Analysis: Less 'a state within a state'

Hizbullah now threatens to become stronger than Lebanon.

hizbullah flag 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
hizbullah flag 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In his statement welcoming the cease-fire, US President George W. Bush spoke of such positive provisions as its establishing "an embargo on the supply of arms to militias in Lebanon... a robust international force to deploy to southern Lebanon in conjunction with Lebanon's legitimate armed forces" and "the disarming of Hizbullah" to stop it "from acting as a state within a state." Actually, if Hizbullah is becoming less of "a state within a state" it is only because it is gaining more power over the Lebanese state. The first meeting of Lebanon's cabinet to discuss sending soldiers to the south broke up in disorder. According to Lebanese press reports, ministers argued heatedly over whether it would take any actions to stop Hizbullah from doing whatever it wanted. A minister was quoted as saying that Hizbullah refused to be disarmed and that was the end of the matter. One of those standing by Hizbullah is Michel Aoun, the Christian leader most successful in the last election. His party lavishes praise on Hizbullah. While a majority of his community opposes his stance and will likely abandon him in the future, Aoun is the one who has the votes in parliament. In response, Lebanese Christian leader Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir told Der Spiegel magazine, "Unfortunately, there are also some Christians who make arrangements with Hizbullah - if only for tactical reasons." If, however, Hizbullah ever took power, "the Christians will leave the country in droves." Hizbullah, Aoun and all the pro-Syrian politicians might be able to put together a government or at least could block the current government from doing anything effective. Since the Christian and Druse militias oppose Hizbullah and the Lebanese army is pretty much non-existent as a real fighting force, this also means that the only real armed group on which the government depends is Hizbullah itself. The international community is expecting that a government controlled by Hizbullah and Syria will implement an agreement to disarm Hizbullah, dismantle its independent power and prevent it from attacking Israel. If this contradiction is so obvious, why doesn't anyone in power in the West see it? Moreover, the "Hizbullah side" enjoys Iranian and Syrian funding for both military purposes and reconstruction patronage, while the Christian, Druse and Sunni opposition get no help from the West. Indeed, international funds and military assistance will go to the Lebanese government, which means that the West, too, funds pro-Hizbullah forces. There are two political lines in Lebanon. One is that Hizbullah is a heroic organization battling the evil Israelis, this struggle should take primacy and Iranian and Syrian influence is a positive factor in Lebanon. The other is, in Sfeir's words, that Lebanon should not be a "battleground for other states... We refuse to tolerate proxy wars on Lebanese territory." Palestinians should have their own state but, "The struggle for Palestine cannot be fought from Lebanon, the smallest and weakest state in the Arab world." Iran, says Sfeir, is "the greatest danger for Lebanon" as it sends numerous arms and money there. "How can an independent state be expected to tolerate that?" Many Lebanese agree with Sfeir. But unfortunately, the answer to his question is: a country run by those who support this situation ideologically, benefit from it political or financially, doubt that the West will help those who want to fight for a free democratic Lebanon and are intimidated by Hizbullah's readiness to shoot them. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center.