Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Who Holds the Keys to Stability in Lebanon?.. or the ME?

Study politics of any and all regions long enough and you realize that the surface plot bears little resemblance to what actually drives the story.

Specific case in point? The simmering pot of Lebanon, where the struggling gov't not only has to battle the Hezbollah shadow gov't firmly entrenched within it's borders, but Syrian and Iranian influences and their puppet military/militia extensions as well.

While the world's attentions are focused on Iraqi security progress and a psychophrenic US Congress doing handsprings to protect their own proverbial butts well in advance of the 2008 elections, Sami Moubayed (a Syrian political analyst) has written a mesmorizing profile of what is happening within Lebanon, and the int'l cast of characters involved. Pertinent excerpts are below, but read in entirety at the link above. You will again see the invisible threads that bind the fate of ME states.

Walid Junblatt admitted it on Al Jazeera TV. He said that everybody - and not only Hezbollah - was armed in Lebanon. He also confessed that supporters of the March 14 Coalition had also been armed during the confrontations that took place in Beirut last month.


Everybody had been denying this for years, claiming that since the end of the civil war, the only group to keep arms was Hezbollah. A short while ago, stockpiles of arms were discovered with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). During the confrontations, it was clear that supporters of Junblatt and Sa'ad Al Harriri were also, armed and ready for battle.

Making the reality of arms all the more scary was a CD that was sent to me from Beirut, produced in 2005 by the Lebanese Forces (LF) of Samir Gagegea. I will quote it at length because it speaks volumes about the confessional state in Lebanon today, nearly 20 years after the horrible civil war ended. The film showed a young hunter in the cedar woods of Lebanon - the national symbol of the Lebanese Republic. Clearly he is shown to be Christian.

That film was frightening - very frightening - and might explain why chaos broke out so easily in Beirut.

The "real enemies" of Lebanon, as the film puts it, are the Muslims. That is temporarily not the case for the LF since they are currently allied with the Sunni leader Sa'ad Al Harriri. That alliance is as fragile and temporal as the one between Aoun and Hezbollah. During the civil war it was Muslims vs Christians. Today it has become Christians vs Christians, between Aoun and Gagegea, and Muslims vs. Muslim, between Shiites and Sunnis.


Further illustration of this Muslim vs Muslim crusade of incitement by radicals is seen in the UK, where radical Muslim preacher, Abu Izzadeen, has made a call for the death of Muslims serving in the UK Army.

“Remember the British Government, my dear Muslim brothers, are crusaders — crusaders come to kill and rape Muslims.

“Whoever joins them — he who joins the British Army, he who joins the American army he is a mortal Kaffir.

“And his only hukum (punishment) is for his head to be removed. Indeed whoever changes his deen (Muslim code of life) kill him.”

I think we can safely say that it's unlikely members of other religions are apt to take up this fatwa to behead Muslim British soldiers. Terrorists no longer hide their quest to inspire radical Muslims to rise up against moderate Muslims. No longer can the media try and portray the WOT as a battle between the west and Islam.

And in the next breath, I also say that moderate Muslims, heretofore silent for reasons of fear or apathy, can no longer afford to be silent or uninvolved. They, right along with westerners, have become the target - the victims of radical Muslim terrorsts.

A few days ago, I caught the tail end of a woman guest on Hannity & Colmes who, in response to the question "is this the battle between Christians and Islam?" from Hannity, sagely replied "This is a battle between civilization and barbarism". Oh how I wish I caught her name because this woman is right on the money.

As evidenced most overtly in Iraq, the battle between competitive Muslim sects (also notably between moderate and extreme Muslim factions) is taking center stage. The campaigns for power by the most radical believers has become more sophisticated since America's 911 attack. While the terrorism of barbaric car bombs and assaults on innocents has not been eliminated from their arsenal, they have added the use of political clout and manipulation of the media with a barrage of death and mayhem to sway public opinion in their favor.

To further this quest for control, the movement to convert Sunnis to Shi'ites in Lebanon in order to increase their political say in a legitimate gov't has increased, as well as their drive to produce Shia children from the marriages to increase the population to a controlling level.

Back to Iraq... a state which I call the "garden trophy" in the middle of the ME. Geographically it's the prize for it's natural resources of oil and fresh water. But the tenacles of control extend further than merely minerals and economic potential. The unseen control it exerts over neighboring Arabs states is unmistakable. And this is one of the reasons the elected Iraqi gov't must succeed. Losing is not an option the world can accept. It may be, in fact, the only way to show moderate Muslims that a unified approach between sects is the only way any, and their more moderate interpretation of Sharia law, may survive.

As the US seeks to rein in the Muslim vs Muslim violence in Baghdad to allow the fledgling elected gov't to join the world in trade and aid in the WOT, they may be risking the fates of the Lebanese to achieve it's goal. For if Mr. Moubayed is correct, the future of Lebanon lies not in Lebanon itself, but elsewhere.

The US is currently re-engaging with Syria either directly or indirectly. Syria has always implied, without saying it directly, that it is willing to deliver on Iraq if it gets what it wants in Lebanon.

If the Syrians are able to deliver on Iraq and thereby show the world that the keys to stability in Baghdad are in Damascus, how will the situation in Lebanon change and in whose's favour? The US administration, after all, despite all talk by US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, care more for Iraq than Lebanon.

The keys to stability in the Middle East are in Baghdad, not Beirut.

For we westerners, this is a struggle to be watched and, where possible, influenced. The resulting winners of the embattled Muslim sects - either the moderates who embrace a Muslim form of democracy, improved education systems and trade, or the radicals who seek a caliphate with third world conditions and an education system of madrasses - is highly relevant to our future, and our safety.

UPDATE: Related story here INRE Lebanon's "shadow gov't and military" arm of Hezbollah possibly violating another one of those failed UN-brokered "peace agreements" with the discovery of Hezbollah bombs found on the Israeli side of the border.

Now the do-gooder "players" are trying to figure if these are old bombs or new bombs and if a truce has yet again been broken.

What difference does that truly make? Wrong question, I say. Instead they should be addressing the larger issue - such as why is Hezbollah allowed to plant bombs in Lebanon *or* Israel at all? They are a group of radical thugs, and not a legitimate arm of the Lebanese gov't. So who gives a rat's arse when they are planted. They have no right to plant them *at all*, or at any time.

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