Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hizbu'llah & its Christian Allies Vow to Topple Siniora Government

*Note: I've abandoned my original idea of a "news round-up" because there simply is too much back news to be covered and I don't have the time at the moment in the midst of finals and papers.

After holding a massive rally on December 1 that attracted at least 800,000 people, according to Lebanese police estimates, the Lebanese Shi'i political party and militia Hizbu'llah and its main Christian ally, the powerful former general Michel Aoun [right with Hizbu'llah leader Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah], a past critic of Hizbu'llah, remain dedicated to forcing the embattled Lebanese prime minister, Fouad al-Siniora, and his allies to step down. According to a December 6 report on Hizbu'llah's official web site the party and Aoun's sizeable Maronite Catholic and Christian coalition, rumored to be the single largest Christian political movement in the country, are holding meetings to decide on their next move. In the meantime, Ghaleb Abu Zaynab, a member of Hizbu'llah's Shura governing council, said that his party and Aoun's National Opposition movement would "continue with the demonstration and the sit-in."

CNN claimed "at least 200,000" protestors came to the rally [left], dramatically undercutting official estimates though it bought the official estimates of attendees at the funeral of Pierre Gemayel [bottom right], a member of the radical Maronite Phalange party and trade minister, who was assassinated on November 21. His supporters blame Syria. The Phalange party helped facilitate the Israeli invasion in 1982 in the hopes of seizing control of the country and allying it with Israel. Phalangists also carried out, with the assistance of the Israeli army who lit their way with flares for 3 nights, the massacre of between 800 and 2,000 Palestinian civilians--old men, women, and children--in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during September 1982.

For this report on National Opposition consultations, see:

The political crisis began after Siniora [left] and his allies rejected demands by Hizbu'llah, AMAL, and Aoun to give them a third of the cabinet seats plus one extra which resulted in the resignation of six Shi'i and one Christian minister in protest. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud has called the Siniora government illigitimate since it does not represent all of Lebanon's sectarian groups as the 1958 constitution requires. The constitution also states that 50% of parliament must be controlled by Christians despite the fact that they make up less than 40% of the country's population currently. An official census has not been taken since 1932 for political reasons but population growth figures have allowed for rough estimates of Lebanon's sectarian divisions.

Thousands of protestors have remained camped out in and around downtown Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square since the protest rally last Friday. One protestor, 20-year-old 'Ali Ahmad Mahmoud, a supporter of the largely secular Shi'i AMAL party led by the speaker of the parliament, Nabih Berri, was killed in clashes on Sunday with Sunni supporters of Saad Hariri's Future movement, after the later confronted AMAL and Hizbu'llah supporters walking through their neighborhood and shots were fired by still unknown parties. Future movement members have blamed Syrian agitators for the violence but reports on al-Manar, Hizbu'llah's television station, recently broadcast video of what are alleged to be Future movement supporters opening fire on National Opposition supporters returning from a rally.
PHOTO: (from left) AMAL leader Nabih Berri, Saad Hariri, and Shaykh Nasrallah.

For this report on the fight that resulted in 'Ali Ahmad Mahmoud's death, see:

Mahmoud was buried on Tuesday amongst throngs of Shi'i National Opposition supporters. "We present the martyr as a sacrifice for Lebanon`s national unity," said Shaykh 'Abd al-Amir Qabalan, interim head of the Higher Shi'i Council. "It is forbidden for Shiites to kill Sunnis, for Sunnis to kill Shiites, for Christians to kill Muslims and vice-versa."

"We reject any division between Muslims, Shiite and Sunni, or between Muslims and Christians," said Qabalan. "Why disagree when our blood was united in the war against Israel, and against the threat of Israel? Why after Lebanon emerged victorious over Israel and united in the face of threats? Why do these distinctions still live?"

Mahmoud's death, allegedly at the hands of Sunnis, has fueled fears of a dangerous escalation in Lebanon's recent political crisis in which a rejuvenated Hizbu'llah along with its secular Shi'i ally AMAL and Christian ally Aoun are seeking a greater role in the country's government. Prime Minister Siniora, Hariri, and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt [right] claim that the National Opposition protests are a front for Syria and Iran. The National Opposition alleges that Siniora and his allies are little more than Western stooges. Unquestionably the so-called "Cedar Revolution" that forced Syria to withdraw its forces, which remained with the blessing of the U.N. in 1989 after the signing of the Ta'if Accords that ended Lebanon's civil war. Syrian forces had initially entered Lebanon in 1976 with the tacit blessing of the Arab League and the United States.

Despite claims by Siniora that his coalition represents the majority of Lebanese, according to recent data, the Shi'a make up roughly 40-50% of the country's population and the vast majority of them are supporters of either Hizbu'llah or AMAL. Sunnis (20-25%) tend to support either Siniora or Saad Hariri's Future movement while the Druze (5%) almost unanimously support Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party.

Christians (30% of the population), who are divided into numerous sects with the Maronites being the largest (20%), are politically fragmented. Aoun, the most powerful Maronite leader, signed an agreement of understanding with Hizbu'llah several months ago despite his history of being anti-Syrian. Samir Geagea [left], the leader of the militant Maronite Lebanese Forces, is vehemently anti-Syrian and anti-Hizbu'llah and AMAL. He was imprisoned during the summer of 2005 after being imprisoned since 1994 for his role in the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987. Supporters of Aoun and Geagea have been engaged in verbal arguments since last Friday's demonstrations [bottom left and right.]

For more information on 'Ali Mahmoud's funeral and it's aftermath, see:

The Peninsula, an English-language daily newspaper in Qatar, is reporting that the National Opposition is planning to call for a new mass rally this Sunday though no reports have appeared on Hizbu'llah's web site yet.
For The Peninsula report, see:

No comments: