Third time unlucky
After Israel and FAI failed, the scheme to disarm Hizbullah is likely to fail again, figures Dyab Abou Jahjah
After the murder of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafiq El-Hariri, a process that was already on track picked up steam: the desire to disarm Hizbullah. Since then the whole political scene in Lebanon can be read and understood in the light of this process, and the political and sometimes military steps undertaken by the various actors on the ground are acting out one of two scenarios: either disarming the resistance or preserving and strengthening it.
In its political debut after the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the "party of god" made an electoral pact with the Future movement of Hariri and the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) of Walid Jumblat aimed at thwarting the American/ Israeli agenda of disarming Hizbullah, and it provided these two parties in exchange with a clear electoral victory and a majority in parliament. Hizbullah and its other Shia ally the Amal movement also joined the Siniora government that was the result of these elections as a junior partner in the coalition. But with the wave of political assassinations targeting figures of the 14 March anti-Syrian coalition the alliance that came to be known as the quadruple alliance weakened and eventually collapsed.
The Americans were not going to let their Lebanese allies strike a deal with one of their arch- enemies. They want Lebanon in their sphere of influence in an uncontested way and want to get rid of Hizbullah so that Israel can again have the upper hand and to avoid the scenario of a Hizbullah rocket attack against Israel in case the US were to strike Iran.
The American agenda can also be placed within the wider polarisation in the region between two blocs, the pro-American "moderate" bloc and the pro-resistance bloc. Jordan's King Abdullah has assisted the US by deepening the divide within the resistance bloc itself on sectarian grounds and helping shift the perception of the enemy of the Arab people from Israel to Iran. These theories fuelled by the reality of sectarian strife in occupied Iraq and the reality of a negative Iranian role there have provided the necessary material for the Saudi-controlled Arab media to promote the American/Jordanian policies.
This has resulted in a widening polarisation between the pro-American 14 March coalition and the Lebanese opposition and an alliance between Hizbullah and Amal and their nationalist and leftists small allies on the one hand and the National Free Current of Michel Aoun that renegated from the 14 March coalition and joined the opposition after an understanding memorandum was signed between it and Hizbullah marking the beginning of a new political era in Lebanon. This strengthened opposition that includes the largest Christian party is now in a position to claim that it represents the majority of the Lebanese people.
The Lebanese government of Siniora cannot enforce the American agenda and disarm Hizbullah or lead the country into a civil war by trying to. It is still bound by its declaration drafted within the context of the quadruple alliance and cannot change it without resigning and forming a new government. But this would necessitate the signature of the president of the republic, General Emile Lahoud, who will not give that signature to a government that doesn't include his allies in the opposition. So without a president who is loyal to the 14 March coalition, the goal of disarming Hizbullah cannot be obtained.
This is the context in which we have to read the forthcoming presidential elections today. If the 14 March coalition succeeds in electing a president from within its own ranks and loyal to its agenda and subsequently to the American agenda, this will lead to steps aiming at disarming Hizbullah and will obviously force the opposition and the resistance into a desperate fight in defence of its existence and arms. The potential of civil war in such a situation is not to be underestimated.
Nevertheless, the Americans and their regional allies have also been pursuing other strategies to obtain their aim of destroying the Lebanese resistance. The war of July/August 2006 was a direct attempt to disarm Hizbullah by military force and we all know how that ended. Another attempt was the introduction into Lebanon of Sunni Salafi jihadis who were supposed to clash with the Shia Hizbullah, dragging it into a sectarian civil war and away from its role of facing Israel and weakening it militarily, but also making it lose its wider Arab credentials.
After the failure of the Israeli aggression, the Lebanese opposition felt the necessity to tackle a government that had elements within its ranks that were compliant with the US agenda. And while the opposition succeeded in paralysing the government and stopping it from pursuing its agenda, the sectarian tension and the fear of a Sunni-Shia clash kept the government alive and the options of the opposition limited. The Saudi role in throwing a life line for this government was crucial in its survival.
But the plans of the American and some Arab secret services to create a clash between Sunni jihadis and Hizbullah also did not go as desired. The group known as Fatah Al-Islam (FAI) started pursuing its own agenda instead of complying with that of their financers. It developed its own version of Al-Qaeda and had the illusion of creating an Islamic mini-state in the north of Lebanon where the Salafi movement is widely represented. When the money that was regularly being transferred to it through the Hariri-owned Mediterranean Bank stopped, they robbed the bank and clashed with the police. Stunned by the treason of its former allies and financiers who were now unleashing the police on their heals and surrounding and killing its cell members in Tripoli, FAI unleashed an attack on the Lebanese army, slaughtering several soldiers and officers. This led to the tragic Nahr Al-Bared siege.
The Lebanese army defeated FAI in a very intelligent and efficient manner. It took a lot of time but the results cannot be contested. The whole Lebanese people were united behind the army and that is why it kept its unity and fought till the end and prevailed. However a few Lebanese who belong to the Salafi might see in this a reason to unleash vindictive attacks against the state and the army reminiscent of Waco, Texas leading Timothy McVeigh to execute the Oklahoma City bombing. Many voices are demanding a full investigation to know the reality of what happened and who was involved in financing and supporting Fatah Al-Islam.
All attempts to disarm Hizbullah have failed till now and the only possibility remaining is the election of a pro-American president who will force the army to execute that mission. But this is unlikely to happen, first of all because the opposition will not provide the two-thirds majority required by the constitution to elect a new president and will not recognise a president elected without this requirement being met. So the only president that can govern is a president elected after a consensus between the opposition and the 14 March. The only way forward in Lebanon is to agree on the name of a president but this means that the 14 March needs an American and a Saudi green light.
The other scenario is that the majority will elect a president without the two-third of deputies present which will make that president unconstitutional and lead the current president to declare a state of emergency and form another government. In such a scenario division in the country and even in the army seems inevitable and civil war is almost a sure outcome.
The remaining scenario is that no president is elected and that the current government will claim the presidential powers. This is also very unlikely since President Lahoud has made it clear that he will not deliver power to this government that he considers unconstitutional after the resignation of the opposition ministers from its rank. So the scenario of two governments and a division in this case is also present.
Lebanon is heading towards a show down, between the American project and the project of Arab resistance. The only way to avoid a clash that can escalate into a war is to elect a consensus president. All other scenarios will lead to disaster.