Friday, May 09, 2008

Hizbullah is not Hamas; Beirut is not Gaza

The reports from Beirut look eerily similar not only to scenes from the annals of Lebanese civil war but also to what we saw in Gaza before Hamas's takeover. Again, it looks like well-equipped but unmotivated US-backed militias are surrendering to their disciplined anti-American counterparts. At least this is the impression that one would get from the coverage in Ha'aretz and the Western media. The following description is rather typical:
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.


Nobody said...

Seeing that it cannot gain much from a military victory, Hizbullah may, as Jeha writes, very well be "looking for surrender."

Somehow I find it hard to believe that to piss the entire Sunni community off like this is a good starting point for surrender. Also the mess seems to be spreading now to the Druse areas.

Danny said...

You see this is why I stopped reading Ha'aretz, they simply are an appalling source for information. Whether it is publishing Rappoport's lies about cluster bombs to brain-dead acceptance of pro-Hizbollah propaganda they are completely unreliable. The Sunni "militia" by all accounts are security guards at the offices of Sa'ad Hariri's Future TV office and also the Al-Mustaqabal newspaper. The only real fighting Hizbollah has carried out was in the Chouf where they are currently getting their arses kicked. Of course hardly any of this is getting reported because reporters in Lebanon don't want to upset Hizbollah who can either ban or kill you if they don't like what you write( Note the rapid decline in video footage from Beirut... )

I read in some places that this is somehow a "defeat" for Hizbollah because it shows they are willing to turn their weapons internally. However I think this underestimates people ability to delude themselves, already we have had comments about how this is "defending" their resistance assets, "defence" against attempts to neuter them, some sort of US( and probably "Zionist" ) conspiracy where the "US-backed" government is acting on it's masters bidding to weaken the "resistance"....

Danny said...

and on queue from Al-Manar...,7340,L-3542996,00.html