Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Middle East — Rick Moran @ 10:01 am

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
More than 300,000 supporters of the Siniora government pack Martyr’s Square on the second anniversary of the assassination of the beloved ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

They came by bus, by car, on foot, even by boat. They came from the north, from the south, east and west. The traffic jams were so bad that many simply abandoned their cars and walked 5 miles or more to Martyrs Square where more than 300,000 Lebanese citizens came to honor the memory of one man and support another.

Two years ago today, a massive car bomb killed 23 people including the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. He is credited with taking the small, war torn, nearly bankrupt country and a tired, dispirited people and injecting hope where there was only despair while rebuilding much of downtown Beirut so that citizens could once again take pride in their capitol city.

To honor the memory of Hariri was one goal of the massive demonstration today. The other was more practical; support Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in his efforts to resist Syrian-backed Hizbullah in their efforts to overturn the government and re-establish Syrian hegemony over the tiny country.

The demonstration comes one day after explosions ripped through two mini-busses carrying people to work in the northern Metn province, killing three and injuring more than 20. The terrorist act was the first such attack targeting civilians in many years and helped ratchet up tensions on the eve of the historic demonstration. Most analysts (and the Lebanese themselves) blame Syria for trying to scare people into not attending the rally.

If that were the case, Assad and his henchmen failed miserably. As of mid afternoon in Beirut, people were still streaming into the square to hear speaker after speaker denounce Syria, denounce Hizbullah, and call for the approval of the International Tribunal to try the assassins who killed Hariri:

Lebanon’s majority leaders told a sea of supporters marking the second anniversary of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination in Beirut that agreeing on the international tribunal to try his murderers is the only gateway to dialogue and unity.
Hundreds of thousands of March 14 supporters streamed from north, east, central and south Lebanon to Martyrs’ Square in cars, buses, and boats raising Lebanese flags and chanting slogans against Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The March 14 majority coalition accuses the Assad regime of masterminding the Hariri assassination on Feb. 14 2005 and the serial assassinations, the latest of which killed three civilians and wounded 23 in a twin bombing that targeted commuting buses northeast of Beirut on Tuesday.

Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea said the international tribunal, which Syria reportedly rejects, “will certainly be created.”

He stressed that “whoever fights against what is right will be knocked out … The international tribunal will certainly be created.”

Geagea escalated the confrontation with Hizbullah pledging that “henceforth, we will not accept any weapons outside the Lebanese army’s frame of control…The Lebanese army is the resistance, the Lebanese government is the resistance, the Lebanese people is the resistance.”

Geagea’s words drew thundering chants of support that echoed across the whole of Beirut and reached the ears of protestors taking part in a Hizbullah-led sit in at the nearby Riad Solh Square since Dec. 1 with the declared objective of toppling Premier Fouad Saniora’s majority government.

Perhaps the emotional peak of the rally was when the dead Hariri’s son Saad addressed the crowd:

Parliamentary Majority leader Saad Hariri, son of the slain ex-premier, delivered an emotional speech in which he thanked all those who took part in the ceremony and stressed that the Lebanese are “committed to freedom, independence, the truth, justice and the international tribunal.”

“We adhere to justice to punish the murderers” who committed the Hariri killings and related crimes, he said.

He condemned recent “aggressions on peaceful neighborhoods” by masked followers of the Hizbullah-led opposition on Jan. 23.

“Despite all that, we are in the final phase of the march to create the international tribunal soon, very soon,” Hariri said.

Recognizing perhaps that a gesture toward the wildly popular ex-Prime Minister’s memory was good politics, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah wrote an article for Hizbullah propaganda newspaper as-Safir in which he said that “revealing the truth” about Hariri’s killers was desirable. Nasrallah declined to attend the memorial ceremony however, saying of the Tribunal that “because our sole guilt is that we had refused to make charges lacking evidence,” he could not participate in the event.

No matter. Hizbullah finds itself at an impasse in their campaign to oust Siniora’s government. As long as the Prime Minister holds fast, Nasrallah is stuck. If he tries violence, he will become isolated as there is an almost universal desire among all Lebanese to avoid a resumption of the civil war at all costs. But trying to maintain pressure on the Siniora government without resorting to blood is sapping his coalition while angering his patron in Syria, President Bashar Assad.

Assad has already shot down at least one compromise to end the standoff. That’s because the negotiators for the government - in this case, the Saudis - refuse to budge from their position that the International Tribunal must sit. Assad simply can’t let that happen. As Michael Totten points out in this fascinating interview with the old Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt, even though everyone knows Assad is guilty of ordering the assassination of Hariri, the naming of names by the Tribunal would be devastating:

“Why do you suppose Bashar al-Assad is so afraid of the Hariri tribunal?” I said. “Everybody already knows he’s guilty.”

“Because they killed Hariri,” he said. “If [Assad] wasn’t that nervous and if he wasn’t enhancing his people – Nasrallah and others – to block the process of the tribunal…it means that he’s guilty.”

“Right,” I said. “But we all know he’s guilty anyway.”

“Yes, okay,” he said. “But I mean blocking the tribunal will delay his indictments.”

What most frightens Assad is that an international conviction against him and his government might authorize an American-led regime-change campaign in Damascus. Few Americans actually want that, though, mostly because of what is happening right now in Iraq. Assad’s role in Iraq’s destabilization is an effective life-insurance policy.

A real wild card that may be emerging in the cabinet crisis is Nabih Berri, Speaker of Parliament, who so far has rejected calls to order parliament into session to approve the final form of the Tribunal. While still a member of Nasrallah’s coalition (Berri heads up the Amal Party, a Shia dominated group), Berri has shown flashes of independence since the crisis started in December. Now he may be trying to find a compromise on sitting the Tribunal:

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was reported Sunday to be setting up a “working group” of law experts where rival political parties could discuss the U.N.-Lebanon agreement on an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.

The daily Al Hayat, citing prominent Lebanese political sources, said Sunday that Berri had intensified contacts aimed at creating the working group, where the Hizbullah-led Opposition could “suggest amendments” to the tribunal bylaw.

The paper said the pro-government March 14 coalition has approved Berri’s initiative.

The U.N. on Tuesday signed a treaty creating the international tribunal.

Berri will almost certainly not abandon Nasrallah. But his willingness to at least talk about a compromise on the Tribunal may be significant.

Today, however, belonged to the March 14th Forces and their supporters who flooded downtown Beirut with a sea of humanity to stand up once again and be counted as a free and independent people. By demonstrating their determination to stand with the elected government, they have shown the Syrians and the Iranians that they will not give up their independence easily. And they have put Hizbullah on notice that their patience is not infinite and that a resumption of the violence that tore this country apart for 15 years will not be tolerated.

A good day for freedom in Lebanon. A good day for freedom.

1 Comment

  1. Well stated. If anything, Lebanon stands as a symbol the Arab people, despite being under the thumb of dictators for years, still yearn for a democratic/liberal form of government and not afraid to voice their support.

    Comment by Hector — 2/14/2007 @ 2:15 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress