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Monday, November 06, 2006

Nasrallah's million man march

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbullah is threatening to organize a million man march as soon as this Monday if the Lebanese government doesn't accede to his demands. And his demands? A "national unity" government that would greatly increase Hezbullah's power beyond the fourteen seats it currently holds in the Lebanese parliament, followed by elections. Polls right now show that as many as 70% of the Lebanese will vote for Hezbullah.
With some polls showing Hezbollah with 70 percent backing, Nasrallah promises million-man street protests if Hezbollah doesn't get its "unity" Cabinet by next Monday.

Hezbollah now holds just 14 seats in the 128-seat parliament and two posts in the 24- member Cabinet. It can count on the support of three more ministers, but eight votes are needed to veto key decisions.

If Hezbollah gets added seats, it also wants to amend the election law, calling for early elections for parliament in expectation of gaining a majority there.

The pro-Syrian/Iranian and pro-Western camps are scheduled to meet today to discuss the crisis. If Nasrallah doesn't get his way, expect more violence like the five grenade attacks of recent weeks, increasing fear and intimidation among his opponents.

But if Hezbollah does get what it wants, forget about ever seeing it disarm, as required under numerous U.N. resolutions. Instead, we'll see more trouble along the Lebanese-Israeli border as soon as peacekeepers disappear.

Syria will turn this summer's military "victory" over Israel into a political one, avenging its 2005 retreat from Lebanon, gaining leverage over Israel - and helping keep its man, Lahoud, in place.

Lahoud would likely try to prevent Lebanese cooperation with the international tribunal investigating Hariri's assassination. Syrian intelligence officers, including some close to the ruling Bashar Assad regime, have been fingered in the hit.

If Hezbollah brings down Lebanon's government or blackmails its way into a reshuffling of power, Iran will gain a larger-than-ever say in Lebanon's affairs. Indeed, we'll confront an emerging arc of Iranian influence across the Middle East. From Damascus to Beirut and into the Palestinian territories - Iran will be better able to spread fundamentalism, stifle democracy, nourish Hamas/Hezbollah, diminish U.S. influence, isolate Israel and squeeze Iraq.
Middle East 'democracy' anyone?


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