Editor’s note: Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin is an online, subscription intelligence news service from the creator of WorldNetDaily.com – a journalist who has been developing sources around the world for almost 30 years. The subscription price for the premium newsletter has been slashed in half and is now available for only $9.95 per month The following article is adapted from the current issue of G2 Bulletin.
WASHINGTON – Hezbollah’s self-proclaimed military victory over Israel last summer has emboldened it to press for a political showdown that could lead to civil war in Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s General Secretary Sheikh Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has given the government another week to change to his concept of a “national unity government.”
Hezbollah believes that as a result of its stand against Israel, it has gathered more popular support than is reflected in its current share of government posts under Lebanon’s power-sharing arrangement.
To add to the confusion, Hezbollah claims it does not seek to overthrow the existing Lebanese government. At the same time, Hezbollah wants effective control over the government and new election laws. Nasrallah also wants Hezbollah to have veto power over cabinet decisions.
If the current government does not agree to his demands, Nasrallah wants to force new parliamentary elections. But he also has promised a million-man street protest march to press his demands.
Certain Christian elements, led by Samir Geagea, have openly challenged Hezbollah’s demand for a “national unity government” that would give Hezbollah more say in the Lebanese government.
Geagea’s Christian supporters are aligned with the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and the Sunni Muslim leader Saad Hariri, whose father Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in February 2005. The assassination, which has been blamed on Syria, led to the Syrian pullout of Lebanon after 29 years of occupation.
Together, they form the March 14 Group, which is a pro-Western coalition of Sunni, Druze and certain Christian elements. They vehemently oppose Hezbollah’s intentions to have a greater say in the government.
Geagea has gone so far as to vow to place his Christian supporters under the command of the Lebanese security forces to confront the Hezbollah should there be demonstrations.
The problem with that approach, however, is that many of his supporters are Shiite and Hezbollah sympathizers.
Other Christian elements in Lebanon, led by Gen. Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement, have linked up with Hezbollah and the pro-Syrian Shiites of the Amal party led by parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri.
In viewing the prospect of street demonstrations, Berri said they would not be a “promenade.”
The alignment of the large Christian Free Patriotic Movement under Aoun with Hezbollah may be seen as a means of survival for the Christians in the midst of increased Muslim influence in the country.
At the same time, this linkage may lessen U.S. support for the Christian minority which in the past has been the most ardent supporter of the United States.
General Aoun and Hezbollah have maintained that they do not intend to bring down the government. Observers believe, however, the effect of a government boycott by Hezbollah and Aoun’s party, along with strikes and street demonstrations, could do just that.
Ironically, Aoun until last year called for the disarming of Hezbollah. It is seen that any success by Hezbollah in getting a greater stake in the government will negate that prospect.
With Aoun aligning himself with Hezbollah, observers believe he has provided greater legitimacy to the Shiite movement by giving it a more secular base. In providing this legitimacy, these observers believe Aoun expects Shiite support in his expected bid for the presidency next year.
The victors in a successful Hezbollah initiative, however, ultimately could be Iran and Syria, ardent supporters of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
For Iran, Hezbollah success will mean greater Shiite influence that has spread through Iraq, Central Asia, the Balkans and now Lebanon.
There are indications Iran has pushed Hezbollah to take a firm stand for a unity government in Lebanon.
On Nov. 5, Iranian Majlis speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel said Iran supports efforts to bring about national solidarity in Lebanon. He said Iran hopes discussions among all Lebanese parties will lead to a unified government.
“Iran always underlines the importance of unity among Lebanese people,” he said.
In response, Lebanese parliamentary speaker Berri said Lebanese officials appreciated Iran’s support, “particularly the clear-cut stance of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei,” according to Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency.
For Syria, it could reassert its leadership role following its departure from Lebanon last year under U.N. pressure.
Although Syrian forces have left Lebanon, Lebanese president Emile Lahoud remains very pro-Syrian. His term expires next year. Indications are that Syria will attempt to keep Lahoud in power, since no other viable Christian candidates have emerged. As the politics supporting and opposing Hezbollah reveal, the Christians remain very split.
Under the Lebanese constitution, the president is always a Christian while the prime minister is a Sunni and the speaker of the parliament is a Shiite.
Observers see the posturing of Hezbollah now in the face of the inability of the March 14 Group to oust Lahoud and change the government as a lead-up to the presidential elections next year.
While there is a terrorist and military wing to Hezbollah, there also is a political element which holds 14 seats in the 128-seat Lebanese parliament. Hezbollah also occupies two positions in the 24-member Cabinet. Hezbollah claims to have support of three more ministers but needs eight to veto any key decisions.
Hezbollah also claims to have some 70 percent backing of the Lebanese people.
Ironically, Hezbollah’s bravado has had repercussions throughout the Arab world. The predominantly Sunni Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, view with concern the success of the Shiite Hezbollah stand against Israel.
The fear among them is that it will result in further resurgence, particularly by Sunni al-Qaida, in not wanting to be outdone by Hezbollah. In some Islamic quarters, Hezbollah’s Nasrallah has become more popular among Sunnis than al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Abdul Hameed Bakier of the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation said Nasrallah is “a nationalist leader with political legitimacy who is fighting the direct enemy Israel. Bin Laden, on the other hand, is a global leader who is fighting the indirect enemy, the U.S., without credible political justifications.”
Consequently, al-Qaida has responded by expressing increased belligerence against Israel, as shown in comments by al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahiri Sept. 11 in urging Muslims to fight the Zionists and Crusaders.”
In this connection, Sunni Islamists have been split over a truce with Israel and the U.S. Traditional Salafis support Arab policy calling for a truce with Israel.
A leading conservative cleric, Sheik Abdul Mohsen al-Obeikan, recently stated “resorting to peace, reconciliation or political and peaceful solutions with the Jews is needed at this time for the lack of Islamic might to liberate by force what is righteously theirs.”
There also is concern that a possible Hezbollah takeover of the government could put existing and promised military aid from the United States into Hezbollah hands.
The U.S. already has approved $30 million in military aid this year with another $100 million promised for 2007.
Lebanese Army commander General Michel Suleiman said the money for this year already has been spent on ammunition, spare parts and repair of U.S.-built armored personnel carriers, tanks and helicopters. He added that the Lebanese Armed Forces also has bought 300 Humvees that will be delivered shortly.
Ironically, Syria and Iran have offered to match equipment promised by the U.S.
On Nov. 4, Suleiman reportedly met Iranian ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad-Reza Sheybani to discuss military cooperation with Iran. Suleiman praised Iran and said the Lebanese military supported Hezbollah’s war against Israel.
“Iran is ready to supply modern anti-aircraft arms to Lebanon,” Ambassador Sheybani declared.
F. Michael Maloof, a regular contributor to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, is a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
If you liked this story, consider subscribing to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin. Annual subscriptions are $99 and include a free copy of Farah’s latest book, Taking America Back.” Monthly trial subscriptions for credit card users are just $9.95 and can be discontinued any time.