transfer the Lebanese arena to their tutelage.
When Hizbullah joined the national dialogue, we expected that this would serve as an opportunity to reformulate a national consensus, and step away from the division into camps, for we believe that we cannot safeguard the homeland and its unity unless a spirit of mutual understanding and dialogue triumphs. We were always those who sought Islamic unity and national unity. Subsequently, mutual understanding was achieved between Hizbullah and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement [led by Gen. Michel Aoun] as a pioneering step on this track.
The Zionist war of aggression in July 2006 touched off an unprecedented international attack upon Lebanon. It strove to liquidate the Lebanese desire to maintain the resistance and subordinate Lebanon. However, the major achievements and acts of bravery of the holy warriors (mujaheddin) of the Islamic resistance turned the criminal aggression supported by international and regional forces into a disgraceful debacle which found expression in the downfall of the political and military team of the Zionist entity, and the evaporation of illusions of an American takeover of the region. Lebanon's victory in this war was recognized throughout the entire world.
The resistance is determined to complete the liberation of the remaining occupied lands, and particularly the Shebaa Farms and the hills of Kfar Shuba. We believe that any strategy of defense must integrate the current capabilities of the resistance and the capabilities of the Lebanese army, enabling it to stand up to Israeli aspirations regarding our lands and our water sources.
We affirm our enmity to Israel, our support and assistance to our Palestinian brothers to liberate their land and the holy places, and our assiduous efforts to establish excellent ties of fraternity with the Syrian Arab Republic.
In the Field of Political Reform1
A. Cancelling Political Sectarianism
Forming the National Committee for Cancelling Political Sectarianism in accordance with the Lebanese national consensus document, so that it will start its work and take the practical measures to implement the recommendations that it will reach.
B. Electoral Law
The sound way to effect reform lies in enacting a modern electoral law based on proportionality. At the same time, the constitutional amendment concerning lowering the voting age to 18 years must be finalized, in addition to finalizing another amendment related to the separation of the parliamentary membership from the cabinet membership.
C. Equitable Development
The principle of equitable development constitutes one of the pillars of political reform. For this purpose it was enunciated in the contractual preamble of the constitution. In order to realize this, we demand the restoration of the Planning Ministry, drawing up five-or 10-year plans that monitor the needs of all areas in various sectors.
D. Administrative Decentralization
In its preamble, the constitution stipulates a revision of the administrative divisions, taking into consideration national unity and the preservation of coexistence. The administrative decentralization means granting expanded administrative powers to smaller units - municipalities, districts, and governorates. The aim is to strengthen development opportunities and facilitate the quick handling of paperwork and administrative duties.
E. The Judiciary
Since the Lebanese constitution has stipulated that the judiciary is an independent authority, side by side with the legislative and executive branches of power, and since the fair and impartial judiciary is a guarantee for the establishment of the state of law and preserving the rights of both the individual and the society - and hence there can be no political reform without it - we are of the opinion that work is necessary to enact and implement laws that help organize the judiciary under a higher independent judicial committee.
Administrative reform constitutes a major challenge in all societies. Trim and efficient administration is the characteristic of modern states where administrative reform aims to reduce the burdens on the citizens, mobilize resources and capabilities, and carry out duties with speed and efficiency. In this regard, work should proceed in accordance with the following principles:
A. Drawing up a comprehensive blueprint for the administration and its needs, making an inventory of the shortages and vacant positions and filling them.
B. Stressing scientific qualifications and practical skills.
C. Introducing modernization, automation, and information networking, and fighting bureaucracy.
D. Activating monitoring and accountability and strengthening and bolstering monitoring establishments - Civil Service Commission, Central Inspection, and the Public Disciplinary Council, in addition to the Auditing Commission.
E. Developing laws and regulations in the field of administration and the budget, ensuring speed in the performance of work, stopping waste, and ending bribery.
F. Adopting a scientific and methodological plan in the appointment of employees, especially the senior officials (grades one and two) within efforts to enhance efficiency and good performance in the official administration.
G. Enhancing efforts to implement the creation of the two governorates of Baalbek-Hermel and Akkar, and completing the issuance of the applicable decisions in this regard.
Economic and Financial Reform
Since independence, Lebanon has been suffering from the absence of carefully studied economic and developmental visions that are based on the available resources, national requirements, and regional harmony. For these reasons the process of improving and developing economic performance has been proceeding in a haphazard manner. This led to the deterioration of some productive sectors, the termination of others, and the growth of others in an illogical manner. The Lebanese economy has been steered to promote services and realize profit. This resulted in harming economies that were considered productive and providing employment for skilled people, such as agriculture and industry.
In order to begin a genuine economic reform, we must first draw up a natural role of the state and move from an indifferent state with limited social and economic contributions to a state that is responsible for realizing growth and justice. Therefore, it is necessary to work along the following tracks:
The development track, through an equitable development of the various sectors and areas, a partnership in development between the public and private sectors, and fair distribution of profits.
The economic track, by realizing a sustainable and firm growth in domestic production, raising production competitiveness in the economic sectors, and merging with the regional surroundings (the Arab and Islamic markets).
The social track, by lowering the unemployment level, fighting poverty, and developing the means of redistribution of income and providing basic services.
The financial track, by ending the vicious circle of public debt, reducing the servicing of debts, reducing the budget deficit, fighting dissipation, and carrying out fair taxation reforms.
In this connection, emphasis must be laid on the need to develop and sustain the policy of activating the productive sectors such as agriculture, industry, and tourism by ensuring loans on easy terms, providing taxation incentives, encouraging small businesses to merge, strengthening cooperative work, providing guidance, extending support through needed equipment, increasing irrigated areas, studying the needs of the domestic and external markets by aiming at agricultural industrialization, developing the animal production sector, and backing various types of exports.
The ultimate aim is to fight poverty and social marginalization, and this requires joint efforts by the public and private sectors in concentrating on economic activities that provide job opportunities and which are directed at the countryside and remote areas.
Education and Learning Sector
The Lebanese University is the most important higher education institution in Lebanon in terms of its size, its specialties, and the number of its students, especially those who come from limited income families. It is supposed to contribute to building the future of the homeland's generations. This requires backing and developing by implementing the law that pertains to it, which protects its financial and administrative independence, ensures its development, and strengthens its scientific research resources. Unresolved issues must be resolved such as the problem of full time teachers and their protection, supporting the Contracting Fund, and reviving the Lebanese University's Students National Union.
As for the public education sector, duty calls for drawing up a comprehensive educational plan, stressing a higher level of educational qualifications, providing the necessary needs for schools, ensuring heating fuel during winter, backing the School Fund Program, revising the map of the distribution of schools in conformity with the requirements of equitable development, in addition to developing educational institutions, stressing the powers of educational inspection, implementing the system of compulsory and free education, enhancing academic, vocational, and technical education, and treating the chronic needs of the teachers and instructors in various stages in a responsible and positive way.
Civil Society Organizations
Within the framework of enhancing the national sense of responsibility, efforts must be exerted to develop party and trade union activities and open the way for civic society organizations to be active and to become a vital supporter and an effective monitor of the performance of the ruling authority's departments. This will lead to enhancing the awareness of society to the need to shoulder its duties in managing public life. In this regard, we emphasize the following:
1. The media
Freedom of expression must be preserved and protected, as stipulated in the preamble of the constitution, considering it an unchanging right that cannot be infringed upon within the framework of the law. Thus, emphasis will be laid on freedom of the media and the revision of certain laws, especially the Publications Law, thus lifting the threats against the media.
Efforts should be exerted to strengthen the role of women and develop their participation in the political, cultural, educational, media and social fields, and to exploit this role in establishing a balance in society in terms of psychology and values.
Taking care of the rising generations and the young, developing their resources and talents, guiding them towards sublime national and humanitarian objectives, and protecting them from corrupt thought and the tools and means of deviation and immorality.
4. Fighting the deviations and the harmful ailments in our society, whether through the media or by other means, emphasizing educational and media guidance, warning against the spread of corruption and dissolute values, and augment the monitoring of scenes and pictures that infringe on public morality and harm the humanitarian image of women.
5. Protecting the privacy of citizens by preventing indiscriminate wiretapping of their telephone conversations, and respecting the laws that pertain to these issues and bringing the violators of these laws, whoever they may be, to account for what they do.
Improving and Developing Social Services
In light of our conviction that the state cannot shirk its caring role nor behave in an indifferent manner or be apathetic towards the needs of the citizens, it is the duty of the state to improve services in the fields of health, education, housing, and social care. Of these duties, we mention the following:
A. Activating the public health sector, generalizing the principle of healthcare and preventive medicine, putting an end to monopolization in the drug market, and unifying the hospitalization funds.
B. Backing efforts to develop and reform the National Fund for Social Security and expanding the circle of its beneficiaries.
C. Drawing up a housing strategy that takes into consideration the comprehensive development of all areas, in addition to enhancing the state's support for housing loans.
D. Continuing the process of land planning and specification, enhancing the work pertaining to the annexation and demarcation of land, and treating property problems and issues pertaining to joint possession of property, and dealing with violations of the law by owners of buildings.
Energy and the Protection of Resources
Squandering water and natural resources is one of the chronic problems in Lebanon. Despite huge precipitation and multiple sources of water, the hardship continues to be great, especially during the dry season. Therefore, work should be done on the following:
A. Protecting water resources, especially the ones that are being threatened by the Israeli enemy.
B. Completing Canal 800 of the Litani River project.
C. Exerting serious efforts to complete the dams and lakes projects in accordance with a specific timeframe.
D. Expanding and rehabilitating the irrigation networks, especially in agricultural areas.
E. Completing the establishment and the rehabilitation of the domestic water networks.
As for the electricity sector, what is required is work to complete the electric power lines, modernize the production plants, treat the technical waste, fight transgressions on energy sources, and expand to create new and environment-friendly means of production.
As for the communications sector, we are required to preserve this national resource by developing this sector and improving its services, offering the consumers further services and observing the rule of providing the best service at the least cost.
The environment in Lebanon has been exposed to a large-scale process of destruction and violations, such as forest fires, indiscriminate felling of trees, lawlessness in opening quarries and gravel facilities, polluting the rivers with sewage water, and indiscriminate burial of sold waste. All of this makes us sound the alarm and declare a state of national emergency to do the following:
A. Adopting a guiding scientific environmental plan on sites for quarries and gravel production.
B. Enhancing the completion of building sewage systems in all areas.
C. Drawing up a modern study for the best means of getting rid of solid waste and transforming it into energy instead of burying it under the ground.
D. Providing effective means of firefighting, imposing strict measures to prevent tampering with the environment, and combating transgressions on the seacoast and rivers.
E. Launching a national campaign to enhance the green picture of Lebanon by cooperation with all organizations, both local and foreign, that care for the environment
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1. This translation of the Hizbullah platform appeared on the "Now Lebanon" website, based on the speech by Mohammad Raad broadcast on Hizbullah-affiliated Al-Manar TV on April 6, 2009, http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=89737
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Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Shimon Shapira is the author of Hizballah: Between Iran and Lebanon, 4th ed. (Tel Aviv: Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, 2006). He is a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
*Yair Minzili is a senior researcher in the fields of economics, political policy, and Islam in the Middle East.