Across the Bay

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Nervous Hasan

I don't remember if I mentioned this or not, but a little while ago, after Hariri's assassination, a delegation of US military officials arrived in Lebanon to assess the state of the Lebanese Army and its needs. It was also understood that there was a need to purge the Army of its Syrian infiltration.

Needless to say, all this movement made Hasan Nasrallah very nervous. He lashed out against the US for trying to instigate the Lebanese Army against Hizbullah. "We know the command and the officers of this Army, and we say to the Americans, our Army is patriotic, and above all your bets."

Nasrallah is now continuing his attempts to court various groups inside Lebanon to reach a consensus on the weapons issue. The latest gimmick is coopting Bashir Gemayel's 10452Km2 formula. That's the surface area of Lebanon, and it was used by Bashir Gemayel and remained as a slogan for the Lebanese Forces. Nasrallah is now using that as a cover for the Shebaa Farms and the Seven Villages in northern Israel, which he claims are Lebanese.

The funny thing is that Hizbullah doesn't trust anybody in Lebanon right now, even if it is making all kinds of electoral alliances. This report by Hazem Amin in Al-Hayatdescribes like nothing else the dynamics (or, should I say, stasis) in southern Lebanon. It's the best thing that's been written about south Lebanon and Hizbullah yet (unless of course you're looking for giddy Hizbullah groupies. For that, go to Cobban, Cole, and AbuKhalil).

But if you look at the following quote from a piece by Hasan Fattah: "The number of M.P.'s doesn't reflect our power," he said. "Our image does," or this quote from an interview with Hizbullah cheerleader Timur Goksel, found on Hizbullah groupie Cobban's site:

Goksel said that he was told by Hizballah that half of Amal had joined Hizballah after the militias were disbanded, “So what will happen if we close our doors?” He added that Hizballah thinks that there are some who are waiting for this to happen to inherit it politically . He said “For Hizballah, you have to provide the motive for keeping the youth with you”.

And when you compare that with Hazem Amin's excellent report, you realize the current debacle the PoG is in, and why it wants to keep those weapons (it has nothing to do with increasing the parliamentary seats, or the Shiites' slice of the pie, or any of that stuff. Read what they're saying!). Parliamentary seats are not stable. That's not a "right price", to quote Manuela Paraipan (see "Lebanon System" post below). Neither is enlarging the piece of the pie for the Shia, because Hizbullah is not the Shi'a!! That would mean increasing the competition among the Shi'a, and that's precisely what Hizbullah and Berri (who hate each other) ganged up to prevent. Read about the threats and intimidation by this "only true democratic force" in Lebanon. Also, read this second excellent report by Amin, this time on Hizbullah in the Bekaa, the marijuana industry, the Party's interference in tribal politics (and weakening of tribal networks) through the drug industry, etc.

All these "prices" are variable and the PoG is not interested in any of it. It's not even, like all those cheerleaders want you to believe, that they are keeping the weapons to bargain for the removal of the sectarian system (leaving aside the thoroughly undemocratic nature of this method. It's called blackmail!). First of all, they themselves are a sectarian party through and through, denials notwithstanding. But again, this is not a stable bargain, and it brings back the same issues named above. Hizbullah is NOT the Shi'a. It represents, at its peak, 40% of the Shi'a, who themselves are 35% of the populace. Which means, that at best, they represent 15% of the population. You think it would make a difference if they were operating in a non-sectarian system (which, by the way, does not eliminate sectarianism in society)!? Those numbers will continue to drop once they lose the weapons (as they themselves fear. Read the quotes above), and other Shiite alternatives would begin to present themselves (as they already are). You think Hizbullah would give up its only stable source of power and popularity for that?!

Of course, I haven't even mentioned Iran in all of this. Everyone seems to forget this, but the party ideologically and militarily (i.e., in the matters that count most) is completely beholden to Iran. You think it's that easy for them to dump all that, and the hundreds of millions of Dollars they get from them to sustain their infamous "social services" that make all those pseudo-proletarian Third-Worldists salivate?

So while all the groupies and cheerleaders are reminding us (in a somewhat reversed racism) how "brilliant" and "pragmatic" Narallah is, the Sheikh himself is quite nervous, and trusts absolutely no one in Lebanon. It's not the electoral alliances that count. It's the majority in Parliament that he's after (or its disruption). Hizbullah does not have it, and will not have it. Therefore, it's all variable, and, to paraphrase The Clash, the Sayyed don't like it.