I wonder how the Arab delegation felt when it was greeted by a resigned minister and a dismissed security official dubbed the “Assad of the airport”. Did it seem OK to them to be received by anti-government figures instead of the country’s legitimate authority? The message Hizbullah tried to communicate was clear: we are now in charge.
The government’s decision today to revoke the decisions will be perceived as victory by Hizbullah. As with other victories claimed by the group, this alleged one cost many Lebanese lives. Nearly 70 people died. And now, more than ever before, the country’s unity and independence seem like far away dreams.
I am not sure if I can find solace in the anti-Hizbullah resistance that this has awakened, specifically what happened in the Jabal, not that I'm not glad someone somewhere checked their advances. The sectarian genie, as some of you put it, is out of the bottle. As a Lebanese Shia, it distresses me that Hizbullah has prevented my family from living at peace with their Sunni and Druze neighbors. My immediate family, once residents of a mixed neighborhood near Choueifat, were forced to flee south after Hizbullah gunmen invaded their neighborhood. They are now refugees in the south, forced to endure the verbal terrorism of Hizbullah supporters, and fearing retaliation and accusations of treason, should it come out that they supported March 14.
In my last conversation with my father, a Shia who hails from the south but grew up in Beirut, he said he didn’t know where to go. Thanks to Hizbullah, anti-Shia sentiments are at an all time high in most non-Shia areas.
Hizbullah, of course, has been investing this to boost resentment towards March 14. In many southern and Bekaa towns, young and old Shias have been brainwashed into believing that Hariri and Jumblatt want to kill them and sell them to the Israelis. Even before these recent events, the amount of anger built up against March 14 was unfathomable. Short of shutting down all Hizbullah media, and banning the militia from political and public life, there is no way out for the Shia community from this web of deceit.
What didn’t help was the army commander’s failure to at least instill a sense of rule of law in that community, which produced some of the hooligans who burned tires and blocked roads. Granted being an army commander and a presidential candidate at the same time is neither normal nor easy. And frankly, March 14 helped put him in that situation, regardless of the man’s true political leanings.
Only after some “40 pro-government officers” submitted their resignations in protest over his alleged “neutrality”, did Suleiman feel compelled to defend his decision to not intervene, and order his troops to use force against violators, something that remains to be seen, given the continued presence of Hizbullah in the city and in other areas.
Going after Suleiman at this point may seem counterproductive. Both Jumblatt and Hariri don’t see any wisdom in doing it. A weakened Suleiman is not in their best interest. On the one hand, rejecting him as a consensus candidate gives Hizbullah more maneuvering power and arguments to continue stalling the election of a president. On the other hand, backing him while the standoff continues also creates complexities, one of them being his inability to move against one of the parties to the alleged consensus—which is what happened last week when he found his hands tied and himself reluctant to upset the wavering and heavily armed “opposition”.
It is safe to say that Suleiman and with him the country has been stuck in Hizbullah’s web of deceit since the “party” lost its traditional theater of operations in the south after the 2006 war. The militia has obstructed everything from the presidential election to economic reform, and the reason is obvious: UNSC 1559 and 1701. Siniora probably does not regret helping putting an end to the people’s suffering in 2006, but there might be a tinge of regret in indirectly helping Hizbullah regroup and re-arm by softening the tone of the resolution. Much to his and the Lebanese people’s dismay, Hizbullah paid everyone back by taking the country and its executive authority hostage.
The options ahead are not many: civil war, partition, or a combination. I don’t believe the Arab League will be successful in its mission. Hizbullah, and I hope I am proven wrong, will continue to occupy downtown Beirut, and remain in control of the airport. March 14 will activate other ports of entry for safer travel, part of what Jumblatt described as “coexistence” with Hizbullah. March 14 might want the issue of Hizbullah’s weapons as first item in any dialogue, but I don’t think they truly believe they can succeed in placing conditions on their use.
It became clear after the Hariri assassination and the July war that for Lebanon to survive, Hizbullah needs to cease to exist in its current form. Arabs had better spend their time putting pressure on Syria and Iran, and not wasting time sponsoring useless "dialogue" sessions between a militia and the state it’s terrorizing.