[Marxism] "Hezbullah set for key role in Lebanon"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Thu Mar 3 10:58:56 MST 2005

Parliamentary balance of power in hands of Iranian-backed group's 12

Thursday, March 3, 2005 Updated at 7:55 AM EST

>From Thursday's Globe and Mail


 Beirut — When Lebanon's pro-Syrian government collapsed this week in
the face of mass protests, it was hailed as a breakthrough for democracy
in the Arab world. But opposition figures say it also created a
political vacuum that may leave the militant Shia group Hezbollah
holding the balance of power in the country. 

Hours after Prime Minister Omar Karami and his cabinet announced their
resignation on Monday, Lebanon's myriad political groupings began tense
negotiations over who would run a caretaker government to oversee a
parliamentary election scheduled for May. With parliament almost evenly
split between pro-Syrian loyalists and the opposition, the
Iranian-backed Hezbollah looks to hold the deciding seats.

The opposition is now actively appealing to the militant group to remain
true to its roots as a liberation movement and join the push to oust
Syria from Lebanon. In recent remarks, Walid Jumblatt, one of the main
leaders of the anti-Syrian opposition, has gone out of his way to praise
Hezbollah's head, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, as a "great leader," and has
repeatedly called on him to join the opposition.

"There is a lot of contact with Hezbollah going on right now," said one
opposition figure familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of

Another indication that what is taking place is not a pure-and-simple
pro-imperialist "Orange Revolution."  Note especially Walid Jumblatt's
call on Hezbullah to join forces with him in the "opposition" and the
fears of the neo-liberal, pro-imperialist forces that all is not going
according to plan.

The biggest problems for the US and Israel in Lebanon have always come
from the Lebanese -- not from the Syrian troops, which played a certain
role in preventing a complete US-Israeli takeover after the Syrians had
defeated the Palestinians, the Druse, and some other opposition forces.

The Syrian government has announced the intention of withdrawing
completely over several months. The US will probably push for faster
withdrawal, primarily to escalate the conflict with Syria.  And I
suspect they will also open up a front against Iran, portraying
Hezbollah as a foreign-supported force.

Washington's aim is to end up with US-style neoliberal "democracy" which
is structured to produce what the dominant imperialist power wants and
nothing else -- the kind that was set up in much of Latin America after
the retreat and defeat of the Nicaraguan revolution, and which is now
misbehaving very badly across the continent.
Fred Feldman

The Globe and Mail, Toronto, March 3

Hezbullah Set for Key Role In Lebanon

Under the country's constitution, whoever President Émile Lahoud
nominates for the post of prime minister needs to be approved by a
majority of the country's 120 parliamentary deputies. In the meantime,
Mr. Karami remains in office with reduced powers.

The opposition, which claims the support of the tens of thousands who
have demonstrated in central Beirut almost every day since the
assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14, will
likely put forward his sister, Bahia Hariri, as its candidate for prime

According to the Lebanese constitution, the prime minister must be a
Sunni Muslim, with the cabinet made up of equal numbers of Muslims and
Christians. Ms. Hariri is Sunni.

Her candidacy would be widely popular on the streets, and would be a
symbolic blow to both Mr. Lahoud and his political masters in Damascus.
The opposition has accused the Lebanese and Syrian regimes of playing a
role in Mr. Hariri's slaying, which a United Nations team is

Ms. Hariri's political star was seen as tied to her brother's throughout
his 10 years as prime minister. But the schoolteacher-turned-MP has
emerged as one of the leaders of the opposition since her brother's
assassination. She gave an emotional speech to parliament on Monday that
was cited by Mr. Karami as one of the reasons he finally decided to

Although several former Syrian loyalists have crossed the floor in the
past two weeks, the opposition still lacks the numbers necessary to push
her candidacy through parliament. With the remaining pro-Syrian
legislators reportedly dug in against such a partisan choice, the
opposition would likely need the backing of Hezbollah and its 12
deputies to install Ms. Hariri as prime minister.

Considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Hezbollah has
close ties to Damascus but has so far remained neutral in the power
struggle between pro- and anti-Syrian forces.

While joining the burgeoning democracy movement might seem an odd fit
for the Iranian-backed militant group, Mr. Nasrallah recently
acknowledged having regular meetings with Mr. Hariri in the months
before his assassination.

Beyond their desire to make Ms. Hariri prime minister, the opposition
wants Hezbollah onside to fix the opposition's nagging image problem.
While Christian, Druze and Sunni Muslim groups have all united to demand
an end to interference from Damascus in the wake of Mr. Hariri's death,
there's little Shia representation in their ranks. Hezbollah is
Lebanon's largest Shia political movement, while the other major force
is the staunchly pro-Syrian Amal party headed by parliamentary speaker
Nabih Berri.

"If Hezbollah sides with the opposition, we have effective unanimity.
Otherwise, we are missing one of the major sects in Lebanon: the
Shiites," the anonymous opposition figure said. "It could be dangerous
if they oppose us."

Farid Chedid, a political analyst and editor of the lebanonwire.com
website, said Hezbollah is in a tough spot, not wanting to damage its
ties with Syria, which has helped funnel money and weapons to its
fighters in southern Lebanon, but also not wanting to be seen standing
against the will of the Lebanese.

"Hezbollah is split between its loyalty to Syria and its desire to
support liberation and independence," Mr. Chedid said. In the end, he
added, Hezbollah would likely get its orders on how to behave from
Tehran, which probably means standing fast in its backing for Syria.

Though Beirut has largely returned to normal in the wake of Monday's
jubilant street party after Mr. Karami's resignation, several hundred
protesters were still camped in tents on the central Place des Martyrs
square yesterday, promising not to go home until Mr. Lahoud also resigns
and Syria withdraws the 14,000 soldiers it has stationed in Lebanon.

Syria's troops entered Lebanon, ostensibly as peacekeepers, in the
second year of the 1975-1990 civil war. Syrian forces remained in the
country after the conflict ended, and have dominated Lebanese politics
ever since.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said this week that Syrian troops might
pull out in the next few months, a key demand of the Lebanese protests.
The opposition reacted to the statement yesterday with skepticism.

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