Hezbollah worries Lebanese regime


Richard Moore

The Lebanese government seems more concerned with preserving its privileged 
position that it is with the welfare of the Lebanese people. While that 
government complains about Hezbollah, and while Israel breaks the cease-fire to 
attack alleged Hezbollah targets, Hezbollah itself is working on reconstruction.
What frightens everyone about Hezbollah is that it is an expression of 
democratic spirit, an effective grassroots movement.


Original source URL:

Hizballah, Syria Political Maneuvering Raises Concern
Patrick Goodenough
International Editor

(CNSNews.com) - Some politicians in Lebanon are concerned that Hizballah, 
emboldened after its military campaign against Israel, may be maneuvering -- 
with Syrian support -- to expand its authority on the national political scene.

Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze minority (an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam), 
went so far as to accuse the Shi'ite terrorist group's leader, Hassan Nasrallah,
of plotting a "coup" against the Lebanese state, currently ruled by a coalition 
comprising Shi'ite, Sunni, Christian and Druze parties.

Jumblatt told the London-based Saudi paper Asharq Al-Awsat that Nasrallah's 
recent comment about building a "strong and fair state" suggested that the 
existing state did not have those characteristics.

In a televised appearance earlier this week, Nasrallah declared that Hizballah's
military "victory" was a victory for all of Lebanon.

He criticized some Lebanese government ministers who were calling for Hizballah 
to disarm. It did not serve the national interest to have such debates held in 
public, Nasrallah said. Without Hizballah, the Lebanese Army would be incapable 
of defending the country against the Israeli enemy.

Nasrallah's comments appeared designed to raise doubts about the suitability of 
some government figures.

"Do these people have no feelings, no emotions? Can these people possibly be 
viewed as political leaders with a high level of awareness, devoid of any 
feelings or emotions?"

Jumblatt also expressed concern about remarks made this week by Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad, who sought to paint Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's majority 
bloc in the ruling coalition as a tool of Israel.

After remaining silent throughout the month-long conflict, Assad emerged Tuesday
to boast about Syria's support for Hizballah.

Although it drew most attention for his derisive comments about the U.S. plan 
for a "new Middle East," his speech in Damascus also took aim at Lebanon's 
anti-Syrian parliamentary group, which he accused of collaborating with Israel.

It was now fomenting strife by asking Hizballah to disarm, Assad said.

"But I tell those people that they have failed and that their fall is looming."

Assad also spoke about turning Hizballah's "military victory" into a "political 

One Beirut daily newspaper, Al-Mustaqbal, described the address as "a 
declaration of war on Lebanon."

Given Syria's decades of interference in Lebanon, Jumblatt and others are 
worried that the comments may presage more meddling -- possibly even an 
"assassination campaign" against those considered the enemy.

Marwan Hamadeh, a member of Jumblatt's party and c ommunications minister in the
Lebanese government, was quoted as saying Assad had "returned to his old habits 
-- murder and threatening murder."

Syria is suspected of involvement in the Feb. 2005 assassination of former prime
minister Rafik Hariri, who opposed Assad's attempts to continue manipulating 
Lebanese politics even as Syria was under pressure to withdraw its armed forces 
from the country. (The pullout was completed later in the year.)

Jumblatt, whose checkered political career has included pro-Syrian and 
anti-Syrian periods, was expected to hold a press conference Thursday to air his
concerns about Assad and Nasrallah.

'Nasrallah sounds like a president'

Created by Iran after the Islamic revolution and sponsored by Tehran and 
Damascus, Hizballah has been responsible for dozens of major terrorist attacks, 
with hundreds of Americans among its victims.

On July 12 it crossed Lebanon's southern border and killed and kidnapped Israeli
soldiers, triggering a bloody, 34-day conflict which ended with a cease-fire on 

In the days since the fighting was suspended, a number of Lebanese commentators 
have noted that Nasrallah is presenting himself to the Lebanese people as a 
national leader.

A televised speech on Monday night included promises that Hizballah would help 
to rebuild destroyed homes and to provide homeless Lebanese with money to pay 
for temporary rental accommodation or buy furniture. Nasrallah even warned 
suppliers not to exploit the situation by increasing prices.

"He seemed to take on the veneer of a national leader rather than that as head 
of a single group in Lebanon's rich mosaic of parties," wrote Rami Khouri, a 
columnist with the Daily Star in Beirut.

"In tone and content, his remarks seemed like those that a president or prime 
minister should be making while addressing the nation after a terrible month of 
destruction and human suffering.

"His prominence is one of the important political repercussions of this war."

Khouri voiced concern about the implications, predicting greater polarization in
Lebanon, and that in other Arab countries non-state parties will emulate 
Hizballah and step up political competition with state institutions whose 
credibility is seen to be wanting.

Daily Star opinion editor Kevin Young also noted the tone, saying that towards 
the end of his speech, "Nasrallah began sounding, ominously, like a president."

"If the secretary-general is so keen to build up a strong Lebanese state, 
presumably he intends to contribute to that effort from a position of 
authority," Young said.

"So, is Nasrallah on the verge of taking that authority, flush from his tactical
triumphs in the South and motivated by an understandable desire to draw 
attention away from the devastation inflicted on the Shi'ite community since 
July 12?"

Writing on an independent Lebanese news site, Ya Libnan, Lebanese-American 
activist Joseph Hitti wondered what the Hizballah leader may try next.

"Surrounded by a loyal Shi'ite base and an otherwise subservient Lebanese 
population, Nasrallah's 'victory' might certainly give him the idea that he 
should be running Lebanon, rather than the Sunni, Druze and Christian weaklings 
in the Lebanese government and political establishment."

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