Across the Bay

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Bad Omen

A reader asked for my view on Hizbullah and the current scene in Lebanon. I have been (and still am) doing research and contacts to give you my reading and my sources' reading. It should be up very soon. In the mean time, take a look at this story from Naharnet:

Walid Jumblat has asserted that "Syria's mission in Lebanon is over," warning that Hizbullah "is a Syrian pressure levy with a frightening militia that may be used against us." He also revealed that he had sent his elder son and political heir to Paris to stay alive.

"The mere participation of Hizbullah's leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in the recent meeting of Syria's loyalists is a bad omen," Jumblat said in an interview with the Parisian newspaper Liberation, which was highlighted by the Beirut media Wednesday.

Jumblat was asked whether he was afraid of being assassinated. "Everything is possible. The Syrians have crossed the red line and they tell us 'you have to negotiate on our terms or we will kill you.'"

Liberation noted that Jumblat was so afraid of assassination that he has sent his elder son and political heir Taymour to France to "make certain that at least one of the Jumblat family is safe."

Jumblat recited in the interview what President Assad told Hariri in their last meeting in Damascus in august last year shortly before Syria dictated the 3-year extension of President Lahoud in power.

"Lahoud is me," Hariri quoted Assad as telling him in the meeting that was held when Hariri was still the prime minister of Lebanon, Jumblat said. "That was the intro of Syria's dictation of Lahoud's extension in September, which led Hariri to resign and which touched of the current crisis," Jumblat explained.

He further quoted Hariri as having told him that Bashar said: "If Chirac wants to get me out of Lebanon I will destroy Lebanon. Jumblat has Druze in Mount Lebanon, but I also have Druze and I shall hit and destroy Mt. Lebanon."

Jumblat said the opposition in Lebanon "does not want to fight the Syrians. They are our neighbors. But we don't want to be annexed in a new Anschluss as Hitler did to Austria in 1938."

Jumblat, as you'll see in my upcoming post, is extremely worried that Hizbullah will turn on the interior. The story also confirms two things about Bashar that I've written on this blog: 1) Bashar is in charge of the Lebanon file, and what we're seeing (and have been seeing) is his policy ("Lahoud is me.") 2) Bashar will burn his way out of Lebanon, as he knows that his regime's/family's survival rests in great part on his holding on to Lebanon. But he does not have Druze in Lebanon that would do his bidding. He has managed to turn most if not all the Sunnis against him (see this piece by Nick Blanford, which also has more on the Shiites). Whatever cronies he has in the Sunni (and Christian) community won't be able to do much in terms of a military threat, and will be quickly exposed as doing Syria's bidding. So in fact, Bashar's hand in Lebanon is really tied with Hizbullah and the Shiites (hence the Iranian alliance?).

That's why everyone's crossing their fingers hoping that Hizbullah decides to join an emerging free Lebanon, and not be Syria's proxy. More to come.