6:12 PM, Aug 25, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
Over the weekend, thousands of Lebanese took to the streets to protest against their country’s corrupt political culture. The immediate cause of their concern, and anger, is that the country’s garbage has not been collected for a month and has come to pose, as Lebanon’s health minister warned, a “health disaster.” More generally then, the protests were directed at Lebanon’s political class and most of the country’s leadership, including Prime Minister Tammam Salam. Even after the violence that killed one demonstrator and injured many more, some observers are now hopeful that this growing protest movement (aptly named “You Stink”) might kick off a genuine revolution against the Lebanese political system and bring real democracy to the jewel of the Levant.
Tragically, this is not the case. In reality, the “You Stink” movement is conclusive evidence that for the majority of Lebanese, law-abiding and freedom-loving, their situation is hopeless.
The protests against Lebanon’s political class began in earnest and were quickly overtaken by proxy forces acting on behalf of a few very prominent members of that political class. Photographs show the political affiliations of the thugs sent to the streets to cause mayhem—tattoos and other markers identify them as members or allies of Hezbollah and Amal, the party of God’s sometime Shiite partner and frequent rival for communal favor. Some are saying that followers of Hezbollah’s Christian ally Michel Aoun joined Hezbollah and Amal to attack the army and security forces, who then escalated by opening fire—rubber bullets and also it seems live ammunition—on unarmed civilians. Hence the protest organizers, fearing more bloodshed, have decided to postpone future demonstrations, at least for the time being.
In the aftermath, it’s hard to piece together exactly what happened. Why for instance would Hezbollah send its followers to the streets to attack an army that it controls and has enlisted in its sectarian war against Sunni fighters? Some speculate that Hezbollah wants to topple the government, or that it wants to block certain political appointments. Other interpretations are even more elaborate: some are saying, for instance, that Aoun is mad at Amal chief Nabih Berri because he openly rejected Aoun’s presidential bid. Then Aoun went after the army because the commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces hates him, and he hates him in exchange. Hezbollah lent some token support to Aoun because—well, why not? It costs them nothing because they know that it’s irrelevant.
In other words, it doesn’t really matter why thugs were sent because, well, that’s Lebanese politics—petty and pathetic. Which is to say that the premise of “You Stink” is right on the mark: Lebanon’s political class is venal and corrupt and that’s why they regularly put innocent Lebanese in the middle of their mafia feuds.
But the other reason that it doesn’t really matter is because the premise of the “You Stink” movement is missing the point entirely, because the real problem with Lebanon isn’t the country’s craven politicians. Indeed, it was the 800-lb. gorilla himself who reminded everyone last weekend that the real problem with the country is the well-armed terrorist organization that serves as Iran’s praetorian guard on the eastern Mediterranean. The problem is Hezbollah. Everything else pales in comparison.
When critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action explain that Iran will use the cash windfall from its multi-billion dollar signing bonus to assist its allies, we tend to emphasize that the money will buy more weapons for Iran’s regional proxies. That’s of course true, but in the case of Hezbollah, the money will also be lavished on a Shiite constituency that is very anxious about its central role in the Syrian conflict.
Killing Samir Kuntar.8:04 PM, Jul 29, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
Israeli media is reporting that an IAF strike on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border
10:20 AM, Jun 23, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
In response to yesterday’s Bloomberg View report that Iran’s forces and the United States share bases in Iraq, Senator Tom Cotton has issued a strong
3:45 PM, Jun 17, 2015 • By LEE SMITH
Immediately after the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship Tuesday night with a 105-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the commentators asked Golden State coach Steve Kerr who he was thinking about. “Lute Olson,” said Kerr, referring to the legendary University of Arizona coach whom Kerr played for in the mid-80s.
Unfortunately, they're right.3:37 PM, May 6, 2015 • By TONY BADRAN
Last week, the Israeli Air Force struck a cache of long-range missiles belonging to Hezbollah and put the Shia militia on notice.
A better way forward in the Middle East.Apr 20, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 30 • By MAX BOOT and MICHAEL DORAN
The ouster of ISIS fighters from Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, has been widely celebrated. Although this victory was brought about in no small part by American airpower, it was a triumph for Iran more than for the United States. The vast majority of fighters on the front lines belonged to Shiite militias, many of them trained, equipped, and advised by the Iranians. Their de facto commander is Gen. Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s Quds Force, which is charged with exporting the Iranian revolution.
Is Iran’s Lebanese client losing its grip? Feb 2, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 20 • By LEE SMITH
Last week Hezbollah buried one of its princes, Jihad Mughniyeh, the 22-year-old son of the late Imad Mughniyeh, a legendary Hezbollah commander implicated in such infamous operations as the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. The assassination
12:10 PM, Oct 10, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Experts continue to debate whether the explosion at an Iranian military base at Parchin earlier in the week was an act of sabotage.
The tunnels of Hamas and Hezbollah.Aug 4, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 44 • By LEE SMITH
During the first two weeks of the Gaza conflict, Hamas landed at least two significant punches. In firing missiles at Ben Gurion Airport, Hamas convinced the Federal Aviation Authority and European air carriers to temporarily suspend flights to Israel. The fact that relatively primitive rockets falling far short of their targets are nonetheless capable of at least briefly severing an advanced Western democracy with a leading tech economy from the rest of the world is a psychological blow.
Jun 2, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 36 • By LEE SMITH
Last month the president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition went to the White House. Ahmad Jarba and the Syrian rebels want American weapons, in particular the shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles that might neutralize Bashar al-Assad’s air force and stop it from dropping barrel bombs loaded with chlorine gas canisters. What Jarba got instead was a handshake and platitudes.
Talking to Matthew Levitt about his new book 'Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.'1:19 PM, Feb 13, 2014 • By LEE SMITH
Six years ago Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated when the headrest in his car was detonated in Damascus. While Israeli intelligence neither denies nor confirms its involvement, the Mossad is generally believed to have been responsible for his death. And yet there is no shortage of Western as well as Arab intelligence services that wanted Mughniyeh dead—including the CIA, whose station chief William Buckley Hezbollah abducted, tortured and killed in 1985. Moreover, Mughniyeh was responsible for the April 1983 bombing of the American embassy in Beirut that killed 17 Americans, and the Marines barracks bombing in October of that year that killed 244 American marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen. As founder and director of Hezbollah’s terrorism apparatus, Mughniyeh left a long wake of blood across the world. And even six years after his death, Mughniyeh’s legacy of terror lives on, as Hezbollah has recently plotted operations on several continents, including Europe, Asia and Africa.
Why Hezbollah is fighting alongside Bashar al-Assad—and almost didn’t.3:58 PM, Feb 12, 2014 • By MATTHEW LEVITT
Remember a few years ago when Iranian officials had to intervene to prevent Hezbollah gunmen from turning on their Syrian patrons? Few people do. Today, the "axis of resistance" is as strong as ever, with Iran and Hezbollah fully committed to fighting for the survival of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, despite battlefield losses and the political costs of siding with a brutal dictator who gasses and bombs his own people.