STL vs Hizbullah update

I have been too busy settling in Brussels and working to blog a lot lately, but things seem to be coming to a head in Beirut. A gynaecologist’s office seems to have been the symbolic battleground for the prevailing forces to finally meet out in the open. There is more and more talk of the ‘opposition’ M8 preparing to topple the government and perhaps repeat the May 2008 scenario – with results nobody could possibly predict. Rami Khoury wrote a lucid analysis of the situation in yesterday’s Daily Star, cutting straight to the essence of the problem: ‘Stripped to its core, this tension between Hizbullah and the STL is a microcosm of the overarching fact of the modern era in which Western-manufactured Arab statehood has generally failed to gain either real traction or sustained credibility; thus it has fallen on groups like Hizbullah to play a leading role in confronting Israeli and Western power in a manner that most Arab governments have been unable or unwilling to do. Therefore we live through this historic but frightening moment when a century of confrontation reaches a pivotal juncture: the collective will of the Western-dominated world (the Security Council-created STL) confronts the strong rejection and public resistance of the only Arab group (Hizbullah) that has forced an Israeli military withdrawal and confounded the Israeli armed forces, while transcending Arabism and Islamism, religiosity and secularism, Arabs and Iranians, Shiites and Sunnis, and assorted Lebanese Christians and Muslims.’

Angry Arab just returned from a visit to Lebanon and Syria and has this to report (in his usual off-hand stream-of-consciousness ranting style but also with his rare inside knowledge and understanding): ‘There is much nervousness about what is happening and what will happen.  It is all about the Hariri tribunal and its much anticipated–not by me–decision.  The US Middle East Zionist policy making apparatus is up in arms: because the March 14 movement is in such disarray.  Jeffrey Feltman foolishly assumed that his visit to Lebanon (in the wake of his visit to Saudi Arabia) will be sufficient to revive a corpse.  Feltman even thought he was being witty when he called on the Iranian president to learn from Lebanon’s “pluralism”.  I wonder if he dared to ask the Saudi Wahhabi king to learn from the pluralism of Lebanon too.  Feltman is furious at the transformation of Walid Jumblat: one of the most skillful–and most unprincipled–politicians in Lebanon.  His value is not so much in the size of his constituency which is very small, but in his abilities in political rhetoric and sloganeering.  The best gift that Hizbullah has ever attained–outside of Iranian support–is the stupidity of Sa`d Hariri.  This is the talk of the town.  You hear Sunnis and Shi`ites, pro-March 8 and pro-March 14 all talk about the stupidity of this lucky or unlucky man–depending on the outcome.  It is not that he has not shown any signs of progress or learning or even accumulated experience but he has squandered one political opportunity after another.  He is mocked widely for spending so much time outside of Lebanon.  He leaves for Al-Riyadh to receive orders form the Saudi King or his lieutenants at the drop of a hat.  He has even squandered his fortune in stupid business moves: he bought the share of his brother Baha’ only to lose much of it later.  But make no mistake about it: I learned that much of the Hariri expenditure in Lebanon is in fact Saudi money–and mostly from the budget of Prince Muqrin who may be replaced soon, probably by a son of Prince Salman.  There is so much going on in Lebanon: just like Lebanon in the 1950s, so many foreign and domestic intelligence services are in conflict in Lebanon.  This is a place infested with spies–not only Israelis.  I am told one of the spies for Israel (who has not been arrested for lack of evidence) is a high ranking Lebanese Army officers who was slated to succeed Jean Qahwaji as commander-in-chief (Qahwaji is bitterly anti-Israel and fiercely anti-Lebanese Forces.  He has sent a private message to Lebanese Forces that any attempt to “descend on the ground” will be met by force by the Army).’


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