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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Waiting for war in Lebanon

Emile Hokayem explains why buying off Hezbullah may bring Lebanon a few months of quiet, but is really a bad idea in the long run.
The dismantlement of the international regime that guaranteed Lebanese sovereignty is now almost complete. UN resolution 1559, which demanded the disarmament of all armed groups, is now contradicted by the ministerial statement recognising Hizbollah’s right to resist. Resolution 1701, which imposed a security regime at the border with Israel, is breached daily by Israeli overflights and by massive Hizbollah resupply and positioning of weaponry in nominally UN-controlled territory. Syria, emboldened by its improving fortunes, has turned the tables on its Lebanese adversaries by sanctioning a ludicrous court case in Damascus; the former security chief Jamil al Sayyed has filed a lawsuit in connection with his detention for four years over the assassination of the Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Normalisation of relations between Syria and Lebanon has not progressed, but the road to Damascus is again crowded with Lebanese supplicants. The sins of some will be forgotten, others will go through purgatory, and the few who stand fast will again fear for their freedom and lives. Plainly put, this is a return to the 1990s politics of intimidation.

The rush to reconcile with Hizbollah should not be misread: it is a consequence of the Shia militia’s proven ability to intimidate and coerce. Its recent manifesto was heralded by western analysts as proof that it was embracing its Lebanese identity and discarding its revolutionary slogans; but while it is true that Hizbollah no longer calls for an Islamist state in Lebanon, it has replaced that delusion with an even grander one in which state and society serve its muqawama, or resistance.

Lebanon has bought itself a few months of respite, but the clashing agendas of Israel and Hizbollah and its patrons will soon expose the cost of Lebanese lack of perseverance and international complacency. It is a safe bet that it will be a devastating one.
In a world with no leader, what can be expected? 'Engaging' Syria has accomplished a lot, hasn't it?


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