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The Threat to Lebanon By: Dr. Joseph Hitti
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Tehran issued its orders yesterday to its proxies in Baghdad and Beirut. Muqtada Al-Sadr in Baghdad declared war on the American occupation and called on his Sunni brethren of Al-Qaeda to join forces with him to fight the US occupation. In Beirut, at exactly the same time, Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah issued identical warnings to the Lebanese army not to enter the fortified camp where Sunni Al-Qaeda-affiliated Fatah Al-Islam terrorists are holed up. Nasrallah also wants an “investigation” into why the Lebanese army was receiving weapons shipment from the Americans.

This is an ominous threat. Hezbollah’s stupid venture last summer against Israel cost the Lebanese dearly and cost Hezbollah a lot of support among the Lebanese. With another similar venture against Israel now impossible for fear of another round of Israeli bombardments and with a sea of international and Lebanese troops patrolling the Lebanese south, Hezbollah has no option but to turn away from liberating Palestine in south Lebanon and focus on toppling the Lebanese government, with the help of its ally, the Free Patriotic Movement of Michel Aoun. But after six months in the streets, they have failed at achieving that goal. Now the Nahr Al-Bared events have given Nasrallah a new chance to salvage his fast disappearing raison d’etre and to recover some relevance. As he waited for Tehran to tell him what to do, he gave only lukewarm support to the Lebanese army.

Nasrallah finally received his marching orders from Iran yesterday, like Muqtada Al-Sadr in Baghdad, and these orders coincide with Tehran’s ratcheting up its anti-U.S. escalation by imprisoning Iranian-Americans visiting their country of origin. Lest there be any skeptics who still don’t believe that Hezbollah is 100 percent acting as an agent for Tehran, this is what Nasrallah’s deputy Naim Qassem said a few days ago (Al-Kawthar TV, April 16, 2007 [Translated by MEMRI TV]):

Hizbullah, when it comes to matters of jurisprudence pertaining to its general direction, as well as to its Jihad direction, based itself on the decisions of the Jurisprudent [i.e., the Iranian Mullahs]. It is the Jurisprudent who permits, and it is the Jurisprudent who forbids. When the resistance of Hizbullah was launched in 1982, it was based on the jurisprudent position and decision of Imam Khomeini, who deemed fighting Israel to be an obligation, and therefore, we adhered to this opinion. […] Therefore, we covered our Jihad position with regard to fighting Israel with the decision of the Jurisprudent. With regard to all the other details – whenever we need jurisprudent clarifications regarding what is permitted and what is forbidden on the Jihad front, we ask, receive general answers, and implement them. Even with regard to martyrdom operations – a person cannot kill himself unless he has jurisprudent permission. Since, as a Shura council, we have the authority to make decisions on martyrdom operations, and then there are operative channels to carry this out... Let's assume that some Lebanese citizen gets it into his head to carry out a martyrdom operation without consulting anybody - it is not certain that he is carrying out his duty according to religious law. He might be committing a sin, because despite the sanctity attributed to an act of such a high level, it requires permission, it requires operative channels, and it requires someone who can evaluate whether this is good or not, because lives are at stake. Even with regard to the firing of missiles on Israeli citizens, […] even that required general permission based on Islamic law. As for Hizbullah, it receives general permission from the Jurisprudent.

It was ironic to hear Hezbollah’s strongman Nasrallah asking his audience yesterday: "Are you willing to fight the wars of others inside Lebanon?", accusing the Lebanese army and government of fighting the anti-terror war on behalf of the Americans, while he himself has in fact been fighting the wars of Syria and Iran with Lebanese blood and on Lebanese soil for 25 years.

As we noted yesterday in our daily news analysis:

“The silence of Hezbollah over the Nahr Al-Bared events […] indicates the conflict and division within the pro-Iranian terrorist organization that these events are causing. On one hand, Hezbollah has to appear supportive of Lebanese sovereignty and institutions in the eyes of the Lebanese people (about whom Hezbollah could not care less but on which it is counting to seize power), but most importantly for Hezbollah’s ideological foundations it cannot appear to support a strong Lebanese army taking on a group like Fatah Al-Islam because:

1. Like Hezbollah, Fatah Al-Islam is a fundamentalist Islamic organization challenging Lebanese sovereignty

2. Like Hezbollah, Fatah Al-Islam is an ally of Syria armed and funded by it (with Iran as the paymaster)

3. Like Hezbollah, Fatah Al-Islam is supposed to be liberating Palestine. How can Hezbollah which wants to liberate Palestine in spite of the Palestinian themselves, support a crackdown by the Lebanese government on Palestinian movements?

4. Paradoxically, Hezbollah and its allies of Gen. Michel Aoun’s FPM, have raised the threat of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism as more dangerous to Lebanon than Hezbollah’s Iranian Shiite brand of fundamentalism, as a way to justify not disarming Hezbollah as mandated by the Lebanese constitution, several UN resolutions, and the Taef Accord of 1989.”

The ominous threat implicit in this newly stated position by Nasrallah is that he might – in an act of collective suicide – take on the Lebanese army. It is the only military power that stands in his way to seize control of the country and turn it into the Islamic Republic of Lebanon. Last summer, he said the Lebanese army is “incapable of defending Lebanon”. He has been issuing warnings to the UNIFIL forces in the south. Any semblance of victory by the Lebanese army against the challenge posed by Fatah Al-Islam is a bad omen for Nasrallah’s free-running mini-empire inside the country because he can no longer say that the Army is “incapable”, which means he may have to declare bankruptcy and go home. In addition, and from the Israeli perspective, Nasrallah is a dead man walking. Add to this an increased international isolation of Syria and Iran, and Nasrallah’s future look quite bleak.

Now the other cracks developing in the Lebanese picture have to with General Aoun who has been Hezbollah’s foremost ally in the “opposition”. Not only has Aoun now diverged significantly from Nasrallah on the issue of the International Tribunal, but Aoun’s roots and popularity are 100% invested in the Lebanese army which he led in the 1980s. Therefore Nasrallah’s threats against the army are discordant with Aoun’s apparent unwavering support to the army.

Last week and before the Nahr Al-Bared battle, we wrote an opinion in which we called on Aoun to declare his divorce from Hezbollah because there had been too many cracks in the love affair between him and Nasrallah, and the wedding barrel’s thin layer of honey has all but disappeared, leaving beneath it several feet of the other stuff that often is the substance of such alliances. Now the warning and threats to the army are, in principle, untenable for Aoun and should speed up the divorce we called for. The Lebanese army is the only multi-confessional institution that holds the country together. When Hezbollah’s warning to the army not to enter the Nahr Al-Bared camp is juxtaposed with the government’s determination to “finally get the job done: the terrorists will either surrender or die”, the stakes are very high indeed and General Aoun’s popularity is likely to vanish if he continues to stand behind Nasrallah against the army. It is time for tough decisions. Indeed, this might be the fig leaf that Aoun has been waiting for to extricate himself honorably from his sticky alliance with Hezbollah.


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