Across the Bay

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Jumblat and Hizbullah

A few days ago I wrote a post highlighting some statements by Druze opposition leader Walid Jumblat. In there I remarked how he was throwing jabs at Hizbullah (whose Secretary General issued what I called "defensive" remarks).

Indeed, the folks in the Party of God didn't take too kindly to his remarks as this story in the Daily Star shows:

    The statements showed Hizbullah's lifelong ally is trying to deprive the party of its resistance character in the wake of harsh bickering between Jumblatt and Syria, and as part of Jumblatt's dedication to consolidate the opposition facing the Lebanese government.

    Such a position embarrassed Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who was forced to adopt a defensive position that showed in his recent statements, at a time when he cannot afford to fall into the trap that led to internal dispute, particularly with Jumblatt.

The story also has a similar assessment of the challenges facing the Shiite community (which, as I wrote, is quite divided):

    Protecting Berri falls within the framework of Syria's calculations to preserve the unity of the Shiites in Lebanon who have constituted the major support group of Syria through the years, and to avoid a battle that would weaken both parties.

    Protecting Hizbullah lies in not shaking its internal status facing criticism and reservations about its operations in the Shebaa Farms, which means the resistance will not be sacrificed - neither on the military or political levels - in the near future in the wake of international calls to implement UN 1559.
    ...
    The preservation of Hizbullah's share in the parliamentary elections was finalized during a meeting between Berri and Nasrallah under a concealed Syrian umbrella.

    Hizbullah succeeded in preserving its full share in the future Parliament.

    However, the main question does not concern the preservation of Hizbullah's share of Shiite MPs, but the preservation of other confessions at a time when rivalry between Berri and Hizbullah over the Jezzine qada has not yet been settled.

    Both parties are now seeking the support of potential Christian candidates in Jezzine, which has become an independent qada [small district] at [Maronite Patriarch] Sfeir's request.

    This is the major issue currently under discussion by both parties.

This shows the problems the major Shiite parties (Berri's Amal and Hizbullah) have to deal with due to the pressure on Syria and the consolidation of an internal Christian-Druze-Sunni opposition which would leave the Shiites in an awkward position. They both depend on Syria to safeguard their shares in parliament and municipal elections, and Syria uses that to keep them both in check. Now they have a changing landscape, and they need to start cutting deals with the Christians and the opposition. That's the essence of politics in Lebanon (and in the new Iraq). The sooner the Shiites, esp. Hizbullah and Berri, realize that their best bet is internal, and not through reliance on Syria, the better.