“If you think we are going to sit with our hands tied, then perhaps we would have to burn everything. If you want chaos, then we welcome chaos. If you want war, then we welcome war. We have no problem with weapons or with rockets which we will launch on you.”
– MP Walid Jumblatt, Progressive Socialist Party leader in Lebanon’s ruling March 14 Coalition, in comments directed at the opposition prior to this week’s commemoration ceremonies in Beirut.
February 14th, 2008 marks the third anniversary of the assassination of the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Since his death, the country has witnessed political, military and social upheaval. Recent statements by Walid Jumblatt and parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri in the days prior to the commemoration of this tragic and seminal event have exposed Lebanon’s deep wounds. Indeed, they have nearly been tantamount to declarations of war; partly as an attempt to provoke the opposition into one and partly out of frustration from failing to have done so.
A brief recap of what has transpired in Lebanon since the 2005 Hariri assassination:
The withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence; a continued string of high-profile political assassinations; the 2006 Israeli invasion resulting in over 1000 civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis from one million displaced persons and widespread destruction of the country’s infrastructure; the resignation of five Shiite ministers from Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s cabinet, paralyzing the government and clearly delineating the line between the opposition (led by Hezbollah, Amal, and The Free Patriotic Movement) and the March 14 Coalition (led by Hariri’s Future Movement, the PSP and the Lebanese Forces among others); intermittent yet foreboding Sunni-Shia street violence; fighting between the Lebanese Army and the imported militants of Fatah al-Islam in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared; the continued vacancy of the post of president after 14 postponed parliamentary sessions, and most recently, riots over electricity and water cuts to Beirut’s southern suburbs.
Previously discussed has been the evidence presented by Seymour Hersh, one of the United States most respected investigative journalists, regarding the Bush administration’s strategy of cooperating with friendly Arab dictatorships to supply and arm Sunni radicals-including those affiliated with al-Qaeda-to act as force against Hezbollah. Directly implicated in bringing these groups into Lebanon vis-à-vis Palestinian refugee camps were Saad Hariri and Prime Minister Siniora.
But we know this occurred only after the Israelis failed to crush Hezbollah themselves in 2006. New facts, however, have brought to light the truly treacherous nature of this government even then.
Al-Manar reports that the respected Israeli political analyst Emmanuel Rosen disclosed that a “well informed political source” admitted to him the Olmert government “received a letter from the Lebanese government in the last 24 hours of the war asking them not to stop the war before Hezbollah was crushed, adding that it is extremely preferable to liquid Nasrallah.”
Ha’aretz correspondent Avi Issacharoff, in his book Spider Webs – The Story of the Second Lebanon War (to be published in the United States as 34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah and the War In Lebanon) says:
“For the first time, we revealthat moderate Arab states and the people close to the Lebanese government have conveyed messages to the Israeli government via different sides demanding Israel continue the war until Hezbollah was completely crushed.”
Of course, that didn’t happen. But the deaths of thousands of Lebanese, a second Qana massacre and the littering of southern Lebanon with cluster bombs did. Whereas many rightly place the blame for this carnage squarely on the Israelis, it now seems they had partners in Lebanon encouraging their crimes.
With the failure of the 2006 war to achieve its objective, the implosion of the deal with the radicals of Fatah al-Islam, and the unwavering demand of the opposition for veto power in the cabinet, the belligerent tone adopted by the majority continues to ratchet upward as Jumblatt’s comments illustrate. Saad Hariri himself said: “If confrontation is our destiny, then we stand ready.”
When all of these facts are brought to the forefront, the duplicity of Lebanon’s government becomes truly remarkable. They seek to convince us of being the victims, yet they suffered the least and complained the most about the war. The people of southern Lebanon and Beirut on the other hand, who suffered the most from the Israeli onslaught, complained the least, even when left homeless. A third of the cabinet positions, in order to exercise some measure of restraint on those cutting deals with the United States and Israel-against them no less-is their only demand.
Plainly stated, Lebanon’s March 14 Coalition is the War Party and Siniora, Hariri, Jumblatt, Geagea and Gemayal its foot soldiers. They have the support of the War Party in the United States and forged an alliance with Israel (every government of which constitutes a War Party) against their own people.
What Jumblatt and Hariri have threatened to do, in no uncertain terms, is to bring the house down if the opposition does not yield. The only obstacle standing between them and the disaster they wish to precipitate is the resilience and patience of a people who have already withstood the mightiest military in the Middle East. Twice.
The challenge facing these people now will not be a military one but rather to keep a peace their own government has shown no interest in preserving.
RANNIE AMIRI is an independent commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.