Asharq Al-awsat English https://aawsat.com/english Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper http://feedly.com/icon.svg

The Lebanese Revolt Reignited by the Big Explosion

The Lebanese Revolt Reignited by the Big Explosion

Thursday, 13 August, 2020 - 10:15

As mass protests reappear in a deeply-wounded Beirut, "occupied Lebanon" moves ever closer to the danger zone. The fact of the matter, however, is that there is nothing new about the background of the massive security "earthquake" that shook Lebanon on Tuesday, August 4.


Neither the government has ever surprised the Lebanese people with its subservience, spitefulness, and inefficiency, nor Hezbollah – which is Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) arm in the Arab Mashreq – has ever failed to remind the Lebanese of its sway, aggressiveness, arrogance and deep involvement in a project of regional sectarian hegemony.


Hezbollah’s Secretary-General appeared a few days ago, and totally denied any "knowledge of what goes on in Beirut Port", and any connection of his party with the huge explosion(s), which has so far killed more than 200 and injured around 5,000 people. But even if the Secretary-General was saying the truth, past experiences with Hezbollah do not encourage anyone to be convinced.


Below are some examples:


Hezbollah, which had always emphasized its "Lebanese" identity; decided one day to come clean. Its Secretary-General personally and candidly told the Lebanese public that “Hezbollah’s budget, salaries, expenses, food and drink supplies, weapons and missiles come from the Islamic Republic of Iran… our money, reserved for us, arrives not through banks but through the same way that we receive the missiles with which we threaten Israel”. This statement clearly means that the Lebanese government, its audit agencies, as well as political, military and security institutions, have no authority or control over the party’s affairs and dealings.


In the past, the party used to claim that it would never be dragged into the "alleys" of Lebanese internal politics. Yet, when the right opportunity came, it entered these "alleys’" and infiltrated various sects through its mercenary "puppets" with the clear intention of weakening, blackmailing, and subjugating its competitors and opponents. Furthermore, contrary to its solemnly-declared commitments, the party has led and financed "exclusionist" fronts, brought down cabinets, fomented cabinet crises which paralyzed Lebanon on more than one occasion.


For many years, Hezbollah insisted before the Lebanese that its weapons are exclusively kept to be used in "resisting" Israel, from the "occupied" south Lebanon to liberating Jerusalem.


The Lebanese, again, "convinced" themselves that this was true, despite the "Thank You Syria" mass show of support organized by Hezbollah for Al-Assad regime, only a few weeks after the assassination of Rafic Hariri and his colleagues. This actually, took place when that regime was widely seen by most of the Lebanese as the culprit. Then, as Western rumors began to link the party itself with the crime, it opposed the establishment of an international tribunal; and later on, refused to cooperate with it when the latter officially accused a number of the party’s fighters of murder.


In 2006, however, Hezbollah passed a major landmark in its disregard for the Lebanese government, when it launched an armed operation across "the Blue Line" marking the border with Israel. This operation ended with a disaster for Lebanon and led to Hezbollah’s de facto withdrawal from the area south of the Litani River. Such a withdrawal, realistically and morally, ended its "liberation" mission, for which Hezbollah alone was allowed to keep its weapons while all other Lebanese militias were disarmed.


What could be said here, is that in 2006 Hezbollah’s supporters were thankful to the Lebanese government for its brave backing, while the Israeli war machine was pounding the party’s strongholds in south Lebanon and Beirut’s southern suburbs, as well as vast areas of the country.


But, a short time later, everything changed, and the party accused the government of "treason" and decided to lead a coup against it. Even worse, after relieving itself of the mission of "liberation", Hezbollah turned its weapon against its opponents inside Lebanon. Under the pretext of protecting itself against accusations that it controls the Rafic Hariri International Airport’s security, the party invaded west Beirut and attacked southern Mount Lebanon in its major internal war against the Sunni and Druze leaderships. This invasion took place after Hezbollah spectacularly managed to penetrate the Maronite Christians, through striking an "understanding" with its previous arch-enemy General Michel Aoun.


The policy of the "Carrot and Stick", adopted by Hezbollah with the Christians (namely the Maronites), the Sunnis and the Druze, achieved two aims:


1- Securing the party’s persistent and deep infiltration of the Lebanese state’s security and political institutions.


2- Laying the foundation of its coup against the "Taif Accords", when the party and its allies "occupied" central Beirut and besieged the Government Headquarters (the Grand Serail) for 18 months between late October 2006 and late May 2008.


The "occupation" of central Beirut ended with an agreement reached by the Lebanese leaders in the Qatari capital Doha, and resulted in the election of the Army Chief General Michel Sleiman. Practically, the strategic political aim of the "Doha Agreement" - based on a balance of power tilted in favor of Hezbollah – was to undermine the constitutional legitimacy of the "Taif Accords". But soon enough Hezbollah and Aoun conspired against the "agreement' when they brought down Saad Hariri’s coalition cabinet by withdrawing their ministers.


Through president Sleiman’s term, and thanks to its excessive power and its infiltration of non-Shiite communities, the pro-Iran party succeeded in extending its influence throughout the state security apparatus and key government positions; one thing, however it failed to achieve was to sideline the president


This is why the relations steadily deteriorated after Sleiman insisted on upholding the "Baabda Declaration" based on the outcome of the National Dialogue sessions called by and presided on by president Sleiman.


Finally, there was a rift that led to Hezbollah openly sponsoring Aoun as its presidential candidate; which again disrupted the country’s political life as Hezbollah and its allies regularly boycotted the presidential election meetings so the necessary two-thirds quorum is never reached.


After a lengthy impasse, Dr. Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces Party, and Aoun main rival, withdrew his candidacy and declared his support for Aoun. This development left Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt in no position to challenge Christian unanimity, so they followed Geagea’s lead, securing the presidency for Hezbollah’s candidate.


Aoun’s presidency secured under clear political imbalance in the Lebanese scene, and during Hezbollah’s "unauthorized" involvement in the Syrian war, proved once and for all that the "Hezbollah statelet" was now stronger than the Lebanese state.


Indeed, ever since Aoun took over, the party took full control of the political and security decision-making processes, leaving to Aoun a free hand in securing government appointments for his and Hezbollah’s Sunni and Druze supporters and henchmen, while marginalizing their political opponents.


Just after the explosion that devastated Beirut, several contradictory security pronouncements and "sourced claims" were made; mostly either incredulous or intentionally misleading to protect an employee here or a customs officer there.


Throughout, the big picture was absent. It was intentionally absent because there was no benefit to claim responsibility; especially for Israel, which is already carrying out a silent "war of attrition" against Iran, whether in Iran itself or on Syrian soil.


On the other hand the Lebanese know too well, from Hezbollah itself, that it possesses a formidable arsenal of heavy weapons; and are almost sure its depots are not in Mozambique!


Other opinion articles

Editor Picks

Multimedia