December 7, 2009

Hizballah - the key power broker in Lebanon

In a vote that didn't get much attention except from those of us who follow these things fairly closely, Lebanon's newly-formed government granted the Islamic fundamentalist group Hizballah the right to maintain its militia forces, and the authority to employ them against Israel. Actually, this was a confirmation of an existing policy which authorized the army and "the resistance" (the Lebanese idiomatic term for Hizballah) to liberate what Lebanon and Syria label as the Israeli-occupied Shaba' Farms. It is fiction - the Shaba' Farms are part of Syria, Israeli occupied yes, but not part of Lebanon. See my earlier article, The Shaba' Farms - Hizballah's Fig Leaf.

This decision is in direct contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and the militia group. The resolution requires that the Lebanese government prevent the re-arming of Hizballah, and further required that Beirut deploy the useless Lebanese army to the country's southern border with Israel to keep Hizballah fighters out of the area. The resolution also expands the mandate of the grossly ineffective United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon - "interim" since its creation in 1978. Now we have almost double the foreign forces doing nothing in southern Lebanon.

The Lebanese cabinet has in effect legitimized Hizballah as a second army inside Lebanon, not unlike the current situation in Iran, where the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are a parallel - and superior - armed force to the regular Iranian military. It is useful to note that is was an IRGC unit in Syria and Lebanon that created Hizballah in 1982.

Since the end of the 2006 war and the passage of UNSCR 1701, the Syrians and Iranians have not only completely re-equipped Hizballah in quantity, but have also increased the quality of the group's arsenal. Hizballah's inventory of rockets that was largely depleted in 2006 has been replaced with larger and longer-range rockets. When there are future Hizballah attacks on Israel - and there will be future attacks - rockets will reach farther into the Jewish state, this time not only threatening Haifa, but possibly Tel Aviv as well.

The new Lebanese government has been fully co-opted by Hizballah. The new Prime Minister, Sa'ad al-Hariri, has made his deal with the devil. The new Lebanese government includes Hizballah, is very pro-Syrian, and has now thumbed its nose at the United Nations. Ironically, it was Syrian-backed assassins that killed al-Hariri's father Rafiq in February 2005 in Beirut. Now he is in bed with the very people who killed his father.

Syria, whose 30-year military presence in Lebanon was ended by the "Cedar Revolution" - the public demonstrations that erupted after the al-Hariri assassination, has finally regained its influence over what is called in Syrian slang al-muhafizih (the province). Its primary agents in the country are the Prime Minister and Hizballah. Nothing happens in Lebanon without the blessings of Damascus and Hizballah.

Lebanese politics are like that.