Hezbollah took control of Muslim west Beirut on Friday, tightening its grip on the city in a major blow to the U.S.-backed government. Shi'ite opposition gunmen seized control of several Beirut neighborhoods from Sunni foes loyal to the United States-backed government, street battles that left 11 dead and 30 wounded, security officials said (Ha'aretz).In reality, however, the situation in Beirut is quite unlike what transpired in Gaza; furthermore, various factions' pro- or anti-American orientations are less relevant than this kind of reporting assumes.
First, the military "victory" that Hizbullah and co. are now celebrating will not automatically give the party political power. Whereas in Gaza, one entity, Hamas, basically faced another, Fatah, the Lebanese political landscape is far more fractured. Hizbullah and its allies will not be able to impose their will on the Lebanese population. In fact, while Hamas could make claims about having public opinion behind it, the sectarian politics of Lebanon make this impossible for Hizbullah. The humiliations endured by Future Movement fighters and by Sunni civilians will only stiffen their resolve against Hizbullah. The latter's claims to representing all of Lebanon and its (quickly-forgotten) promises to use its weapons only against Lebanon's enemies have been unmasked once and for all.
What then can Hizbullah gain from its victories on the ground? No one doubted that Hizbullah had the most formidable military force in Lebanon, so a demonstration of its power is not a real gain. Did the party hope to showcase the impotence of the Lebanese Army and security forces? What purpose did forcing Hariri's TV station off the air serve? All of these actions look like bullying without a clear plan. Furthermore, the longer Hariri and Jumblatt as well as Beirut's pro-government Sunni, Christian, and Druze populations stay under siege, the more restive their coreligionists in northern Lebanon, Beqaa, and the Chouf will grow. These frustrations can hardly bode well for the Shiite population, which despite the patronage of Hizbullah and Iran, is hardly economically self-sufficient.
Seeing that it cannot gain much from a military victory, Hizbullah may, as Jeha writes, very well be "looking for surrender."
For coverage see Jeha's blog (with the usual awesome graphics), Blacksmiths of Lebanon, and Charles Malik.