Friday, December 08, 2006

Hizbu'llah, AMAL, & Aoun Call for New Protest Rally Sunday

In a live speech broadcast on Hizbu'llah's al-Manar Television and other Arabic language news station such as the Qatar-based al-Jazeera, Hizbu'llah leader Shaykh Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah [right] called for renewed protests against the government of embattled Prime Minister Fouad Siniora this Sunday. In a stinging rebuke of the governing coalition, which includes the Sunni Saad Hariri's Future Movement, the Druze socialist party of the hobbit-like Walid Jumblatt, and two radical Maronite parties (Phalange and Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces), Nasrallah accused them of collaboration with Israel during the July-August war.

For more information on Shaykh Nasrallah's speech, see:

"Those who sat with the Americans and requested from them that Israel launch a war against us, they know themselves, and I know them, and I hope that the day will not come when I would say their names,” he said. Although Nasrallah did not name names, the secular (reportedly atheist) Arab scholar As'ad AbuKhalil of California State University-Stanislaus surmises that the Hizbu'llah chief was referring to Jumblatt [left] and his fellow Druze parliamentarian Marwan Hamada. Nasrallah invited Sunnis to come pray with Shi'is during Friday prayers and requested that his followers, "refrain from insulting and disrespecting ruling politicians."

Nasrallah did criticize Siniora [right] for what he alleged were covert attempts to collaborate with the Israeli government and disarm Hizbu'llah during the war (not that Lebanon's ineffectual military would be capable of doing so even if it wanted to.) The Hizbu'llah chief then warned Siniora and his allies that a time would come when the National Opposition would no longer be interested in forming a unity government with them, hinting that they would work to exclude them politically from a new government.

For Professor AbuKhalil's recent blog post, see:

The bulk of Nasrallah's speech was spent urging the National Opposition's followers not to be lured into violence despite provocation by armed militias loyal to the governing coalition. AbuKhalil notes that in his opinion Nasrallah was clearly referencing the "Internal Security Forces" militia connected to Hariri's Future Movement, which was probably responsible for the shooting death of 20-year-old 'Ali Ahmad Mahmoud, a supporter of the secular Shi'i AMAL party of parliament speaker Nabih Berri [left]. Nasrallah said that his coalition would not be drawn into a civil war in which "everyone loses."

"We will not be dragged into any strife even if you kill a thousand of us," Nasrallah promised in the speech. We will not raise our arms in the face of anyone in Lebanon ... Our weapons have only been raised against our Israeli enemy," said Nasrallah, whose speech was broadcast live on massive television screens in downtown Beirut to tens of thousands of National Opposition supporters. "We will win with our voices, and not with our arms! When they killed Ali Ahmad Mahmoud, they wanted to push us to clashes. I tell them ... we refuse civil war and discord."

Nasrallah reiterated his coalition's demand for a national unity government in which the Shi'i population was more accurately represented though all parties would be represented in the new cabinet and parliament. Estimates put the Shi'i population at between 40 and 55% of Lebanon's population. Due to sensitive political issues, Lebanon has not held an official census since 1932 when Christians made up a slim majority of the country's population. Recent scholarship suggests that this census may have been inaccurate due to political considerations and that the Christians could have been the minority then. Using birth rate statistics and other similar information, all credible sources (including the CIA World Fact Book) recognize that Muslims make up the majority of Lebanon's population and the Shi'a the largest single sectarian group.

Photo: (Below) National Opposition rally last Friday (12/1) against the Siniora-led government. Crowd estimated at 800,000 people.
Despite U.S., Israeli, and Siniora camp allegations that Hizbu'llah is little more than a front for Syria and Iran, the majority of Lebanese view it as a Lebanese political party. Hizbu'llah would not be able to exist without Lebanese support. The beleaguered Siniora camp has become increasingly reliant on Western, particularly American, support, which does not bode well for its continued support among the larger Arab population of the Middle East which views the U.S. with suspicion after the Iraq escapade.

On Wednesday, Aoun [right] reiterated the coalition's determination to force Siniora to dissolve his cabinet and form a true unity government. ""If the prime minister and his camp continue to monopolize power, there will be an escalation of popular pressure," Aoun told Agence France Presse. "We will paralyze the government, we will force it to go into a deep coma...If Siniora wants to negotiate, he will have to present us some proposals, but we will not accept anything less than true power-sharing and a blocking minority share [in the government]."

It is particularly interesting to note that the National Opposition, led by Hizbu'llah, was not the side to respond first with violence, it was Saad Hariri's [left] supposedly enlightened pro-Western, democratic-minded Future Movement militia. Although if it came down to armed confrontations, Hizbu'llah, with an estimated 20,000 rockets and a well trained quasi-army, would fare quite well, it is not in the interest of either the party or Lebanese Shi'a to resort to violence. They have strength in numbers. They have a strong coalition with admittedly opportunistic Michel Aoun, the powerful and influential Maronite political leader and former warlord who is likely to continue supporting Hizbu'llah and AMAL as long as it suits his interests. Considering that the Shi'a are Lebanon's largest sectarian community, Aoun is likely to be a Hizbu'llah/AMAL ally for some time. The National Opposition only needs to keep up pressure on Siniora and his weakning coalition.

The actions of Hariri's supporters are clear signs of that coalition's growing desperation, despite their public shows of defiance. While Hizbu'llah and its allies have numbers and political will, Siniora, Hariri & Co. have empty oral support from the United States, which is bogged down in Iraq and unlikely to militarily support them, and lethargic Sunni Arab support from governments (e.g. Saudi Arabia) that are incapable of defending their own borders let alone militarily support Siniora. The shining light of the so-called 'Cedar Revolution' seems to be fading and the supposed Lebanese democratic politicians are becoming all the less democratic as the days pass.

The moral of this story so far, Mr. Siniora and Mr. Hariri? Don't ally yourself with people who don't really care about what happens to you, who see you as inherently backward, and only see you as a disposable pawn for a flawed, messianic, Orientalist doctrine.

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