Powered by WebAds

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Hezbullah elephant in Lebanon's living room

With Saad Hariri and the March 14 coalition now clearly on the outside of the next Lebanese government, they are finally raising an issue that should - in a just world - have been raised a long time ago: Hezbullah's weapons.
The decision of Saad Hariri and March 14 to make an issue of Hezbollah’s arms is overdue. Lebanon’s inability to consolidate its shaky social contract, to address political reform, to reinforce the authority of the state, and to fortify its deficient sovereignty are all consequences of the lack of a national consensus, deriving from the untenable relationship between a state and an armed group militarily more powerful than the state that has used its arms, or compulsively threatens to do so, in order to protect itself and its autonomy from that state. Until this matter is resolved, Lebanon will function at two speeds – that of Hezbollah and its allies, and that of everyone else.

However, does March 14 have what it takes to prevail? Not so long ago, Saad Hariri was defending what he described as the arms of the resistance. Three governments led by the former majority crafted convoluted policy statements to sanction Hezbollah’s retention of its substantial military arsenal. March 14 is correct in saying that Hezbollah has directed its weapons against other Lebanese, and that its deployment of men dressed in black in Beirut’s streets last January, after finalization of the draft indictment at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, was a threat to repeat that. But then March 14 went ahead and participated in the parliamentary consultations that gave Hezbollah the prime minister it and Syria wanted, allowing the party to claim that it had worked through constitutional channels.

That does not mean that March 14 is mistaken in focusing on weapons, but unfortunately the twists and turns the coalition has navigated to reach this conclusion indicate, rightly or wrongly, that it is relying to some measure on political improvisation. Worse, Hariri must respond more persuasively to the charge that he shifted gears on Hezbollah’s guns because he was not returned as prime minister. Unless he does so, March 14 could find itself on the defensive in advancing a very risky agenda to push for Hezbollah’s disarmament.
The columnist, the Daily Star's Michael Young, goes on to argue that March 14 should make a tradeoff, offering greater Shiite participation in government along the lines of the Taif accords in exchange for Hezbullah giving up its weapons. (For those of you who are not familiar with how Lebanon works, each of the major positions in its government must be filled by a member of a designated ethnic group. The rules were set a long time ago, and there has been a significant population shift toward the Shiites that has never been taken into account).

Young hints at what the likely denouement of such a tradeoff would be, although he clearly wishes it weren't so. The result of such a shift would most likely lead to Hezbullah swatting away the Lebanese Armed Forces like an annoying fly and carrying out a coup d'etat that would make the bloodbath in Libya look like child's play.

And then they'd go to war with Israel.

What could go wrong?

Read the whole thing.

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home