Totten: No love lost between Hariri and SyriaWhen Lebanese President Sa'ad Hariri went to Syria last week, it was interpreted as a victory for Syria and as showing the ineffectiveness of President Obama's 'engagement' policy. Writing at Contentions, Michael Totten, who may know Lebanon as well as any Western observer, doesn't believe that Hariri has given up the fight with Syria and their Hezbullah proxies.
Hariri went to Damascus with Hezbollah’s bayonet in his back.Read the whole thing.
Assad’s regime assassinated Saad Hariri’s father, Rafik, in 2005 for just gingerly opposing Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. There is no alternate universe where Saad Hariri is OK with this or where his generically “positive” statements at a press conference were anything other than forced.
I was invited to dinner at Hariri’s house earlier this year and had a long and frank discussion about politics with him and some colleagues. I can’t quote him because the meeting was off the record, but trust me: the man is no friend of the Syrian government or Hezbollah, and it’s not just because someone in that crowd killed his father. His political party, the Future Movement, champions liberalism and capitalism, the very antithesis of what is imposed in Syria by Assad’s Arab Socialist Baath party regime and the totalitarian Velayat-e Faqih ideology enforced by the Khomeinists in Iran and in the Hezbollah-occupied regions of Lebanon.
Hezbollah and its sponsors in Tehran and Damascus have forced Hariri to do a number of things lately — to give it veto power in his government’s cabinet and to surrender to its continuing existence as a warmongering militia that threatens to blow up the country again by picking fights with the Israelis.
Hariri and his allies in parliament resisted an extraordinary amount of pressure on these points for months before caving in, but cave in they did. They didn’t have much choice. The national army isn’t strong enough to disarm Hezbollah, and unlike Iran’s tyrant Ali Khamenei, Hariri doesn’t have his own private army. Hezbollah militiamen surrounded his house last year and firebombed his TV station when the government shut down its illegal surveillance system at the airport. At the end of the day, Hariri has to do what Hezbollah and its friends say unless someone with a bigger stick covers his back when push comes to shove.
No one has Hariri’s or Lebanon’s back, not anymore.
Earlier, I blogged a New York Times article that speculated regarding how hard Israel is likely to hit Hezbullah and Hamas in the next war. Here's some of what that article had to say about the Lebanese theater.
In the 2006 war, which was precipitated by a deadly cross-border raid by Hezbollah, Israel bombed the Beirut airport, a strategic bridge linking north and south Lebanon and some power supplies. But Israel said it was doing so only to hamper Hezbollah’s war effort, and it directed the brunt of its attacks against the militia.Lebanon has to decide which side it's on. Either it can stand up to Hezbullah the way the Iranian people are now standing up to the mullahs or it can bear the consequences when Hezbullah uses their infrastructure to fire cannon fodder at Israel. While I feel sorry for those Lebanese who don't support Hezbullah and want to live in peace with us, I feel more sorry for the Israelis who are likely to be under fire by Hezbullah in the next war.
Now, with Hezbollah playing a more active role in the Lebanese government, Lebanon could be held more responsible for Hezbollah actions against Israel, Israeli security officials and experts say.
Mr. Siboni said the idea was to inflict such damage that the other side would ask whether confrontation was worthwhile.
Military officials strenuously deny that Israel plans to hit economic or civilian infrastructure to cause suffering to the local population, in the hope of turning it against the war.
Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, chief of the Israeli military’s Operations Department, told reporters at a recent briefing in Tel Aviv that the army would not shoot at targets that had no proven link “with any form of terror.” But, he added, “we are going to use fire.”
General Kochavi said that Israel would never deliberately fire on civilians but that civilian buildings containing weapons or rocket launchers would be bombed after residents had been warned to evacuate.