Ending Hezbolla’s Hegemony over Lebanon: The US Role.
Despite all the rhetoric we hear every day about Hezbollah, how invincible the organization is, and how much of a worthy opponent they are to Israel, I think this cell of 5,000 terrorists based in Southern Lebanon is history… Only a question of time.
I don’t see any future for Hezbollah in Lebanon for the simple reason there is nothing left to resist after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000.
This is an organization whose future is based on their past, which is their resistance and weapons. They aren’t fighting Israel anymore, so instead they’re going head to head with some lunatic Salafists; filling Lebanese minds with slogans claiming that Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood are going to take over if they don’t stay in power.
Nothing really is further from the truth…. The only reason the Nusra front (which is really the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda) has any support right now is because it’s fighting Assad. Everyone knows the secular movements in Syria (not to mention the Alawites, the Christians, the Druze, and the Kurds) will all resist Nusra once the regime is toppled.
Any Lebanese with a half brain knows very well that the Salafists are never going to take over Lebanon. Ninety percent of Lebanon’s Sunnis support Saad Hariri’s Future Movement party, which is liberal and capitalist…
It is a fact that Hezbollah – the most hated organization in Lebanon today – wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the Assad regime next door in Syria. Damascus brokered the Taif Agreement that ended Lebanon’s civil war, and part of that agreement required the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon, including Hezbollah. Syria oversaw that disarmament. Hezbollah, however, didn’t hand over its weapons. The Syrian regime wanted Hezbollah to stick around because it’s useful against Israel and Beirut. If the Assad family had wanted Hezbollah gone in 1990, Hezbollah would have been gone.
Now that the US Administration has asked Assad of Syria to get rid of his chemical weapons I think it is high time to deal with Hezbollah – before we move on to Iran; the only real power broker in the region.
I believe Iran wants Hezbollah to stay strong in Lebanon because they can use it for some regional influence and control. Without Hezbollah, they’ll lose a lot. They’re losing the Syrian regime. They’re doing everything they can, but they know Assad is going to fall eventually.
So Hezbollah is in Syria to make sure that when the government falls they will have an enclave in Syria protected by the Alawites and the Iranians so they can maintain the logistical routes for their weapons. They need to keep the city of Homs because without it they’ll lose the link. So they aren’t over there helping Assad survive, they’re over there preserving their rat line.
Simply put, what Hezbollah wants is political control over state institutions. And the reason they want control over state institutions is so they can control Lebanon’s foreign policy. They can use the state institutions to make sure no one gets close to their arms. They’d rather do this through elections, but they had to use their weapons to turn the election results around because they didn’t win. Nothing to do with having an Islamic state in Lebanon…. All Western propaganda. Take a close look at the parts of Lebanon controlled by Hezbollah. Alcohol consumption and pre-marital sex are more rampant than the most decadent city in the Western world.
And what do the people of South Lebanon want?
I believe most of the people in South Lebanon support Hezbollah to an extent, but they didn’t create Hezbollah, nor does it answer to them. The party takes its orders from Tehran. All what they want is leave the country, a better lifestyle and security. The better lifestyle is not there, and neither is security. They think Hezbollah provides them with security, but recently they’ve started to question that too for the simple reason that what Hezbollah is doing now – fighting a sectarian in Syria – is no longer resistance. Many Lebanese Shia are in fact furious at Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah because of it as this is not what they signed up for. Resisting Israel is one thing, but fighting the region’s Sunnis is something else as they all know it is a fight they can’t win. There are fewer than two million Sunnis in Lebanon, but there are twenty million people in Syria. And most of those people are Sunnis. Hezbollah has a fighting force of only 5,000. Part of Hezbollah’s support used to come from the fact that they were perceived as not being corrupt, but that’s over now, too.
A large number of Lebanon’s Shia may not like Hezbollah so much anymore, but the support is still there because they feel like they don’t have any choice. They are afraid. Every sect felt this way during the civil war, when even people who are natural cosmopolitan pacifists supported one of “their own” sectarian militias because they were afraid of the others. It would happen to you too if you lived in an environment with a weak and dysfunctional state that can’t provide security while your neighbors are trying to kill you.
US Policy Recommendations
I believe that – if it truly wants to liberate Lebanon, ensure the survival of Israel and dismantle the most ruthless organization in the world Hezbollah – Washington needs first and foremost a Shia policy coupled with promoting a patchwork of identities in the region.
You have to realize that within the Arab world, whether you like it or not, the agents of change are Shias. In Bahrain, they are Shias. In Lebanon, for better or for worse, they are Shias. In Syria, the Alawites are also part of what I describe as the Shias…though for a thousand years, no one thought of the Alawites as Shias or even Muslims. What they are really is a secretive and closed heterodox minority that fuses Christianity, Gnosticism, and Shia Islam together into something else entirely. Muslims have always considered them infidels.
For all of the 20th century, and to a lesser extent so far in the 21st, Washington has thought of and treated the Middle East as a monolithic bloc of conservative Sunni Arabs. That’s because the U.S. discovered the Middle East in the Persian Gulf region thanks to the oil, and because it formed its most stable (though dubious) alliances there. It’s also where the American military is based in the region.
But the Gulf is the Gulf. The Eastern Mediterranean and North African parts of the Arab world are radically, drastically, different. The three disparate regions may as well be on different planets. The Levant—the Eastern Mediterranean—is mind-bogglingly diverse. It is much more culturally modern. And it’s a lot more fractious and prone to armed conflict.
The Shia are a minority in Lebanon, making up only a third or so of the population. They’re an even smaller minority region-wide, and a smaller minority still in the wider world of Islam. The overwhelming majority of Muslims on earth are Sunnis. The Shia have been historically disenfranchised pretty much everywhere in the world outside Iran. The only people on earth reaching out to the Shia of Lebanon are the Iranians. Before, they were neglected by Lebanon’s Sunnis, Christians, and Druze. They were neglected by the West and by the Israelis. They were neglected even by the Shah’s regime in Iran. Nobody paid them the slightest bit of respect or attention until the Iranian Revolution installed Ayatollah Khomeini.
The Shia of Iraq have a similar complex. It is a fact that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki used to serve tea at Sayyed Fadlallah’s mansion. Now he’s prime minister, go figure…. but you should understand where he comes from and what he fears…..Like all the world’s Shia, Maliki fears the Sunnis – the ancient oppressor and foe – even more than the Israelis.
It is a fact that the West never made an effort to get to know the others, the Shia, the Kurds, the Alawites. Re-read the speech Condoleezza Rice made in Cairo in 2006. She said that for sixty years the U.S. relied on allies to provide security in the region, but the region got neither security nor democracy. Isn’t it high time for John Kerry and Barack Obama to understand that this region is fed up?
I strongly believe without a Shia policy we are going nowhere in the Middle East other than protracted wars leading to more bloodshed…
So what is Washington to do in order to end Hezbolla’s hegemony over Lebanon and liberate the whole world from their reign of terror?
I believe it’s got to start establishing a real dialogue with the Shia community in Lebanon or they will become more stubborn. Hezbollah does not talk to that community hence the opportunity. You will be surprised to see that Lebanon’s Shia don’t only oppose Hezbollah’s’ ideology of “resistance”, but they also oppose its radical Islam, root and branch – as do most Lebanese – and even a sizeable percentage of “resistance” supporters.
Help Islam fade. Help Islam become an identity. Help Islam rest in peace calmly.
Most importantly, don’t let Vladimir Putin fool you…. Russia’s president may be cutting an imposing figure on the world stage these days, but his country faces a daunting future.
Today, the Russian Federation is fast approaching a massive social and political upheaval that promises to be as transformative as the USSR’s demise was some two decades ago. This coming crack-up is driven by the convergence of three trends: a declining population (though 175% the size of the United States, Russia has half the population), a rising — and radicalizing — Muslim underclass, and sharpening strategic competition with neighboring China.
Wake up Washington before it is too late.
Ziad K. Abdelnour is Founder & President of the US Committee for a Free Lebanon – America’s Pro- Lebanon lobby – and co-Author of Ending Syria’s Occupation of Lebanon: The U.S. Role http://www.meforum.org/research/lsg.php