As I predicted back in May during Hizbullah’s ‘takeover’ of parts of Beirut, the ever flexible Junblatt is already busy taking his next sharp political curb, switching his allegiance from the quickly disintegrating M14 block to the new winners – he announced today he wants to make up with Talal Arslan, who is allied with Hizbullah and the opposition. The Junblatts and Arslans, by the way, are the two feudal landowner families who have been fighting each other over the leadership of the druze population since the late 1600s or so. Suddenly, Junblatt ‘also saw that it is the state’s right to “use any peaceful or military means” to liberate Shebaa Farms, stressing that the Israeli-occupied area “is Lebanese.”‘ Junblatt is easily the most astute and farsighted of Lebanese political leaders, and as the leader of a small minority group is always careful to get on the winning side, whichever that may be. His positions and switches are usually reliable indications of what’s actually happening or about to happen. No doubt, Sarkozy’s recent rehabilitation of Bashar Assad on the international diplomatic scene is what gave Junblatt the final confirmation that switching time is here again.
Meanwhile, fresh president Suleiman is trying to reunite the christians, preparing a meeting at Baabda (the presidential palace) between Gemayyel (Phalanges, or what’s left of them), Franjieh (Marada, a small christian party allied with the opposition), Geagea (Lebanese Forces) and Aoun. Whether it is actually in the political interest of the Lebanese christians to be united in one block is a debatable question – right now (as this recent analysis by the International Crisis Group points out) they are ‘straddling the fence’ with the ability to decide the balance between ‘opposition’ and ‘government’ power. Their ‘divided’ condition (which is a rather strange thing to lament from a democratic point of view anyway – why should any group of people collectively agree on everything, let alone polirical matters, just because they have the same religion?) has in May moreover spared them from getting involved in any of the military action – Hizbullah and its fighting allies (Amal and SSNP, the latter a secular party but with a large christian base themselves) were very careful not to take over any majority christian areas, as they are mostly divided between opposition (Aoun) and government (Lebanese Forces/Phalanges) supporters. Hizbullah also knows that the Lebanese Froces are the one militia that could put up some serious military resistance – or at least they would be able to if most of their seasoned veterans weren’t working as mercenaries for the US army in Iraq, as is frequently rumoured).
In other news, it is reported that a Syrian general, who was a ‘liaison officer with Hizbullah’ has been found dead.