Friday, November 12, 2010

The French ambassador believes Hariri will not last this week..."

"... The French ambassador believes Prime Minister Hariri will not last this week. I think he's wrong, but I worried about my predications when Hezbollah and the largely Shiite opposition refused to join President Michel Sleiman's reconciliation conference nine days ago. Under a crafty arrangement engineered by the Emir of Qatar, the Christian-Sunni majority in the Lebanese cabinet can make decisions. But the opposition and the Hezbollah have veto rights. Yet when the opposition won't come to the president for talks with the rest of the government, it seems they don't even care about their veto. Christian politicians flocked up to their Patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, thus once again turning the Maronite Church into a political party – though that's not surprising when the other Nasrallah (the Hezbollah one) has turned the Shiites into proxies for the Iranians. Others (please read Hezbollah, the Shiites and Iran) were trying "to impose on the Lebanese an impossible and unjust formula – deny justice in order to preserve civil peace, or sacrifice civil peace for the sake of justice". Michel Aoun, a cracked Christian ex-general whose own party supports the Hezbollah in the vain hope they will make him president – Nasrallah enjoys telling the world this alliance gives him cross-sectarian support – would also be happy to see the tribunal abandoned. Even Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, whose politics perform a windmill cycle every three or four years, now says that its existence is not as important as "the serenity of Lebanon". Needless to say, Madame Clinton has been on the phone to Hariri, nagging him to disarm Hezbollah and to stick to the tribunal. In Washington, this makes sense. In Lebanon, she sounds as if she is mad.
Why? Shiites are the largest community in Lebanon, yet their sons and brothers make up a majority of the Lebanese national army. It's not that the Hezbollah have infiltrated the ranks. It's just that since the Christian and Sunni elites have maintained the Shiites in comparative poverty, the youngest sons need a job and are sent off to the army.....If they were indeed ordered to march south Grand Old Duke of York-style, does anyone believe that these young men are going to bash their way into their own Shiite homes to shoot their Hezbollah brothers, fathers and cousins to a chorus of White House cheers? No, they would refuse and the Christian-Sunni soldiers would be tasked to attack the armed Shiites. The army would split. That's how the civil war started in 1975. Does Madame Clinton – and France's foppish foreign minister, the saintly Bernard Kouchner who has turned up in Beirut to support the tribunal – want another civil war in Lebanon?  There's another problem. Given their numbers, the Shiites are grossly under-represented in the Lebanese parliament and government. And there's been an unspoken – certainly unwritten – agreement in Beirut that to compensate for their lack of political power, the Shiites can have a militia. If God was to tell Nasrallah to disarm the Hezbollah – he would surely obey, for no-one else in the region would dare to make such a request ... does Mr Ban really want to take on the Hezbollah? For he knows all too well that if the Hezbollah have "big noses", the Hezbollah have the UN, so to speak, by the balls (always supposing the UN has any).....
So what does all this mean? Well, what we are seeing is an horizon of foreign powers all longing to interfere in Lebanon as they did during the country's merciless 1975-90 civil war. Washington is ranting about the tribunal's importance, so is France – the Brits, whose diplomats talk to the Hezbollah, are quietly and wisely asking if there might be a postponement of the tribunal's accusation – while the Syrians and Iranians are crowing at the UN's crisis. The Israelis are, as usual, threatening semi-Armageddon. The Saudis, who back the Sunnis – Hariri holds a Saudi passport – have been trying to mediate. So, in a backward way, have the Syrians.... And the Lebanese? My driver Abed, as good a weather vane as any, used to have a small black sticker attached to his car mirror. "Haqiqa", it said. The Truth. He expected the tribunal would tell him the truth about who killed Rafiq Hariri. While I was away this summer, with great sadness, he tore it down...."

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