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Matt Nash

Hezbollah to take over “large parts of Lebanon”?

Within two hours of an indictment by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) against members of Hezbollah, the party will implement a non-violent scheme to “hold a security and military grip on large areas of Lebanon,” Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported Monday.

Two security analysts NOW Lebanon interviewed, however, said they believed the report was more of a political message than a clear blueprint for how Hezbollah would react if party members are indeed indicted as such a move would likely turn quite violent, regardless of the party’s intentions.

Shortly before Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave an October 28 speech in which he called on Lebanese officials to boycott the STL, according to the report,  the party conducted a simulation that would involve its political and security forces holding “a grip on major cities in Lebanon, from the capital and the suburbs to the Kesrouan highlands and North Lebanon, as well as holding a grip on seaports and border crossings to prevent the escape of personalities.” The plan would be launched if party members are indicted, something expected in Lebanon that the court has neither confirmed nor denied.

Al-Akhbar said Hezbollah operatives would also arrest Lebanese officials wanted by a Syrian court for allegedly misleading the UN investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and look for “those who tried to stir sectarian strife.” The simulation also included a siege of both the Grand Serail – the seat of government – and Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s downtown residence.

“If such a thing happens, it would mean the collapse of the state and start of civil war,” Riad Kahwaji, CEO of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, told NOW Lebanon in an email message. “Taking over government buildings and seizing houses and offices of officials is a violent act even if gunmen doing this don’t fire a bullet in the process.”

Retired Lebanese army General Elias Hanna, who now teaches political science at several universities, agreed that even if Hezbollah attempted to non-violently exert control over wide swaths of the country, “they cannot control the reaction.”

“How can they know in advance what will be the reaction from the other people, like the Sunnis, the Lebanese Forces, and all the forces in March 14?” Hanna told NOW Lebanon.

The last time Hezbollah and its allies took to the streets to pressure the government, they used weapons and easily routed mostly Sunni forces in West Beirut in early May 2008. The army and police (Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces) did not react to stop the violence, and indeed only stepped in once the fighting had more or less ended. This time, both Kahwaji and Hanna said, would likely be different, particularly if Hezbollah members were not armed during the operation.

Such an intervention, however, could be disastrous for the army, Hanna noted.

“Now if something is done by Hezbollah, it will be directly targeting the other communities, especially the Sunnis,” Hanna said. “Remember the 7th of May, there was the rumor that Sunni officers were resigning. Maybe the unity of these security forces will be in danger.”

Internal strife in the event of such a move by Hezbollah could be followed by something worse, Kahwaji said, especially if the government collapses in the wake of a takeover.

“Israel would find it extremely easy to wage its anticipated war on Lebanon with no internationally recognized government in place, and Hezbollah would face an Israeli aggression on its own with Sunnis and large portions of Druze and Christians against it,” he said.

Both men agreed that Hezbollah would lose face locally and in the wider Arab world and that the international community would be outraged. Hanna also pointed out that Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia probably do not want to see such a serious escalation.

Kahwaji, in fact, dismissed it outright as “sensational journalism mixed with some wishful thinking on the part of those who would like to see Lebanon slide into chaos and civil war.”

For his part, Hanna agreed the article probably reflects something between a “political message” and “psychological warfare,” however, he said he thinks it is a clear indication of Hezbollah’s desire to see the government completely disavow the STL.

“Hezbollah is doing what he can do to cancel the indictment,” Hanna said. And, “if not, [Hezbollah is trying] to create an internal ambiance favorable to its situation … where everybody is ok, including the Sunnis, to say that this tribunal is politicized and is targeting the Resistance and Hezbollah and the Syrians.”

  • Albino

    Not only Heazbollah is the big cancer corroding Lebanon... those Lebanese that turned agains their own country in exchange of power an benesses, which hands are full of Lebanese blood from the times of the civil war, should be ashaned to be aligned with foreign powers ( Iran and Syria) and forget their Lebanese heritage. They are the ones encouraging Hexbollah to destry Lebanon. Israel is the worth enemy but is outside the borders... Hezbollah and the others are inside... Shame on them ! Long live Lebanon !

    November 10, 2010

  • CEDAR REVOLUTION / GEBRAN SONS

    Hizbollah has declared war on Lebanon! Would the true resistance stand up? Enough of M8 and M14. The Cedar Revolution crowd has to rise again. There is a need for hundreds of volunteer lawyers to prepare criminal files against all politician selling our country and corrupt leaders peddling influence; volunteer economic experts to calculate the cost of blocking our government and feeding instability; volunteer civil right activists to help draw the structure of a transparent democracy and just nation; volunteer legal experts to enshrine democracy and rule of law in all our institutions; volunteer business entrepreneurs to develop the foundation of a modern economy giving opportunities to all creative minds; volunteer engineers to design the infrastructure and silicon valleys of the future; and volunteer teachers to reform our education to teach children openness, tolerance and individual responsibility to others and the environment. This is the true resistance that will save Lebanon!

    November 2, 2010

  • Sarita

    Raed, i knoe that the aim was to down the gov chosen by elections, when they were sat in downtown, but remember that they were did by 18 month, matter what shows the great ressistance, organization what they have to get its goal, without using guns, until they gotten to include one seat in cabinet, now they have more,so we have to give the cesar what belong to cesar, maybe i wm wrong, but i dont think that nobody in each side, is interested in provoking the shoots, what means blood at street, at beginning what we can see statute violence, all stoped but for short time, i inssist war without people dont exist, so it is necessary clear the head of people to avoid conflict,

    November 2, 2010

  • Derze

    Anybody That Knows El Akbar Knows Better Than To Believe There Wishful And Bias Thinking, All This Writing And All These TV Shows And Tough Talks From Nasser-allah Is Nothing More Than A Sign Of Weakness, From The Number One Terrorist Organization on earth/Hezballah,The UN Is On Their NECKS,The STL Is operating Like a Storm From HELL With A Force That Nothing on earth Can Stop, But The Real GOD, And Hezbollah Knows It, With No Escape Insight (I Wish Hezbollah Would Take Over The Country Like There Saying) Cause That Take Over Will Only Insure The End Of Hezbollah, A Lot Faster Than Were Hopping. And For Anyone To Think That The (Druze) Are Just Going To Sit There And Watch That Happens Specially Arresting Mp Hmade Got To Be Out Of There Mind, In Fact The Sunnis The Druze The Christians And Some Of The Shea, Are Fully Equipped And Ready This Time For Anything To Go Down From Hezbollah, There Will Be A Big Surprise On The Invaders And Not The Defenders Or Better Yet The True Lebanese. H

    November 2, 2010

  • George

    how can hizxballah control lebanon ? there is not enough members of hizballah to control lebanon they might take over some areas some streets some towns but for how long, how many of lebanese army had to surround nahr albared in its war against fat7 al islam?4000, or 3000 they were against 3 to 400 people and all people arround the army they were freindly citizens an,1d they were even ready to help not in this case,and i don't think the army will not get divided the sunnis not going to accept this war against them,what about the christians in the army in my opinion its going to be the war of wills and april 14 they have stronger cause and they r going to be fighting in their turfs we r not going to be in da7yeh they r going to be among us they r not going to be able to close one eye or turn their backs for a second

    November 2, 2010

  • raed

    sarita - cant help pointing out that the last time Hezbula tried anything resembling Ghandi style civil disobediance, it was a total flop. That was when they camped in the downtown - for close to a year - trying to bring down the legitimatly elected Seniora governement.

    November 2, 2010

  • Nocturnicus

    Hezbollah doesn't seem like the type of party to care what Saudi Arabia thinks.

    November 2, 2010

  • george noua

    guns will be pouring into Lebanon within 24 hours. Hizballah be ware

    November 2, 2010

  • Sarita

    when we are facing very tense times, we can not believe all news in media, making it, we are insulting our analysis capacity and minimize the action and mental capacity of the other side, 2 big mistakes can not be accepted, war, clashes, chaos, wont be, if there are not people what carry the weapons, we have to clear in citizen head, what will be the port where they will arrive, if they make one step against the others.

    November 1, 2010

  • Maren Marcolis

    Nonviolent movements by definition are not backed by excessive weapons, utter disregard for the nation and its citizens, building of competing 'institutions' to state entities, and a willingness and historical propensity to intimidate, bully, undermine, and eventually obliterate any opportunity for state viability. I think we've inherited the wind and the dust.

    November 1, 2010

  • Sarita

    i think that something is wrong in the mentioned article, i dont believe that hezbollah will be so inocent to put in media all its next steps, if they make that, the surprise factor disappear totally, because what will be lacking, is to say the house names that they will catch, if they dont want to loose the political space gotten until now, they will make the ressistance using the GANDHI STYLE without violence, if something erupt, they wont be accused of provoking, remember that all party need followers, if you kill people, nobody will want to follow you

    November 1, 2010