ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Lebanese “Democratic” Collapse

Lebanese “Democratic” Collapse

4 December 2006

By Yisrael Ne’eman

The “Democratic” forces led by the Christian Maronite, Druze and Sunni factions in Lebanon stand little chance of overcoming the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis in the latest confrontation between the Hezbollah and the pro-west Lebanese government led by Fuad Siniora. There are two simple reasons: First, they do not have the weapons, where as Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah are armed to the teeth and secondly they are not willing to die for the type of Lebanon they are said to desire – liberal, pluralistic and with full individual freedoms. Also, who are their allies? Supposedly, the moderate Sunni Arab regimes should be showing support, meaning – Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. None of the above mentioned are democracies.

Election practices in Egypt are suspect and should the average citizen express himself at the polls it is suspected the Moslem Brotherhood would make a powerful showing. Jordan is a monarchy where the king can dismiss parliament and Saudi Arabia is an oppressive monarchical oligarchy where 2,500 members of royalty rule and women are second class citizens. Saudi Arabia is the universal nesting grounds for the Wahhabist movement – the ideological home grounds of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. These regimes are viewed as corrupt American-European lackeys, the proof being their alliance with the West. Are these role models for the forces of democracy in Lebanon?

There is an illusion (delusion?) of possible European influence on the Lebanese resulting from trade and tourism, but this is of no concern to Iran, Syria or the Hezbollah. Although the continuing demonstration of thousands demanding the resignation of the Siniora government has so far been relatively peaceful, serious violence could flare at any moment and no one – not the “moderate” Sunni Moslem states nor the Europeans will be sending troops to save the Cedar Revolution democratic movement. The EU has troops in south Lebanon where they (esp. the French) are far more worried about Israeli over flights than they are concerning Hezbollah smuggling of arms/ammunition, rockets and launchers across the border from Syria. And let us not forget that the US is bogged down in Iraq and completely out of the picture. The Americans have horrendous memories of the Oct. 1983 bombing of the Marine compound in Beirut by a suicide-homicide bomber. Furthermore the Americans are so despised that any direct steps taken by Washington to try to influence events in Lebanon will only backfire.

Late last month Minister Pierre Gemayel became the sixth prominent Lebanese figure to be assassinated by the pro-Syrian/Iranian forces in Lebanon in less than two years. The murders will continue and at best there will be verbal condemnations, investigations, declared intents of boycotts but no action taken. The new direction is being set by the Baker- Hamilton committee “Iraq Study Group” which has a “realist” approach to foreign policy. It is so realist it believes in engaging both Syria and Iran (and Hezbollah by proxy) in negotiations for Middle East peace and security. British PM Neville Chamberlain did the same in the 1930s to ensure a stable Europe and “peace in our time”.

Not that Nasrallah is having an easy time of it. He overplayed his hand this past summer and ended up in an unplanned war with Israel. Worse yet for him, Hezbollah was forced into the open. Previously the pro-Iranian Shi’ite party was working from within the government to undermine Western influence. They held south Lebanon firmly and had built an impressive social and military infrastructure.

Last month Hezbollah and the secular Amal Shi’ites quit the Siniora government in an attempt to bring it down. That having failed, Nasrallah is screaming “democracy” due to his own self imposed non-representation. Switching tactics, he orchestrated a massive demonstration of 800,000 on Friday to demand the government’s resignation followed by an imposed vigil of thousands to besiege Siniora and his cabinet in central Beirut, so far without results.

But the game is far from over. To call off the vigil will cause Nasrallah enormous damage, resulting in loss of face and possibly loss of support. It must be remembered that moderate Shi’ites also exist, even if they are afraid to oppose the Hezbollah publicly. Syria and Iran have every intention of winning.

So far Nasrallah is calling for peaceful massive pressure to force out the pro-West government, but if that does not succeed, armed confrontation should not be ruled out. Sudden violent turmoil in Lebanon may very well offer the Tehran-Damascus axis the opportunity to intervene. After all, if the Baker - Hamilton recommendations include negotiations with Syria and Iran to ensure stability in the Middle East, then what better “proof of goodwill” could be shown than for the two powers to send “peace keeping” forces, end the Lebanese chaos and guarantee that all factions, including the Hezbollah of course, are represented in the government. Certainly it could be argued, that having Nasrallah in the government under national unity circumstances is far preferable to the present paralysis with the Hezbollah “being forced” to take to the streets.

Such a “moderate” and “peaceful” solution will be considered a more “positive” outcome than physically opposing the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis.