|Hezbollah power play
By Sami Moubayed
DAMASCUS - In 1940, the Muslims of Lebanon complained that president Emile Edde
was treating them as second-class citizens. Reportedly, he replied
sarcastically to the complaint, saying: "Lebanon is a Christian country. Let
the Muslims go live in Mecca." Edde's words describe how hostile some
Christians were against the Muslims of Lebanon, and how much they wanted to rid
Lebanon of its Muslim community.
Less than 10 years later, in 1946, King Abdullah I of Jordan toyed with the
idea of uniting Syria and Jordan under his Hashemite crown in a scheme he
called "Greater Syria". He went on a regional tour to drum up support for his
plan, and in Lebanon met with the Maronite patriarch Antune Arida. The
patriarch made him an offer "he couldn't refuse": Maronite support for the
plan, but only if Abdullah would annex the Muslim territories of Lebanon to
This story, which will be criticized and questioned by many readers, can be
found in the memoirs of Prince Adil Arslan (pp 672-679, published in Beirut in
1983). He was a Lebanese Druze statesman who worked in Syria and became
minister of foreign affairs in 1949. The feeling of distrust and animosity was
mutual, of course, and reciprocated by the Muslims of Lebanon.
In 1976, tension between both parties escalated tremendously, and Syrian
president Hafez al-Assad intervened politically, before sending his troops into
Lebanon in May 1976, encouraging Lebanese president Sulayman Franjiyyieh to
issue a constitutional document giving the Muslims some key concessions they
had been demanding since the 1940s: equal representation in parliament, more
power and autonomy for the Sunni prime minister, who should be chosen by
parliament, and not by the Maronite president, equal access to top
civil-service jobs, and reference to Lebanon as an "Arab country".
The proposal was flatly turned down by the Muslims themselves, considering the
reforms too little and too late. When Assad met with Kamal Jumblatt for 12
stormy hours on March 27, 1976, he asked: "Why are you escalating the fighting?
The constitutional document gives you 95% of what you want. What else are you
after?" Jumblatt angrily replied that he wanted to get rid of the Christians
"who have been on top of us for 140 years".
This statement was published by British journalist Patrick Seale in his book Assad:
Struggle for the Middle East, based on an interview with none other
than Walid Jumblatt, who today is part of, and in effect leads, the
Christian-dominated opposition in Lebanon.
That in itself shows us how far Lebanon has come since 1976, and how muddled
and complex its politics remain. Of course, both the attitudes of Edde and
Jumblatt are unacceptable in a diverse and confessional nation like Lebanon.
One wonders, had Edde lived on (he died in 1949), what he would have said of
the more than half a million marchers, mainly Shi'ite, headed by a militant
Shi'ite cleric, on the streets of Beirut on March 8.
This is a Lebanon very different from the one he ruled in 1936-41, and in order
to move on with their lives, the Christians of Lebanon must realize that Edde's
Lebanon, sadly, no longer exists. This is a Lebanon, whether one likes it or
not, whose majority are Shi'ite, not Maronite. They are 40% of the population,
and contrary to what is being said, most of them are either members of
Hezbollah, or supporters of its secretary general, Hasan Nasrullah. It is a
reality - a sad reality, maybe, to some, but a reality nevertheless - than
everybody, President George W Bush included, should take into serious
consideration before drawing up plans for the Lebanese republic.
The Hezbollah demonstration was one of the largest in Lebanon's modern history.
Reassuring as it was to the Syrians and their allies in Lebanon, it was a
nightmare for most Christians. It showed the world that the Shi'ites have an
extraordinary organizational ability, are dedicated to a unity of purpose with
Syria, and opposed to Bush's Middle East agenda.
Within a flash, Nasrullah can cause havoc in Lebanon, yet he is too wise to do
that, and havoc among the Shi'ites of Lebanon would send emotions souring among
the Shi'ites of Iraq. Bush cannot afford upsetting the Shi'ites of Iraq, who
have played a crucial role in calming things down and keeping order in the
post-Saddam Hussein era.
Nasrullah was reminding the Americans, and the members of the opposition who
had been calling for the implementation of UN Resolution 1559 for the
withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, that the Shi'ites were still there,
still visible to the rest of the world, and that they were armed, and came in
The symbolism of the Hezbollah march was great. First, no Hezbollah flags were
carried, only flags of Lebanon, to show that the Shi'ites were committed to
Lebanon, and not, as their opponents claimed, to pan-Shi'ite loyalties that
include Iran, Iraq and Syria. Nasrullah's crowds met on the front lines that
separated the Lebanese during the civil war - on the actual location of the
trenches. He pointed out that this location had been destroyed by Israel in
1982, and by the Lebanese themselves during the fighting.
Nasrullah did not allow one person to carry a gun, to show how far his
followers had come from the 1970s, or fire one shot in the air, insisting that
it was a peaceful demonstration aimed only at showing the other side of
Lebanon, and thanking Syria.
It echoed the words of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on March 5, where while
speaking to Syrian parliament, he said that the anti-Syrian demonstrations were
focused on a few demonstrators that were zoomed on by TV cameras. The half
a million people that Nasrullah brought out in Beirut needed no zoom lens.
Cameras shot images at a distance, and all viewers could see were pro-Syrian
citizens in the horizon.
The Hezbollah demonstration worked, and it delivered the required message to
the US and the world. The New York Times reported that the United
States will deal with Hezbollah in a different manner after the massive
demonstration staged in Beirut. The newspaper said: "The [US] administration's
shift was described by American, European and United Nations officials as a
reluctant recognition that Hezbollah, besides having a militia and sponsoring
attacks on Israelis, is an enormous political force in Lebanon that could block
Western efforts to get Syria to withdraw its troops."
It quoted an official saying, "The administration has an absolute aversion to
admitting that Hezbollah has a role to play in Lebanon, but that is the path
we're going down." It added that it was "dangerous" to antagonize Hezbollah and
"wiser" to encourage the party to run candidates in Lebanese elections. The
European Union, however, held by its views as member states were asked to
restrict their activities with Hezbollah, and the European parliament labeled
it a "terrorist" organization with a majority of 473 against 33 votes.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried to maintain strong talk against
the Shi'ite guerrillas, but many viewed that as a media stunt, while Lebanon's
Daily Star wrote that "America's stance was softening" to avoid a crisis in
Lebanon. The Daily Star went on to quote one State Department official who
said, "Any party that can win public support democratically should play a role
in Lebanon's future as determined by the Lebanese people."
A spokesperson at the French Foreign Affairs Ministry said, "France's position
is clear and unchanged. We realize that Hezbollah is a very important element
of Lebanese political life and accordingly we refuse to include it to the list
of terrorist organizations, despite growing American and Israeli demands to do
so." She pointed out, "We are attached to the stability of Lebanon and we will
not take measures which will destabilize the country."
Dr Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst.
(Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us
for information on
sales, syndication and
All material on this
website is copyright and may not be republished in any form without written
© Copyright 1999 - 2005 Asia Times
Office: Rm 202, Hau Fook Mansion, No. 8 Hau Fook St., Kowloon, Hong
11/13 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Prachuab Kirikhan, Thailand 77110
Asian Sex Gazette Middle East Sex News