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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Hezbullah dominating reconstruction of Lebanon

The New York Times is reporting this morning that Hezbullah is already dominating the reconstruction efforts in Lebanon with a torrent of money from oil-rich Iran.

Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc, and the country’s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbullah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbullah with an “unlimited budget” for reconstruction.

In his victory speech on Monday night, Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, offered money for “decent and suitable furniture” and a year’s rent on a house to any Lebanese who lost his home in the month-long war.

“Completing the victory,” he said, “can come with reconstruction.”

The Lebanese government - as usual - seems powerless to get involved. Here's the Times' description of the reconstruction efforts:
While the Israelis began their withdrawal, hundreds of Hezbollah members spread over dozens of villages across southern Lebanon began cleaning, organizing and surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles of rubble. Roads blocked with the remnants of buildings are now, just a day after a cease-fire began, fully passable.

In Sreifa, a Hezbollah official said the group would offer an initial $10,000 to residents to help pay for the year of rent, to buy new furniture and to help feed families.

In Taibe, a town of fighting so heavy that large chunks were missing from walls and buildings where they had been sprayed with bullets, the Audi family stood with two Hezbollah volunteers, looking woefully at their windowless, bullet- and shrapnel-torn house.

In Bint Jbail, Hezbollah ambulances — large, new cars with flashing lights on the top — ferried bodies of fighters to graves out of mountains of rubble.

Hezbollah’s reputation as an efficient grass-roots social service network — as opposed to the Lebanese government, regarded by many here as sleek men in suits doing well — was in evidence everywhere. Young men with walkie-talkies and clipboards were in the battered Shiite neighborhoods on the southern edge of Bint Jbail, taking notes on the extent of the damage.

“Hezbollah’s strength,” said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University here, who has written extensively about the organization, in large part derives from “the gross vacuum left by the state.”

Hezbollah was not, she said, a state within a state, but rather “a state within a nonstate, actually.”


Hezbollah men also traveled door to door checking on residents and asking them what help they needed.

Although Hezbollah is a Shiite organization, Sheik Nasrallah’s message resounded even with a Sunni Muslim, Ghaleb Jazi, 40, who works at the oil storage plant at Jiyeh, 15 miles south of Beirut. It was bombed by the Israelis and spewed pollution northward into the Mediterranean.

“The government may do some work on bridges and roads, but when it comes to rebuilding houses, Hezbollah will have a big role to play,” he said. “Nasrallah said yesterday he would rebuild, and he will come through.”

Sheik Nasrallah’s speech was interpreted by some as a kind of watershed in Lebanese politics, establishing his group on an equal footing with the official government.

“It was a coup d’état,” said Jad al-Akjaoui, a political analyst aligned with the democratic reform bloc. He was among the organizers of the anti-Syrian demonstrations after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri two years ago that led to international pressure to rid Lebanon of 15 years of Syrian control.

Rami G. Khouri, a columnist for The Daily Star in Beirut, wrote that Sheik Nasrallah “seemed to take on the veneer of a national leader rather than the head of one group in Lebanon’s rich mosaic of political parties.”

“In tone and content, his remarks seemed more like those of a president or a prime minister should be making while addressing the nation after a terrible month of destruction and human suffering,” Mr. Khouri wrote. “His prominence is one of the important political repercussions of this war.”

Defense Minister Elias Murr said Tuesday that the government would not seek to disarm Hezbollah.

“The army is not going to the south to strip the Hezbollah of its weapons and do the work that Israel did not,” he said, showing just how difficult reining in the militia will most likely be in the coming weeks and months. He added that “the resistance,” meaning Hezbollah, had been cooperating with the government and there was no need to confront it
Look for those who don't want to live in an Islamic state to leave Lebanon over the next 6-12 months. The Christian community - in particular - is likely to shrink further. Hezbullah is well on its way to becoming Lebanon, if it is not already. And we are on the way to having an Islamic state on our northern border.

At least the next time, no one will ask why we are attacking 'Lebanese' infrastructure. And don't kid yourselves - there will be a next time.


At 4:41 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...

Mr. Christopher,

The bigger problem is that whatever aid comes in has to be channeled through a Lebanese government that is free from any connection to Hezbullah. That does not exist today. Alternatively, the aid could come through a miilitary occupier with a lot more power than the 'new, improved UNIFIL.' That doesn't exist today either, nor will it once the new force is in place.

The problem is on a scale that rates an occupation like post-World War II Germany or Japan. Unfortunately, it may also take that kind of carnage before anyone outside the region is able to realize that the problem is that bad.


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