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On the Dimensions of Hezbollah’s Arrogance!

On the Dimensions of Hezbollah’s Arrogance!

Thursday, 28 October, 2021 - 12:00

Hezbollah’s approach to dealing with the investigation into the explosion that struck the port and the capital, most recently manifested in the events of “Black Thursday” seen on the 14th and its implications, has been marked by extreme arbitrariness and arrogance. Claims are always presented as conclusive facts rather than analysis, and the accusations that follow are launched on that basis.

Their narrative on the war crime perpetrated against Lebanon is based on the assumption that they know the secrets of the investigation and the direction it is taking. Speaking from the position of a constitutional expert or a judicial authority, the party hurls accusations at the investigator after defaming him. Worse still, with its incitement and accusations, the party seems reassured that its “revolutionary justice” is convincing and that the people are merely waiting to hear their conclusions, not evidence and proof.

Immediately after judicial suspicions of the “August four regime’s” implication in the port blast crime arose, with lead investigator Fadi Sawan informing parliament of “suspicions” that around 20 political figures who occupied positions of authority since 2014, including prime ministers, finance ministers, public works ministers, and justice ministers, bore responsibility, a campaign questioning his professionalism and eligibility was launched. He was accused of behaving suspiciously and ignoring the constitution because he considered the immunity of the blood spilled that day to trump political immunity. The clique of immunities under Hezbollah’s protection then got rid of him, with the assumption that his replacement would learn his lesson and would not go beyond the red lines that had been drawn.

When the facts became clear to Judge Bitar, and it became apparent that politicians had received a written notice warning them of the threat posed to the capital Beirut but did nothing about it, and that it was evident that high ranking officials in the military and security apparatuses had known about the lethal materials stored in the middle of the capital and also did nothing, he charged them all with “possible intent” to murder, and criminal negligence.

His decisions shook the country as it had never been shaken before, and its implications continue to compound to this day because he showed the political class led by Hezbollah that it could not control the judiciary or force it to deviate from the course of justice. In response, they attacked him with every weapon in their arsenal, insulting him and accusing the investigator who has come to embody what the state’s prestige and legitimacy should be like of treason. They were up in arms because they felt that the impunity protected by immunities and special courts established only to protect those implicated in major crimes had been under threat. In truth, ordinary citizens were left astonished because it had been the first time that the judiciary accused the officials who had convinced the people that they were above the law.

Hezbollah was at the forefront of the campaign against truth and justice, and it hurled all kinds of accusations at the lead investigator. It accused him of “politicking” and “discretion,” eventually openly threatening to “remove him.” When Bitar insisted on continuing with his approach and started issuing arrest warrants, Hassan Nassrallah declared that: “time is up. Decide on a course of action because continuing on this path will not help Lebanon or its stability.”

He demanded that the Supreme Judicial Council “resolve” the matter or that the government fulfill its responsibility and remove him, or else! The truth is that the argument that Hezbollah is so driven, despite not having been accused up to this moment, by its “loyalty” to the political clique is untenable. What happened on October 12, when the minister Judge Mohammad Mortada left the council of ministers imploding speaks to this. He voiced the “Shiite duo’s” dictates: contain the judicial investigation and “remove” Bitar or the government will be paralyzed, and “you will see that which you have never seen before on the streets!” President Aoun and Prime Minister Mikati looked pathetic indeed!

In Tayouneh, the threats were translated into action. However, does replicating the civil war mean that Hezbollah is pushing for a new one after accusing the Lebanese Forces of preparing for it? In all likelihood, that is not on the cards, as it controls the country and calls the shots. The 100 thousand man militia that the party threatened us with is not there to ensure the Lebanese’ safety but to perpetuate the cold war that has allowed Hezbollah’s statelet to overwhelm the state.

All the escalation, arrogant behavior, and disregard for others that have been shown and have been on display speak to this, as do the accusations that have been levied, most recently seen in the military court’s decision to summon Samir Geagea and “hear what he has to say” about the Tayouneh clashes, a decision meant to intermediate that does not change the facts documented in photos and videos that leave no room for interpretation or for the manipulation of the narrative on what happened that day. Why revive the split on March 8/ March 14 lines, whereby the Lebanese Forces is shown support it had not expected, though it would later become apparent that this support had been empty?

Hezbollah wanted to realize three objectives. The first is lead investigator Bitar’s dismissal and the investigation’s conclusion. The second is to blame rising sectarian tensions for derailing the electoral process, and the third is getting rid of the burdens put on its shoulders by the “October 17” revolution.

Early on, Nasrallah demanded that the judiciary satisfy itself with the preliminary security investigation’s results and resolve the issue of compensation… The pressure exerted to prevent indictments from being issued began to grow. In this regard, the decision could shed light on dark, obscure developments, like the murder of Colonel Joseph Skaff, the first official to issue warnings about the death shipment in 2014, whose report was ignored!

Another is customs officer Munir Abu Rjaili’s assassination before his meeting with the previous judge, Fadi Sawan, and a third is the killing of the photographer Joe Bejani, whose camera is said to have captured, by chance, of a convoy of destroyed four-wheel-drive cars that had been at the port. Assuming these claims are true, whose convoy is it? Given all of that, Sheikh Naim Qassem’s anger is understandable, and we can see why he said that “broad civil strife could have erupted in Tayouneh” because of Bitar and went on to declare that: “It would be better for him to leave so the situation stabilizes!”

Targeting Bitar is understandable because allowing his experience to crystallize, one that embodies the judiciary rising above intimidation could have positive implications for the future of the judiciary as a whole. His approach has illustrated what the future relationship between the judiciary and the political class should look like and paved the way for ending decades of crimes going unpunished. His approach has empowered the forces of change that sprung from the October protests seeking to retrieve the state and enforce the constitution and the laws that are supposed to apply to all. Thus, the violence seen in Tayouneh aimed to topple him, and create the kind of atmosphere that could jeopardize the electoral process.

In a previous reading of this state of affairs, I mentioned that 19 of the deputies who granted Hezbollah their majority won by very thin margins, and things have changed after “October 17.” The party losing ten seats would be sufficient to leave Hezbollah unable to impose what he wants and capable only of disrupting the course of things. The so-called Popular Mobilization Forces’ electoral blow in Iraq surely parallels the changed mood among the Lebanese electorate “post-October.”

What will the outcome be if the diaspora’s right to vote is respected, given the well-known indicators that they will punish the political class? For these reasons, Hezbollah will not give up on its majority, even if it is illegitimate. The party knows, and opinion polls demonstrate, that a majority is not in the bag and Iranian hegemony is not our unavoidable fate! Thus, the country is changing as organized grassroots groups crystalize. The clique of corruption and the party leading it should not be reassured by those groups’ fleeting decline… And so, the suffering will exacerbate because they are still betting on imposing subordination!

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