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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Who is allowing Hizbullah become Lebanon's Basij?

Hizbullah has colossal powers in Lebanon. It is a militia with growing political authority. By allowing it to keep its arms, the Lebanese political leaders, many of whom claim to be anti-military, don't see the dangers in letting a group carry arms and play politics at the same time. Those leaders are helping Hizbullah become the equivalent of Iran's Basij militia, a nine million-strong group controlled by the revolutionary guards that "helped" Ahmadinejad reach the presidency.

Basij is everywhere in Iran, in mosques, schools and government institutions. Just like Hizbullah, they claim to represent the Shia and have enough followers to back that claim. Their legitimacy comes from the Iranian constitution and the constant support of the Iranian government. Even reformist President Mohammad Khatami would often say that there is no "reconstruction" in Iran without Basij.

Basij is a paramilitary group composed of "volunteers" that was founded in the 80s during the Iran-Iraq war. Their role evolved through the years from defending Iran against external threats, which at the time meant Iraq, to guardians of the clerical regime. Although the constitution bars them from interfering in politics, they have been doing so more these days, and it is believed that Ahmadinejad, a former revolutionary guard, "won" the presidential election with their "support" on the ground. The militia is widely feared, and they are now being used by the revolutionary guards to silence reformist and quell student protests. Their authority is being expanded to include police and enforcing Islamic codes. The head of the Guardians council yesterday even gave them the credit for "winning" the fight against the International Atomic Energy Agency. In other words, this small militia has become a tool to maintain a fundamentalist regime and silence dissenters.

Hizbullah, which has many links to Basij and is believed to be hosting some of them in Lebanon, is also a militia on a defense mission, among other goals. Following Khomeini's heretical Wilayat al-Faqih, which transferred the powers of the occulted Imam to the temporal authority embodied by the supreme leader, it was able to challenge the traditionally apolitical Shia religious authorities and legitimize its pursuit of power.

Although Hizbullah's "pragmatism" is often highlighted by certain "experts", much of it comes from the flexibility of Shia Islam, and in Hizbullah's case, it has only allowed the party to adapt to changing circumstances without any significant change in the party's ideology and long-term aim to create an Islamic order in Lebanon modeled after Iran. So while most Shia await the return of the Mahdi, Hizbullah's Shias are also waiting and working towards for the Islamic order.

In the 1990s we were asked to view them solely through the resistance prism. Nobody paid attention to what Hizbullah was creating in the towns it controlled: a mini-Islamic order. This isn't freedom of religion, this is oppression of an extremely moldable community with a history of persecution and neglect by the government and its self-appointed leaders. Hizbullah found it easy to fill the vacuum in those areas and lure some of the disenchanted youth into its ranks (I should add Hizbullah was very "generous", thanks to Iranian funding).

Removing the feudal lords and the Syrian puppet Nabih Berri was not difficult, because deep down the Shia of Lebanon are not great fans of the Syrian regime, and for a long time, neither was Hizbullah. The Shia of Lebanon have long been the most undereducated of the sects, and their leaders liked to keep them that way. Former parliament speaker Kamel al-As'ad would often joke that educating his son was enough for the entire community.

When in the 1980s Hizbullah fought its way to power, many, including yours truly, viewed them as a dark force destroying everything in sight. My Beirut neighbourhood was traditionally split between Amal and the PSP, whose members often clashed and used our 1st floor balcony to shoot at one another. During the Amal-Hizbullah conflict, we had members of the same Shia family fighting one another in the street, something that at the time struck me as surreal. For many of us, who weren't exactly Amal supporters (who really liked those militias except those who profited from them?), Hizbullah was like an unstoppable plague. We had to wait for the Syrian army to come in and stop the fighting and help draw the ridiculous borders within the Shia community, which forced people to either choose between two evils or find a Sunni leader to follow. Many of Hariri's supporters are Shia.

Coming back to my point, Hizbullah's militancy mode allowed it to defeat Israel in the south and at the same time consolidate its power in the community and the country. With the Israelis gone, their "militant mode" lost its legitimacy. But Hizbullah continues to be a paramilitary group that applies Islamic laws in the areas where it has deligitimized traditional Shia Islam and state institutions. After Hariri's assassination, Hizbullah asserted itself as major player on the Lebanese scene that can be ignored at one's own peril.

In the 1990s, Syria kept Hizbullah alive to proxy-fight Israel in the south. The party was allowed to run in parliamentary and municipal elections, which legitimized and expanded its control over many Lebanese towns and cities. Many in Lebanon and the Arab world like to sing the song of the people's legitimate right to resist occupation. They then stupidly remind Europeans about the French resistance and so on. In their excitement (I should add ignorance), they overlook the dangers of letting your resistance fighters run in elections and reach power. With many Arab countries living under military regimes, the concept of banning the military from politics is probably alien to those Arabs.

In Lebanon, where people go out of their way in saying the army should be shielded from politics, a militia that is doing an army's job is allowed to field candidates and deligitimize state institutions. You can blame the Syrians for this, but the Lebanese are also to blame, as Mustapha pointed out in his response to my Naharnet post.

To give you an example, let's look at Jumblatt's latest interview in al-Shiraa. Now this is a man who says he is fiercely opposed to military men becoming officials or interfering in politics:
Hizbullah is the guarantee of national unity and Arabism in the confrontation
with Israel. It is silly to say that operations should be sanctioned by
the cabinet… Hizbullah is part of the military and political defense system.
This is rubbish, of course. Unfortunately, it is also not far from the public Hariri line, though the Harirists often add "disarming Hizbullah is an internal matter."

If we want to resist this alleged Israeli "occupation", then we should either let the army take care of it, or, if we must use another group, strip the resistance group of any political power. You cannot delegate that duty to what is essentially now a political party with a set ideology to transform the country. If that's what the parliament's majority wants, then they should push for a constitutional amendment delegating defense matters to a militia. Of course they would never do that, and Hizbullah would never agree, because that would force them to give up political power in the absence of a supportive clerical regime. In fact, Hizbullah derives its legitimacy from its fight against Israel—any resolution of the Arab Israeli conflict, including a deal with Syria, would threaten Hizbullah's political force in Lebanon.

Because a militia is allowed to freely roam the political scene, Hizbullah can bully and veto anything they want. Nobody dares run against them in elections. Everybody, from Aoun to Jumblatt and Hariri seek their approvals on everything. This is democracy? No political party now can even entertain the idea of openly opposing them without looking like traitors. Hizbullah, in fact, has more political freedom than all other groups in Lebanon. They can criticize whomever they want, but nobody dares criticize them because they are the "resistance." They are on the road to becoming Lebanon's Basij, half powered by other countries, and half by an ideology that seeks to install an alien order in Lebanon. And the Lebanese "leaders" are helping them become it.

Hizbullah is also destroying the Shia community in Lebanon. Nabih Berri is utterly useless. The community needs new faces, but that won't happen with the current system allowing Hizbullah to be a seperate "state and army" within a state with no effective army.

There was someone who planned to run in the elections this year, but was accused of being funded by CIA. That's part of the power they have.

So what solutions can we begin working for in order to mold the current system into something more constructive?
Who indeed?

The politicians, the press, the people (shia and others). In other words "we" the Lebanese.

Joumblatt is but one, though very important, example.

Saniora is another.

Excellent post!

You seem skeptical about Shia creating independent political parties. There is definitely room for a Shia Hariri. Why have none emerged? It's not for lack of money.

In 2003/4 there was much talk about Jamil as-Sayyed replacing Berri. Berri's major fear at the time was of as-Sayyed wiping out his political organization and power. Supposedly, Bashar was tired with Berri and saw as-Sayyed as a more powerful person to assert Syrian control.

Some Amal members have privately said that Berri's tactical moves to maintain his own poer are the real reason Syria is gone today. If as-Sayyed had come to power, history would have been much different.

Berri currently has a monopoly on state jobs. There are many Shia in powerful government positions, but Berri does not allow them to use their clout to gain influence. With Syria no longer running the show, that is likely to change.

I agree with you. But then how do ou think the Lebanese leaders ought to have dealt with HA? Do you remember the circumstances under which the opposition leaders had to compromise? Do you remeber the 8th of March? Speaking of compromises, one of the commentators on the article posted by Mustapha(The Lost Moral Compass)was wondering when did compromises start. Its not with HA that the first compromise was committed but whith not allowing Lahhoud's removal. I guess that was the first serious mistake of the series of mistakes to follow.
Who is allowing Hizbullah become Lebanon's Basij?

Excellent point Kais, how couldn't we see this earlier.
"Following Khomeini's heretical Wilayat al-Faqih, which transferred the powers of the occulted Imam to the temporal authority embodied by the supreme leader, it was able to challenge the traditionally apolitical Shia religious authorities and legitimize its pursuit of power."

Fadlallah is against wilayat el Faqih.

There is no consensus on this 'innovation' in Iran. Sistani and the Najaf 'pietist' school are rather hostile to it. Many observers have predicited that sooner or later, a clash between Najaf and Qom is going to occur on this issue.

Note the increasing tension between Moqtada al Sadr and the more reprsentative Iraqi Shia groups. Moqtada is an Iranian proxy who recognizes the Vilayat el Faqih, while the other Shia groups do not. It's not a coincidence that Hezbollah and Iran support Moqtada against the more representative Shia parties. The duodeciman Shias are deeply divided on this issue.

Vilayat el Faqeh is the basis of Khamenei's legitimacy. It was never that popular in Iran and was imposed on the Iranian clergy because by Khomeini's stature. If the role of Iran's guide is going to be openly contested by Iraq's ayatollahs, the legitimacy of the whole Iranian system could crumble. Therefore, it is not a surprise that Iran is pushing Sistani's opponents in the Shia community.
« It is not a surprise that Iran is pushing Sistani's opponents in the Shia community »

Yeah sure dude, it’s “no surprise”!!

As for the so-called “enemies of Al-Sadr and Hizbullah” whom you believe to be “independent-minded” Shiites led by the “pietist” [sic] Ayatollah Sistani, well has it ever occurred to you that the “peaceful pieta-worshiping” Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the “clerically enlightened” Al-Da’awa party are actually MORE fundamentally Iranophile than Al-Sadr himself?

But why bother with boring facts when you can get more colorful "information" on Shiite theology from Ghassan Tueyni and Jeff Ganon of Talon News fame- see link below:
"Hizbullah is the guarantee of national unity and Arabism in the confrontation
with Israel. It is silly to say that operations should be sanctioned by
the cabinet… Hizbullah is part of the military and political defense system. "

Did Jumblat say this before or after he changed his mind about HA?

Oh well, just forget that I asked that.
looks like hizb is becoming the next PLO in Lebanon. Recalcitrant, offensive, illegal, and a blatant "state within the state." The main ingredient in the 1975 War.
There is no room for a basij in Lebanon. It must be crushed! Hizballah CAN ONLY BE a political party!


If Hizballah envisions itself as such, I see no room for compromise with it.

H. O. W. do you suggest preventing the rule of Hezbollah?
perfect,.. someone posted it at FM forum under this thread:

but made a wrong link:-) there. I corrected it
Nobody paid attention to what Hizbullah was creating in the towns it controlled: a mini-Islamic order

Kais, where did you get that info from. Give me on proof and then the rest can be discussed; otherwise please try to verify your sources before posting. I am a lebanese southern shiite (secular) and from a village that you've put in the "hizbollah controlled" basket. What you've said is completly wrong. Beleive me my friend if Hizbollah created your "islamic order" in these villages, then the shiites would be the first to reject and dump hizbullah.
But who cares?! As long as hizbullah is attacked on a daily basis for a valid reason or just for a claim coming from the so-called 14-march bloggers, then it may not matter if we look like sheeps repeating hatred words just to sutisfy our secterianism!
You are kidding me, right?

Drive to any village in Iqlim al- tuffah or western bekaa, or you know what, try the southern suburb. In some of those areas where Hizbullah doesn’t share the stage with Amal, women wear the “shador” and are discouraged from mixing with men. Hizbullah there forcefully imposed Islamic law and seized Lebanese state institutions. If you don’t believe me, ask Sheikh Naim Qassem about Hizbullah’s court system. They have 3 regional courts headed by judges and 3 municipal courts headed by sheikhs to cover the areas of Beirut, the Beqaa and the south. They handle everything from minor disputes to personal status matters (and they don't recognize the official Jaafari court). And then you have the high court that has jurisdiction over matters like espionage and crimes committed against Hizbullah members. Hizbullah’s courts have sent hundreds to jail (Hizbullah jail) for violating the Islamic code, and in 1995, a teenage boy was tried and executed for committing murder. If you still don’t believe me, take your secular self and go speak to Professor Ahmad Nizar Hamzeh at AUB.

Now that you know, show us your muscles and go dump Hizbullah, since you seem to speak for all Shia, myself included. Sectarianism al. Ya 3ayb el-shoom, as we say.

Not at all, I am NOT kidding. Again, what you've said still doesn't make sense. We are not discussing Hizbullah's idealogy here. I do not agree to it, and I do not feel like I should prove my 'secularity' to you. But let me tell you:

First, you can't just collect bits from here and there of history and try make a conclusion. I am astonished how you throw the word 'force' so easily. Even if ten AUB professors told me that, I won't take it unless I am sure of it. Please ask someone living in da7yeh and He may lead you to realize your false perceptions.

Second, I was living in the southern suberbs up till the last year. What you say is again complete nonsense. If you want to attend some Hizbullah conference or activity, then yes, men and women are seperated and you have to follow that. But what is wrong in that as long as you go by yourself. If you don't want to be seperated don't go. Also, there too much girls that doesn't wear hijab (more than you would imagine) Just to say that they are forcing it, is a crazy idea (not to say a sign of ignorance). Do you really beleive that the people will accept it that easily without any complain? If you really believe all that sh*t then congrats, you are really becoming a 'true' american. And BTW, I have sisters and NOT all of them are wearing hijab!
Third, concerning the 1995 execution, I don't know about it, any references? I heard about something similar, not sure what year, but even that can't be put in that context. Also, don't you find it too purpose-defeating when many bloggers describe hizbullah as state-inside-a-state and resort to only these few hardly authentic claims?
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