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Den demokratiske blokken i Libanon føler seg på vikende front. The New Republic har en artikkel av Annia Ciezadlo som beskriver maronittenes nølen og frykt. Bashir Asfour er 22 år og demonstrerte under Pierre Gemayels begravelse. De demokratiske kreftene ser deres representanter bli drept en for en. Ett oppløftende tegn var at Sikkerhetsrådet enstemmig støttet den libanesiske regjeringens godkjenning av FN-domstolen over Hariri-drapet. Hizbollah har sagt at vedtaket var ugyldig, etter at de selv trakk sine statsråder ut. Utpressing kalles det.

Lebanon is locked in a battle over its political future, and it’s clear which faction has the upper hand and which is demoralized. On one side is a powerful alliance of Shia and Christians, including the Shia militia Hezbollah, backed by Syria and Iran. On the other is the fragile government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora–representing Sunnis, Christians, and Druze–backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia. Emboldened by this summer’s war with Israel, Hezbollah is demanding a bigger share of Lebanon’s Cabinet posts, which would effectively hand it control of the government. Disheartened by rumors out of Washington that the Baker Commission will recommend détente with Damascus to fix Iraq and by Hezbollah’s swelling postwar prestige, anti-Syrian partisans like Asfour are divided, defensive, and terrified of being sold out by their protector–the United States. Which is why, despite their bluster, Asfour and his fellow protesters don’t march to Baabda in the end. They may talk tough, but these guys know who’s calling the shots in Lebanon these days, and it isn’t them.

James Baker

Today, the alliances shift as dizzyingly and expediently as they did back then. That, along with the recent war, explains how Syria has gone–in less than two years–from being chased out of Lebanon in humiliating fashion to a new position of strength in Lebanese politics. Consider the trajectory of Aoun: In 1989, the general defied Syria and declared himself president. Syria was a U.S. ally back then, so, when Aoun refused to resign, Syrian President Hafez Assad and the United States joined forces against him. Syria bombed him out of Baabda, Secretary of State James Baker sued to kick his ambassadors out of the Lebanese embassy in Washington, and Aoun fled the country in 1991. For the next 14 years, Aoun’s followers, mostly young Maronites, fought Syrian hegemony in Lebanon. When an explosion killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the spring of 2005, Lebanon’s postwar generation staged an uprising against the 29-year Syrian occupation. Hundreds of thousands of people, including young Aounists, turned out for peaceful protests that toppled the pro-Syrian prime minister and ultimately led Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. A few months later, elections gave the anti-Syrian opposition a parliamentary majority, making it the ruling coalition. With Christians and Sunnis united, and only the Shia against them, the anti-Syrian movement seemed ascendant.

BEIRUT DISPATCH
Militias’ Intent
by Annia Ciezadlo
Post date 12.01.06