Sunday, January 01, 2006
Khaddam’s defection increases Hizbullah’s isolation
Al-Seyassah published an article recently claiming that Hizbullah went against Syria’s advice of forming an alliance with Michel Aoun during the election, opting instead to ally itself with Jumblatt and Hariri in Baabda-Aley, where a Hizbullah-Aoun ticket could have weakened the Jumblatt-backed list. Hizbullah reportedly followed Iranian advice to secure backing and legitimacy from an alliance with other Muslim parties in the country, so as not to appear as a lone Shia party running against the rest of the Muslims in the country. With the Sunni support, the party’s activities appear more legitimate in the eyes of Lebanese and, more importantly, other Sunnis in the region. I don’t think Ahmadinejad will or can push Hizbullah into abandoning this strategy. For the street-sweeper Iranian president himself is busy building pan-Islamic support by pandering to the Sunni-based anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiments in the region. Despite what Iran’s role in Iraq might imply, the Islamic republic and its Lebanon-based militia need the Sunnis to justify and support their anti-Israeli and anti-American policies.
For that I doubt that Hizbullah can continue suppressing its Lebanese dimension without incurring serious political damage. Jumblatt and more importantly Saad Hariri, realizing that Hizbullah is constantly using their political alliance against them, have now asked Nasrallah to make a choice between Lebanon and Syria. This means Hizbullah can no longer obstruct cabinet decisions and aid the Syrian destabilization campaign by playing the “consensus” card.
Hizbullah now is more isolated than ever. It can no longer hope to cow the majority through intimidation and escalation of the Shebaa front. Any unilateral attack on Israel will now be widely condemned in Lebanon. With the Syrian regime bombing campaign in high gear, Hizbullah can no longer convincingly justify its support for a regime that wants to kill and terrorize Lebanese people. Through their increasingly vocal anti-Syrian stances, Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt have created a treason cloud over Hizbullah. Walid Jumblatt is now openly calling on it to Lebanonize itself and its weapons. Marwan Hamade on Sunday said any military escalation in the south would be seen as a part of the Syrian attempt to destabilize the country.
The “Party of God” can turn to Aoun, but I am not sure how far Aoun can go with it without alienating his base and further angering the US, France and Saudi Arabia. A long-term FPM-Hizbullah alliance is unmanageable, and in any case, Hizbullah cannot hope to manipulate it much. Strategically, I think Jumblatt and Hariri are better natural allies for Hizbullah, something the party’s leadership knows very well.
Khaddam’s recent defection has strengthened the Hariri-Jumblatt camp. His endorsement of the Hariri investigation will weaken Hizbullah’s argument against an international tribunal. I expect it to also put a strain on the Hizbullah-Amal “alliance”, if one can call it that. I do not want to be in Nabih Berri’s shoes right now. I think we will see further efforts by the parliament speaker to resolve the cabinet crisis. After’s Khaddam’s accusations, Berri should be praying for a way to send his ministers back into the cabinet without suffering political decapitation at the hands of Hassan Nasrallah. His membership in Bashar’s Lebanese circle is at best opportunistic and pragmatic. It remains to be seen how much longer he can pretend to be a “Basharite” in order to save himself from political irrelevance. I think Berri should seize this historic opportunity to lead some of the Shia away from Syria’s “lap”, and back into secular/sectarian politics (as opposed to religious).
Khaddam’s defection made it clear that to the Syrian regime, eliminating Hariri was domestic policy, part of Bashar’s coming of age as a dictator. After all, to the Assad family, Lebanon is a province and not a separate country. Some reports suggest that Khaddam coordinated his bombshell with other figures some of whom are still in Syria. We could very well see a similar surprise from former Syrian army chief of staff Hikmat al-Shihabi. It is hard to tell at this point how this is really playing in Syria. Ammar Abdulhamid downplayed its effect on the Syrian regime. Anton Effendi saw it as an indication of a power struggle over Lebanon between Damascus and Saudi Arabia, among other things. Regardless, the effect on local Lebanese politics is empowerment of the fractured anti-Syrian camp, which, and for the first time since Hariri’s assassination, is finally putting pressure on Syria’s most prominent ally, Hizbullah.
With the US reportedly moving to propose a resolution specifically condemning it, Hizbulllah has two options: work it out with Hariri and Jumblatt, or go to war. Stonewalling is no longer allowed.
Kais, technically, you need 2/3 of the cabinet in order to change the electoral law. So HA and Lahoud can block any modification of the law.
Another wrong assumption made by HA is that Aoun is stronger than the LF. They forget that :
1°Geagea was in prison at the time which gave a great advantage to Aoun
2°That the LF were reduced to an FM proxy because they had to align completely with the FM in order to secure Geagea's liberation. The resulat was a sectarian shockwave in the Christian community: a lot of Christians got afraid and voted Aoun because they thought that the LF were too dependent on the FM. This will not happen twice since Geagea is out and the LF or autonomous now.
3°Aoun will never ally to the Hezbollah if it means bringing Syria back or creating a civil war in the country.
"Kais, technically, you need 2/3 of the cabinet in order to change the electoral law. So HA and Lahoud can block any modification of the law.
Unless you get Amal on your side of course. In exchange for a favourable electoral law and an electoral alliance Berri might change his side.
HA has gambled on the Syrian influence in Lebanon to help it oppose and eventually dismiss 1559. All the recent developments point in the opposite direction. The international community is adamant about full implimentation of 1559 and HA is running out of excusese to justify demilitarization.HA must be seen as it is , a tool to serve the foreign policy objectives of other states in the region.
Yes Kais , whatever weakens the Assad position will increase the HA isolation because they had very few allies to start with. The Syrian Ba'ath will be increasingly under pressure as a result of the Khaddam defection and the continuing UN investigations. Ahmadinajad is currently the last remaining hurdle in the demilitarization of HA.
Secondly, and add this to the change in electoral law, it's not quite sure what Aoun's popularity will be this time around. It will certainly remain high, but a lot of the elements that gave him that extra representation are gone now. This is not to say that he won't be able to inflict damage, or gain a wide chunk of votes, but, e.g., I don't think the LF votes he got last time will be so secure next time.
In many ways the Aoun situation is a major disappointment from both sides. The narrow-minded, short-sided conniving of the QS-Jumblat in order to undercut him, and his own inability to get over it and maneuver more wisely, especially after the Tueni murder when he had a golden opportunity.
But to conclude, on the HA issue, he will not be in agreement with them on the issue that matters most to them.
Khaddam implicates Hizbollah in some of the killings that took place lately in Lebanon.
Siyassa think that S Hariri was afraid that such a scoop would take the focus from
his dad's murder.
I don't know how true the story is.I honestly hope it is not.