For many Lebanese, there was nothing new in Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s last speech, during a memorial eulogizing a senior Hezbollah commander, Hassan Laqqis.
The speech’s tone was sharp, and was accompanied by veiled threats, implying a fait accompli: “Either you obey our orders or take responsibility for your mutiny.” However, any rational Lebanese observer should have expected no less from Hezbollah’s secretary-general. Hezbollah’s identity and allegiances are well-known and its role in the region has become obvious. Moreover, when Nasrallah insists on forming an “all-inclusive national unity” government, one must closely investigate such claims; especially given the confrontation Hezbollah is provoking with President Michel Suleiman.
Guardianship of the jurist
In the past, as well as the present time, Hezbollah has never consulted any of its partners because it follows the instructions of the velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist) system, rather than the Lebanese constitution. Hezbollah reneged on the 2008 Doha Agreement, which provided the mechanisms for a “national unity government” once an agreement had been reached over the election of president—who happens to be no other than Suleiman. With its overt involvement in the fighting in Syria, Hezbollah disavowed the 2012 Ba’abda Declaration, which called for Lebanon to distance itself from all regional and international conflicts.
Having monopolized weapons, patriotism and the right to declare others as traitors or infidels, Hezbollah in effect wants Lebanon’s political parties to give it a full official mandate to pursue its policies in Lebanon and the region without being held accountable by state institutions—or rather what remains of them.
This is the primary objective of Hezbollah’s insistence on forming a ‘political’ government that accommodates all political sides, threatening the president with negative consequences if he chooses to form a non-political government. Hezbollah is using its force of arms to compel Lebanon’s political parties and groups to cover all of its policies which, in fact, are part of the Iranian regional project. This project is based on collecting as many bargaining chips as possible, a policy that has so far served Tehran well in its move towards normalizing relations with Washington, and by extension, Tel Aviv.
Despite its escalating anti-Israeli rhetoric, Hezbollah today is killing Syrians and Muslims whom it accuses of being “takfirists” in Syria—far from the Israeli front. This is a fact that both Iran and Israel are well aware of.
It is clear that there is an implicit agreement between Tel Aviv and Tehran on this issue. This is something that can best be seen in a recent statement issued from Tel Aviv that Israel would prefer Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad remaining in power than to have fundamentalists taking over Syria. Perhaps this means that Israel and Iran—represented by Hezbollah and Assad forces—are fighting the same battle, on the same side, against a common enemy.
Embedding itself into the political landscape
There is a secondary Hezbollah objective, which will come into play after it has achieved its primary goal. Hezbollah, after forcing the approval of the formation of a “political” government, could then force this future government to recognize the representation of “all political groups," each according to their political strength. Through this, Hezbollah would seek to secure a central role in the future government thanks to its “allies and supporters”—or shall we say puppets and lackeys—who were elected to parliament off the back of Hezbollah’s strength of arms. Without Hezbollah’s financial, organizational and security levels, the influence of the majority of these political entities would be negligible. The point here is that Hezbollah’s stance towards the idea of “national unity” is not based on the spirit of national consensus. Rather, it is based on its infiltration of religious sects in Lebanon, fabricating false political leaderships and blocs that owe their allegiance first and foremost to Hezbollah, which in turn owes its allegiance elsewhere.
Hezbollah, after forcing the approval of the formation of a “political” government, could then force this future government to recognize the representation of “all political groups," each according to their political strength.Eyad Abu Shakra
Hezbollah has paved the way for its current battle using familiar methods; namely by issuing threats and escalating the situation via its puppets and lackeys. The Shi’ite militia will only get involved directly after it has conveyed the message it wishes to convey through those subordinates. Generally speaking, the main message comes later from Hezbollah’s secretary-general himself, before being clarified and spiced up by Hezbollah’s B-list mullahs and MPs.
In fact, a few days after Nasrallah’s speech, one of Hezbollah’s mullahs accused the March 14 Alliance of “sheltering takfirists” in Lebanon, warning the Lebanese against condoning this. Then one of Hezbollah’s verbose MPs said: “If takfirists win in Syria, it will be impossible for Lebanon to survive.”
Thus, Lebanon must be in immediate danger. On the one hand, Lebanon will be officially declared occupied if the “Iranian project”, as represented by Hezbollah and Assad, emerges victorious. On the other hand, it is fated to extinction if, to quote the Hezbollah MP, “the takfirists win in Syria."
So does Lebanon have no chance for survival?
Some Lebanese believe there is still a glimmer of hope, namely the clout of Lebanon’s Christians.
Lebanon, in its current borders, was founded in 1920 by the superpowers, under pressure from France, in order to secure a permanent homeland for the Christians. Later on, some Christians seemed to believe that the country had been solely entrusted to them, exaggerating their national fervor at times to the point that it alienated many Muslims. In fact, some of the Christian community’s leaderships over-exaggerated the linking together of the Lebanese “entity” and its “political system” of which they enjoyed the lion’s share. This, consequently, prompted some Muslims to question the validity of the country so long as it remained hostage to this unequal and unfair political system. As a result their allegiances extended beyond Lebanon’s borders, and thus confrontation became inevitable.
Assad’s father, Hafez Al-Assad, along with his regional and international sponsors, played the Palestinian card effectively until he destroyed the PLO in Lebanon in 1976-7. At the time, Lebanon’s Christians deluded themselves into believing that the main aim of the Syrian forces entering their country was to rescue them from the Palestinians and the “international left," only to realize later that the Damascus regime had a larger hegemonic project in mind. When they rose up against it they lost, and Assad Sr. ruled Lebanon for 30 years, killing, arresting, and exiling opponents as he pleased.
Some extremist Christian figures in Lebanon seem to have forgotten that era and its lessons. Today they are allied with Assad Jr. and Hezbollah against the so-called “takfirist” threat, precisely in the same way that they deluded themselves and sided with Assad Sr. against the Palestinians.
Therefore, unless the Christians, particularly the Maronite religious leadership, come to their senses and stop their political suicide, rescuing Lebanon will be a difficult task.
The irony may be that, this time around, perhaps it is the Sunni Muslims who will rescue Lebanon.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 27 2013.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances.
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