Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hezbollah shooting itself in the foot

Sabria S. Jawhar

FOR those who have any doubts, Hezbollah’s attack in West Beirut could be a monumental disaster.
Over a couple of days Hezbollah forces seized control of a portion of the Lebanese capital in what appeared first to be a coup against the country’s weak government and passive military, but ended up simply being a show of force. On Saturday the Lebanese Army, which has been neutral in the conflict between Hezbollah and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s government, agreed to help find a solution to the dispute between the two parties over Hezbollah’s private telephone network and the government’s attempt to fire the airport security chief, who is a key ally of Hezbollah.

I have mixed feelings about an army that refuses to bring law and order on the streets while gunmen from both sides kill dozens of people and destroy businesses. But I also admire the army’s restraint not to take sides and commit further bloodshed.But the disaster lies in Hezbollah’s show of strength. We’ve already witnessed Hezbollah’s power during the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon war in which it single-handedly fended off constant Israeli attacks. The organization scored a major long-term victory when the war ended in a stalemate and deeply embarrassed the Israeli government. I’m not sure what is the point of this latest adventure.

The problem is the unpredictability of the Bush administration and its strong desire to wage war on yet another Muslim country. President Bush has long rattled his saber against Iran and is hungry to bomb it out of existence. But the reality is that the US military is stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no matter how rosy Bush wants to paint a picture of the alleged success in his “surge,” the US military can’t go the distance on a third front in Iran. The truth is Iran can stand on its own against Bush.But Syria is another story.

Bush is looking for an excuse to attack Syria precisely because arms flood to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran. If attacking Iran is out of the question, why not its more vulnerable little brother, Syria?Bush has long supported Lebanon’s existing government under Siniora, and will support any democratically elected government as long as it serves as opposition to Hezbollah.What Hezbollah has done in this demonstration of power in West Beirut is turn its guns on the Lebanese instead of the Israelis. It broke its promise to the Lebanese people and in a very disturbing sign has sparked sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias. By fomenting sectarian violence in Lebanon, Hezbollah has only demonstrated that Muslims can’t work jointedly to put together a collaborative and cohesive government. We continue to look like idiots who can’t manage our own affairs.

This muscle-flexing by Hezbollah – muscles provided by Syria – will lead the Bush administration to conclude that containing Hezbollah can be achieved by containing Syria through military might.Most Middle East observers agree that events in Lebanon set the stage for what occurs in the rest of the region.
Sectarian violence has largely been confined to Iraq. But if it erupts in Lebanon, then there is a real danger that it can spread throughout the region. And if Sunnis and Shias fight among themselves, then Bush can slip through the back door of Syria and destroy its government, its military and its infrastructure. And we can kiss goodbye to any hope of the US military abandoning the Middle East any time in the next 20 years.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that this latest round of violence is isolated, or worse, should not be taken seriously by the United States. Bush and his warmongers want us to bicker and fight among ourselves. It makes us weak. We are giving the United States the excuse they need to invade Syria.

In a response to Egypt and Saudi Arabia’s last week’s call for an urgent meeting, the Arab League ministers met in Cairo Sunday. They issued a statement making an “urgent call for an immediate halt to hostilities, a ceasefire” and “the withdrawal of all combatants from areas of tension to facilitate the army’s duties to maintain security and stop the bloodshed.”They also said that they will send a delegation to try to reach a settlement between the Hezbollah-led opposition and the government.

Considering the fact that Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the most influential Arab coutriers in the region, will not be represented by their delegations and judging from the results of past Arab summit meetings, I am not hopeful. When it comes to Lebanon’s internal politics, I don’t think that much will be accomplished unless Syria and Iran are contained and brought to the table of discussion. But the fact is, the region is boiling and we are running out of time.


Anonymous said...

a good article.well done.keep it up

effendi said...

The truth is Iran can stand on its own against Bush

Bush doesn't have to attack Iran with his entire military to make an impact. The Iranian economy teeters on high inflation, unemployment and a lack of refining capacity. A few well-placed bombs and blockades would have an immediate impact on the country. Ahmadinejad could kiss his nuclear program goodbye.

That said, there will be no attack of any kind. Bush doesn't have the political capital to initiate it. Militarily, the US could do it. Politically, they don't want any more fall out.