The End of Hezbollah?
4:35 PM, Jan 25, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
Last week Tunisians deposed their president for life, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. So now we have the week of tear gas in the Middle East, with Arab security services and militaries pitted against their countrymen. In Egypt, riot police are firing tear gas at protesters, and the same is so in Algeria, where demonstrators are faced off against a regime that presided over a civil war costing the lives of a quarter million people. In Lebanon, where the Lebanese Armed Forces have used tear gas against demonstrators, it’s a little different. In Beirut and other cities the remnants of the March 14 pro-democracy movement have taken to the streets in a “Day of Rage” to protest what is essentially a coup d’etat engineered by a terrorist organization, Hezbollah.
Last week Hezbollah and its allies in Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unity government brought down Hariri when they resigned from the cabinet. Hariri refused to denounce the Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating the assassination of his father, the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which is expected to indict Hezbollah members for the February 2005 murder. Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare filed sealed indictments last Monday, due to be opened within the next few months, depending on whether Judge Daniel Fransen believes the prosecution has gathered enough evidence. Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah appears to believe they have, which is why he and his allies moved last week to bring down the government.
Hariri put himself forward to be renamed premier, but thanks to former March 14 figure Walid Jumblatt’s decision to align himself with the Islamic resistance, Hariri didn’t have enough votes. Instead, pro-Syrian politician Najib Mikati was named prime minister, sending enraged Sunnis to the streets in Beirut, Sidon, and Tripoli, Mikati’s hometown. It is not clear that Mikati understood what he was getting himself into.
The Lebanese prime minister is named from the Sunni ranks, which means that he must draw his legitimacy primarily from his own confessional sect. And yet Mikati is expected to run a government whose sole purpose right now is to trash the investigation into the murder of Lebanon’s late Sunni leader. In other words, it will be difficult to see Mikati as anything other than a collaborator with Rafiq Hariri’s Shia assassins, Hezbollah.
Sectarian tensions are running high in Lebanon, particularly in neighboring Sunni and Shia regions. Anti-Shia text messages have been circulating in the Sunni community, which will not soon forget the events of May 2008, when Hezbollah and its allies ran through West Beirut slaughtering Sunnis. To be sure, Hezbollah proved it could take Lebanon by force—and it also showed that Washington was not going to come to the aid of its March 14 allies—but in retrospect it may turn out to be one of the nails in the party’s coffin.
In Lebanon, every time a confessional sect tries to overextend its prerogatives at the expense of its neighbors, it pays the price. It happened to the Christians as well as the Sunnis and it will probably happen with the Shia as well. It is impossible not to fear for the fate of Lebanon’s large Shia community, which tied its fate to Hezbollah, and thus the Islamic Republic of Iran, an obscurantist clerical regime that imagined it could overturn 1400 years of Middle East history and triumph at last over the Sunnis. It is a story full of pathos, for in the end all Tehran had at its disposal was terror and a nuclear weapons program that could be derailed with a computer worm. What will happen to the Shia and who will protect them when Hezbollah is finished?
After all, the reason that Hezbollah fears the tribunal is because they understand that having been named guilty in the murder of a Sunni leader, they will have shown that they are not the Islamic resistance fighting the Zionist entity, but a sectarian project directed against the Sunnis. Their war against Israel was meant to earn them prestige in the great Sunni sea that has engulfed the Shia for more than a millennium. Now they have forfeited all that.
In the meantime, Lebanon is governed by a terrorist organization, which means that unlike Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran and Syria, the country is not merely a state sponsor of terror, but is an actual terrorist state, and one that will be in violation of several UN Security Council resolutions. Certainly Israel’s menu of targets will be much larger in the next round of hostilities with Hezbollah since the occluded cleric Hassan Nasrallah no longer has any state institutions to hide behind. Between Israel and their own countrymen Hezbollah will have little room to move, and that may well spell its end. As one anti-Hezbollah Shia activist once explained to me, “I saw the birth of Hezbollah so I know it will have an end as well.” In the coming months and years, Hezbollah may become stronger yet and enjoy some victories, but those will be temporary for what we are watching today in the streets of Lebanon is the beginning of Hezbollah’s end.