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Sunday, August 06, 2006

‘Trust Allah, Not Nasrallah’

In an interesting article published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Rabil, an expert on Syria and Lebanon, argues that despite the recent show of unity, the various ethnic groupings in Lebanon are deeply divided, and Hezbullah's position in Lebanon has slipped since it brought about the war:
From the moment Hizballah sparked hostilities with Israel on July 12 with a crossborder raid, Lebanon’s multicommunal society has been torn by divergent views on Hizballah. The conflict has deepened the divides between Lebanon’s political factions and communities. Central to this has been the question of how a nonstate entity, Hizballah, could monopolize the decision of war and peace for the whole country. Significantly, the majority of the March 14 coalition, which sparked the Cedar Revolution, has regretted its inability to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which calls for Hizballah’s disarmament. Many Lebanese believe that their country has become an arena for settling regional scores between Israel and the United States on one side and Iran on the other, with Hizballah fighting Iran’s war.

As the fighting continued and Lebanese infrastructure was targeted, criticism of Hizballah receded but did not dissipate. Druze leader Walid Jumblat questioned Hizballah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah’s talk of victory by asking, “To whom are you going to give the victory?” Echoing some of his colleagues in the March 14 coalition, Dory Chamoun of the Christian Liberal National Party criticized Nasrallah’s “uplifting talk of dignity” while the country suffers under Israel’s air raids to degrade Hizballah’s power.


Hizballah’s speedy agreement to Siniora’s plan came as a surprise to analysts and politicians. Yet Hizballah’s ministers, Trad Hamadeh and Muhammad Fneish, expressed reservations only about the mission of the UN force. Hizballah, like Syria, does not want to see a powerful international force guarding Lebanon’s borders. Despite Hizballah’s uplifting talk of “steadfastness, dignity, and victory,” the organization has suffered significantly from Israeli strikes and has come under criticism from within the Shiite community. Saddened by the level of destruction wrought on Lebanon, the prominent Shiite political columnist Jihad al-Zein published a letter addressed to Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei in the Lebanese daily An-Nahar last week. The crux of al-Zein’s letter questioned Iran’s use of Shiite groups in the Middle East to advance Tehran’s political interests without regard for the consequences local Shiite groups may face. Al-Zein also emphasized that although communities in Lebanon have connections with foreign powers, only Hizballah has a military relationship with a foreign state.


A hopeful sign that has gone unnoticed is that some independent Shiites are now trying to reclaim a voice in their community. Although Hizballah appears to have won the day, the reality is that the organization’s power has been degraded. Hizballah is exploiting the hardship of the Lebanese people and the miscalculation of the international community to win the hearts and minds of the Arab world. This reality has not gone unnoticed by the silent majority of Lebanon. As one Druze told my wife before we were evacuated from Lebanon, “Trust Allah, not Nasrallah.”
Read the whole thing.


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