25

Comments

Facebook

Twitter

Google

send


NOW

Hezbollah, at home alone

An astute friend and I were talking about the recent publication by the daily Al-Akhbar of American diplomatic cables circulated by WikiLeaks. Most of the published documents purport to show how Lebanese politicians welcomed, or sought to exploit, a Hezbollah defeat in the summer war of 2006. The party has used the leaks to affirm that its political enemies were on Israel’s side. My friend, a Shia journalist, had a different view. What they really showed, he said, was how isolated and unpopular Hezbollah is.

Indeed, several of the cables, written by the former US ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, show not Hezbollah’s enemies, but its allies expressing discomfort, or displeasure, with the party. They include two parliamentarians from Michel Aoun’s bloc, Farid el-Khazen and Ibrahim Kanaan, and the former health minister, Muhammad Jawad Khalifeh, who is close to the parliament speaker, Nabih Berri (and who described Berri’s anger with Hezbollah).

It is not clear why Al-Akhbar decided to reveal these documents now. The net effect of the decision will be to highlight tensions and settle scores within the ranks of the new majority, amid reports that a new government is imminent. For example, the leaks are particularly embarrassing to the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt – in 2006 a March 14 stalwart, today an equally stalwart ally of Hezbollah and Syria.

Of course, the leaks could be efforts by Hezbollah to keep their shifty partners, Jumblatt and Berri, in line. They also serve, quite conveniently, to discredit Kanaan and Khazen, at a time when Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, is attempting to eliminate all rivals who might hinder his rise within the Aounist firmament. Not surprisingly, Bassil is revealed in the publicized cables to have been an ardent advocate of Hezbollah during the conflict with Israel.

Yet all this really just confirms what my comrade said. If Hezbollah and its echo chambers need to warn even their allies to stay on board politically; if the party is furious with the double language of the Lebanese political class, whose members will readily spill the beans even to the Americans, then that does not say much about Hezbollah’s capacity to unite Lebanon behind its resistance. In fact, it tends to confirm something that we always suspected: the party has managed to enforce a consensus solely through intimidation.

This poses potential problems for Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general. His implicit contract with Iran is that his party be prepared to protect and advance Tehran’s interests in the Levant, to the extent that Hezbollah would retaliate against Israel if the Israelis were to bombard Iranian nuclear facilities. But for such a project to be effective, for Hezbollah to go to war with confidence that its countrymen are not working behind its back against its interests, the party would have to enjoy widespread Lebanese backing.

The blunt reality is that it doesn’t. Hezbollah long ago lost the Sunni community. The Druze will follow Jumblatt, but not if that means they must pay a heavy price on behalf of Hezbollah in a war against Israel that harms the community in the mountains and in the West Bekaa and Hasbaya. As for the Christians, Khazen and Kanaan reflected far more accurately the mood in the community than Bassil; there is no Christian enthusiasm, and that includes among Aoun’s followers, for seeing Lebanon suffer for a Hezbollah project.

That reluctance would be shared by many in the Shia community who yet express their fondness for Hezbollah. Nasrallah’s rash support for the Shia opposition in Bahrain last week has provoked a harsh backlash from the kingdom. We can expect many more Shia in the Gulf to soon see their residency permits or visas revoked and their financial interests and investments ruined. Add to this mix the communal anger if Shia are made to endure another devastating war with Israel in the South, and we can appreciate that Nasrallah’s margin of maneuver is not as wide as he and his partisans claim.

If a government is formed, Hezbollah will be able to consolidate itself. Nor will the government necessarily be as frail as many claim. It will enjoy a parliamentary majority, Syrian and Iranian endorsement, and could last until the next elections. However, by playing a dominant role in the government, Hezbollah risks being identified with the state’s failures. A government of “one color” will only heighten Lebanon’s contradictions, the very same that have denied Hezbollah the broad blessing it has sought for its vanguard role as a “resistance.”

That is not to suggest that Hezbollah is weakening, but rather that its ability to impose its agenda on a majority of Lebanese is less reliant on persuasion and more on coercion than at any time previously. The party has successfully deflected much potential discontent onto Michel Aoun, whom it has pushed to the front of the stage. Aoun has not disappointed. But in times of major crisis, or conflict, that tactic doesn’t go far. If the situation in Lebanon were to shift decisively, Hezbollah could suddenly find itself on its own, friendless.

Michael Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut and author of The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle, which the Wall Street Journal listed as one of its 10 standout books for 2010.

  • Delusional

    It was always the story like that. Hezbo they have only Amal ally and nothing more than that. Sayyed can be at home alone only when Berri is promoted more and more in government deals, offshore oil. Other than that, it is Alice in wonderland.

    March 28, 2011

  • very curious

    the truth is that even if they are wrong they will never leave their post

    March 28, 2011

  • Miumiu

    I bet the Syed isn't getting much sleep these days & of course few other ,and some already started transferring their ill-gotten money abroad..!!

    March 27, 2011

  • shahin(shahriyar gourgi)

    Iran, Terrorism, andWeapons of Mass Destruction....... ... This working paper provides a comprehensive analysis of Iran's ongoing penetration into Latin America, with its multifaceted strategic use of proxies, ideological, political and economic means. 15/04/2009 Back to List Iran and its Proxy Hezbollah: Strategic Penetration in Latin America Ely Karmon Iran and its Proxy Hezbollah: Strategic Penetration in Latin America (WP) First published as Working Paper by the Real Instituto Elcano (RIE), Madrid Dr. Ely Karmon* ‘Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must love the tropics’, commented ironically The Miami Herald.[1] He has spent more time in Latin America than President Bush. Since his inauguration in 2005, Iran’s foreign policy focus has shifted from Africa to Latin America in order to, as Ahmadinejad puts it, ‘counter lasso’ the US.[2] with best regad;

    March 27, 2011

  • CEDAR REVOLUTION / GEBRAN SONS

    Next time Jumblat has the urge to visit Assad, he'll make a short trip to a bunker in Dahia where Assad will be a permanent guest of Nassrallah. They'll need to ready a room for Jumblat too because the brave residents of the Shouf will no longer welcome back such a coward opportunist selling Lebanon's freedom and democracy to the highest bidder...

    March 27, 2011

  • xxl

    All sides except Aoun and his son in law voiced their mistrust of HA in Wikileaks. Aoun was expecting that they'll make him president a life long dream that keeps getting dashed. I hope Aoun believes in reincarnation because that dream ain't happening in this lifetime no matter how many deals he make and with how many ...

    March 26, 2011

  • Slow

    Jean...don't be fouled by any of the Lebanese politicians, 8/14 and any one in between..They ALL work to keep the State weak as a strong non-sectarian State will wipe them all clear of the political life...will take hard & long years to really get to that stage as over the years, the corrupt politicians have been planting their own followers/cronies within the whole State system and its time for every Lebanese to start doing his bit to build a State thats fair,transparent & truly democratic.

    March 26, 2011

  • Georges Butros Estaphan

    It isn't that surprising, is it? AMAL is an older party and it got the short-shift from the rising "Party of God" from the late 1980s. A lot depends, in my view, on what the "March 14" leaders offer the people that live in eastern and southern Lebanon. They need to offer real genuine improvements in terms of state services and security to the people. That is the way to defeat Party of God, you have to serve the people's interests better than the Party of God has. It also depends on how things go in Bahrein and eastern Saudi Arabia. If the USA continues its double standards supporting a Sunni tyranny in those regions against the clear interests and wishes of the ordinary people, then who in eastern and southern Lebanon is going to go against the Party of God to protect them against a similar fate - the fate that was the lot of the Lebanese living in these regions from 1947 to 1987 - 40 years of utter neglect from useless politicians in Beirut

    March 26, 2011

  • N

    Al Manar and Al Khbar are reporting nothing on the Syrian protests and killing. Its pathetic. ... So much for the "honorable & dignified" Hezb who claim to support revolutions across the middle east. They are just another armed party serving a foreign agenda.

    March 26, 2011

  • on another note, i do not trust anything the al akhbar publishes. it says a lot of things that does not exist.

    March 25, 2011

  • history has proven on many occasions, forced or intimidation on its own has a short life span. hizbollah should take heed.

    March 25, 2011

  • Abo Ahmed

    Please shift your attention from those people Aoun, Berri and their crony. the life line these people get will be cut off very soon. Look at the situation in Syria if it changes for democracy and freedom and the Assad family is out of power. Aoun, Berii and Nasralla will seize to exsists.Do not bother with who says what all these things will be irrelevant and we lebanese and true syrian will put those small dictators in jail and then we live happy ever after.

    March 25, 2011

  • Jelly

    mrabba - did you ask yourself why did Al-akhbar publish the information it says were given to it by Wikileaks about Hizbala's allies not trusting the party? More over why non of Hizbala's allies trust the party or it's leader?

    March 25, 2011

  • Julian

    So true, hezbollah the shia was alone home to defend lebanon ;) now its ok to say to the zionist please continue the war, and because we love israel more than our fellow shia citizens its totally ok. Love lebanon, love the different sects. Love that lebanon is not Iran and not America :) stop the Dream of a lebanon without hezbollah, i stoped dreaming about a lebanon without zionist-Lovers.

    March 25, 2011

  • XYZ

    well, no need to say much, but Hizbo will be isolated & its Oxygen pipe may be cut off when the brutal dictatorship in Syria is wiped out rather than just over-thrown..and this wish is only based on their mis-use of their weapons in internally and the blackmailing of the State, this will hopefully put an end to the other corrupt leaders in Lebanon of all religions & sect

    March 25, 2011

  • Dan Bertrand

    Micheal, judging by your reader's comments and mine, let's hear your opinion on the Syrian dynamic, because as all know, the only thing that will bring upon Hizb's de-fanging is change in Syria and Iran, and it seems we await those changes....Focus on Syria now, enough drum beating on Hizb, we know the story inside and out on them already....cheers !

    March 25, 2011

  • halim

    Mr Young -and your astute friend - did you ask yourself why Wikileaks gave the information to Al-akhbar? @ Michelle I hope you will wait long before "it hits Hezbollah" because it will surely mean a lot of Lebanese killed and persecuted.. but I guess you don't care since you live in Montreal.

    March 25, 2011

  • CEDAR REVOLUTION / GEBRAN SONS

    It is becoming evident that Hizbollah has not only being created by the Iranian Revoluitionay Guards to be the arm of Iran in the Arab World and gain a border with Israel to start wars at demand, but it seems its primarily purpose is to protect the Iranian despotic regime similar to the forces created by Khadafi's son.

    March 25, 2011

  • Michelle Montreal

    The one thing I am still looking for is the reaction from March 8 parties regarding the political alterations in Syria. OH BOY OH BOY!!!!! I hope it hits you Hizb as hard as it will hit your suppressive supporting regime in Damascus. This article brought nothing new to the table, we know Hizb has been dictating all March 8 political plans, just cause it is most equiped with both weaponry and $$$$$. We always knew that Amal and Hizb are not and will never be true allies, we know that Christians in Lebanon will never support AND are not willing to sacrifice for any of the Hizb's uncalculated gambles. All in all.....Mr. Young we like you but please bring some out of the box analysis to us (your readers). All the respect sir.

    March 25, 2011

  • HANI

    Minister Khalife insinuated yesterday that Al-Akhbar's timing and inaccurate information was an attempt to affect his chances at a ministerial portfolio in the coming government. I think the leaks for Kanaan and Al Khazen fall in the same category. Al-Akhbar is Hizballah's mouthpiece, that brings us to question the motives and the timing behind it all. Hizballah need a government full of blind follower if it is to secure it's stonewalling the STL. I wouldn't be surprised if a Miqati cable suddenly appears.

    March 25, 2011

  • Hovig D.

    Good job Michael , as usual, but kindly turn your pen into the upheavels of suria and the Arab world. We know this already go ahead and explain a bt of the movememnts on the arab world. Eventually, its the changes in the Arab world that will help the lebanese to bring down Hizb's weapons.

    March 25, 2011

  • Dan Bertrand

    As usual your analysis is very astute and spot on...hands down your my fave Michael !..Developments in Syria are the ones to carefully observe now....what happens there, will dramatically affect Lebanon....and hopefully positively....once the fear barrier is broken, the possibilities are endless.As for Hizb, they rule by intimidation only, and that hopefully will not last for much longer....there is change in the wind....just look around and you can see and feel it !.....

    March 25, 2011

  • previous student

    to start i am not a fan of bassil howver what wikileaks revealed so far is a great stand by principle when my country is beeing attacked by disproportionate force for kidnappping two soldierd yes sokldiers and not civilian me as lebanese i stand by all my countrymen and women mmr young friend failded to focus on what is important and gossiped about what is more a wishfull thinking. wikileaks count of 2006 are five years old and people evolved to support more the above feeling.

    March 25, 2011

  • Pascale

    Excellent!!

    March 25, 2011

  • N

    Excellent article. Right on point.

    March 25, 2011