Demonstrations have been taking place all over Lebanon to protest the aggravated power cuts in the middle of a scorching heat wave. Tyres are burning, roads being blocked, people are suffering as if they lived in blockaded Gaza or US-occupied Iraq, and parliament and government do… nothing. That is right, not one emergency session or meaningful statement.
Meanwhile, the M14 politicians are insulting their own voters by trying to implicate the demonstrations are only ‘opposition’ ploys to discredit the government – conveniently forgetting the the ‘opposition’ is actually in the government of national unity, and also forgetting that they are not the ‘majority’ anymore.
The merciless heat and humidity seems to have driven some people crazy in poorer areas of Beirut last night, where a fight over a parking spot between a Hezbollah official and an Ahbash official turned into a night-long firefight involving RPGs and kalashnikovs, resulting in 3 dead (including the Hezbollah official) and untold damage to streets and homes in the area (Ras al-Nabah, Burj Abi Haidar, Basta and Nweiri neighbourhoods). Ahbash (which literally means ‘the Ethiopians’) is a fundamentalist sunni group which emerged in the eighties under the Syrian occupation, and was (is?) supported by Syria. They are part of the M8 coalition, i.e. allies of Hezbollah, which makes it unlikely that there was a political dimension to the fight. People fight about parking spaces all the time in overcrowded Beirut and the suffocating heat, aggravated by frequent power cuts, in combination with people being grumpy and hungry all day during the fasting month have been causing rising tensions and bad tempers all over the place. All you need to add is the circumstance that virtually everybody in Lebanon has at least a few kalashnikovs and some grenades in their house.
The fighting started during yet another Nasrallah speech, this one addressed to an all-women iftar meal (via a screen of course, mind you), in which he suggested Lebanon take Iran’s lead and build a nuclear power station to solve the problem of the power cuts – which, provocative as it is, is actually the first sensible suggestion from any Lebanese politician to solve the country’s perennial electricity shortage . He also suggested Lebanon’s army could call on Iran for its weapons, seeing as the pitiful leftovers they received from the US are now blocked and likely to be cut off entirely. The international media is dutifully reporting Nasrallah’s call, but bizarrely omitting the fact that president Suleiman has actually already officially requested Iran’s help in arming the LAF two days ago. (Then again, the only source for this report seems to be Iran’s state-owned PressTV). Whether Suleiman just intends to put pressure on US congress to rescind the blocking of military aid to Lebanon or actually pursues a serious change of policy remains to be seen, but the danger to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia in cutting off the military aid was of course always that Lebanon would turn to the other side for support. As usual, the US and Israel are shooting themselves in the foot with full enthusiasm.
Meanwhile, another spy for Israel has been arrested – this time an official of the ministry of telecommunications. It has transpired recently that during the July 2006 war, Israel only attacked antennas and stations of MTC (where no Israeli spies have been found – Alfa seems to have been infested by them), while leaving the Alfa installations intact. That should have rung some bells earlier, no?