Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Lebanon, War on Terror — Rick Moran @ 12:38 pm

I have not written at all about Lebanon since the cave in by March 14th forces at Doha last May, giving in to the terrorist’s demands that they be allowed to dominate the cabinet. Not only was I depressed by Hezbullah’s victory, but it just became very difficult to defend politicians who betrayed the fundamental tenet of democracy - majority rules.

The March 14th coalition won the parliamentary election of 2006 fair and square. Hezbullah refused to accept this fact and began a siege of the government building, demanding that they be given veto power over cabinet decisions. Several assassinations of March 14th MP’s reduced their majority while many remaining members hunkered down at the Grand Serail protected by an army of body guards since they didn’t trust the Lebanese Army.

Finally, in May of 2008 Hezbullah used a flimsy excuse involving the government’s attempt to shut down a communications network that was being used to facilitate messages with Syria to launch a war against their own people. Sunni areas of Beirut were targeted and eventually taken over by Hezbullah militiamen while the country threatened to explode into civil war.

Realizing that they couldn’t win against Hezbullah’s arms (that the UN has demanded 3 times they lay down), March 14th gave in to most of the demands at Doha, Qatar.

Since then, violence has sputtered in the north, Hezbullah has been emboldened, a new favorable (to Hezbullah) electoral law, has been enacted, a new president whose sympathies with Syria have been called into question has taken office, and the coalition of democrats known as the March 14th forces have been in retreat.

Now Hezbullah apparently figures its position is powerful enough that they can legitimize their defiance of UN resolutions requiring that they disarm by calling for a referendum on the question.

In an interview with Maj. Thomas Smith, Lebanese expert Walid Phares commented on why Hezbullah would risk a vote on their militia’s - and hence the party’s existence?

DR. WALID PHARES: We have to understand the geopolitics of Lebanon have dramatically changed since last May. Any analysis of Hizballah’s positions and initiatives today must be developed based on the new factor in the equation, which is that Hizballah’s control of Lebanon’s national security. Hence, when Hizballah’s leaders offer to submit their weapons-possession to a referendum it means they have insured a military-protected control mechanism over the political process in the country. They can determine the answer to the referendum, which negates the validity of the referendum.

Yes, it is true that on March 14, 2005, one-and-a-half million Lebanese from all religious and ethnic sectors marched against the Syrian occupation and terrorist militias. But that clear cut popular majority has since been undermined, intimidated, and essentially defeated over the past three years. The assassinations of representatives of the Cedars Revolution such as Parliamentarian Gibran Tueni, the attempt to kill outspoken journalists such as May Chidiac, and the militia invasion of Beirut and the Chouf districts in May are all evidence that Lebanon today lives under terror and needs significant help from the international community so that its people can exercise free popular referendums.

Ironically, I had suggested via Arab satellite TV three years ago, that the Lebanese people be allowed to decide on the weapons of Hizballah, in other words should an armed militia be permitted to exist outside the Lebanese Army. At that time and since then, no one from Hizballah or even the March 14 coalition considered the initiative. Obviously, at the time it wasn’t in Hizballah’s interest to accept a referendum knowing that an overwhelming majority of citizens would vote “no.” But after three years – and particularly since May 2008 – it appears as if they feel confident they can get a majority of Lebanese to agree to their keeping these weapons. Since they have the upper hand in the country militarily, they believe they can pull it off. As for March 14 and the Lebanese government: both have had multiple opportunities to have the UN by their side helping them implement UNSCR 1559. Unfortunately, they hesitated and lost that opportunity. In short, Hizballah’s call today for a referendum means they are close to transforming Lebanon into another Iran or Venezuela.

Does Hezbullah have ironclad control of the electoral process? Can they manipulate the vote to have it come out to their liking regardless of what the people feel?

Phares believes they wouldn’t attempt such a move unless they did. After all, Hezbullah is taking an enormous risk otherwise. As Phares points out, the majority of the people are opposed to their keeping their weapons:

SMITH: So do you believe that accepting the suggestion of Hizballah regarding a weapons referendum should be considered?

DR. PHARES: Yes, but only if there is a smart, strong Lebanese leadership able to turn the initiative in the right direction. Because, after all, there is a real popular-majority in Lebanon, which is opposed to the armed militias, particularly to the pro-Iranian forces. This is a fact that has not changed.

In fact, according to the information I have, the anti-Hizballah majority has grown wider among the masses within the various communities: not the other way around. If the leaders of the Cedars Revolution are politically intelligent they would accept Hizballah’s proposal and take the challenge all the way. If they recollect themselves and think strategically, they can pull a massive victory with democratic means.

SMITH: What if a majority voted “yes” for Hizballah’s weapons? Would that not be another victory for Hizballah?

DR. PHARES: Knowing the real aspirations of the public, I would accept that risk.

First, the advantage would be that Hizballah would have moved the legitimacy of their weapons from the divine level to the citizens’ level. That alone is significant.

Second, if the Lebanese are provided with all international mechanisms to express themselves freely, they will surprise Hizballah as well as their own elected representatives. The question is to enable the Lebanese to express themselves freely.

Even in the absence of the implementation of UNSCR 1559, a mechanism is possible to organize a real referendum. I’d say, it is feasible and has high chances for success. The question again is about the ability of Lebanese politicians to focus and act strategically, and not sink or be maneuvered into the narrowness which has led to so many setbacks to democracy in that unlucky country.

How much international oversight of such a referendum could realistically be expected? Not too much if Hezbullah has anything to say about it. And, of course, they have everything to say about it since any such proposal for international monitoring of the vote would have to come through the cabinet - a body that Hezbullah holds a veto over.

There is also the intimidation factor to consider. Hezbullah has shown that if they don’t get their way, their militia has no qualms about boldly entering Sunni and unfriendly Christian enclaves in order to throw their weight around. How would this affect the vote? It depends on whether Lebanese voters are willing to risk civil war to disarm the terrorists. In the past (as proved by the relieved response of the majority of Lebanese to the Doha Accords), the desire for peace has won out over everything. You can hardly blame them for this attitude. A majority of Lebanese were alive during the horrific violence of the civil war in the 1980’s. Many feel that it is worth anything - including the loss of democracy - to avoid that cataclysm again.

In addition to the intimidation factor, there has been an on-going effort to smear the leader of the March 14th forces, Said Hariri. Son of the slain ex-prime minister, Hariri has been accused by Syria of supporting the Fatah al-islam - the notorious Sunni terrorist group - as a means of attacking Hezbullah. Recently, the Syrians broadcast a “confession” from a Fatah al-Islam member who specifically named Hariri.

In fact, there is nothing new in this allegation. Last March, American journalist Seymour Hersh wrote about this very connection in a New Yorker article. He added that the US government and the Saudis were also in on the conspiracy. (Hersh also made the laughable charge that the US and Saudis were training a large Sunni militia to take on Hezbullah. Imagine Hersh’s surprise when Hezbullah invaded the Sunni section of Lebanon last May and was met with extraordinarily weak and ineffective resistance.)

Hersh’s sources have been debunked several times over, most notably by the scholar Tony Bey whose withering critique of Hersh’s inaccurate and poorly sourced “reporting” should have sent Sy back to covering the police beat. Instead, Hersh is apparently preparing another article for the New Yorker, this one on how misunderstood Syria is.

Can’t wait for that one.

Talk of a Syrian-Lebanese “coordination” on security may also complicate a referendum. It is believed that any such “understanding” would give Syrian President Assad a ready made excuse to march his army back into Lebanon in order to “protect” its sovereignty.

Dr. Phares thinks that given a fair chance, the Lebanese people will reject Hezbullah’s insistence that it should keep its armed militia as a “resistance” to Israel’s threats. They know full well that Israel will not attack Lebanon as long as armed groups like Hezbullah are prevented from attacking them.

And the best way to insure that is to take away Hezbullah’s arms - including their extensive inventory of missiles. Whether Hezbullah is serious about such a referendum or if the people have the courage to go against the terrorists both remain to be seen.


  1. Even if the vote goes against Hezbullah who will step in to confiscate the weapons? They could turn in some weapons and claim that was the full extent of their armory. Every other party would know it was BS and the present situation would still exist. They might loose some credibility but why would they care, ultimately it’s weapons that decides the issue and they certainly will not give up that source of power.

    Comment by grognard — 11/16/2008 @ 12:59 pm

  2. grognard,
    Right on. Who is going to enforce the will of the majority when Hizbollah refuses to disarm?

    also, is pretty obvious that Hizbollah wouldnt allow the vote if they were not confident of a victory.

    Even better they now have an ally in the White House who thinks that they have “legitimate” claims..

    I’d love to hear what Michael Totten has to say about this. and yeah, Seymour Hersh is such a shame for a journalist. He should be working for the National Inquirer.

    Comment by Nagarajan Sivakumar — 11/16/2008 @ 10:15 pm

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