What's happening in Lebanon?


BEIRUT (AFP) - Hezbollah gunmen seized control of west Beirut on Friday after a third day of battles with pro-government foes in the Lebanese capital pushed the nation dangerously close to all-out civil war.

The sectarian fighting had eased by early afternoon as the army and police moved across areas now in the hands of Shiite opposition forces who fired celebratory gunshots wildly into the air after routing Sunni militants loyal to the Western-backed government.

“There are no clashes anymore because no one is standing in the way of the opposition forces,” a security official said on condition of anonymity.

But as the guns fell largely silent, it was unclear what the immediate future would hold for Lebanon, amid fears the protracted political feud could plunge the nation back to the dark days of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Hezbollah and allies taking over the government?

From what I gathered from NPR this morning on my way in to work it started out as Hezbollah attempting to show the government that it could, in fact, take over West Beirut if it wanted to, thus blocking the government’s attempts to clamp down on Hezbollah’s activities. Apparently the Army, which seemingly is not the force actually fighting Hezbollah, was supposed to then re-occupy the places Hezbollah took, thus bringing the little demonstration of raw power to a relatively peaceful close. Or something.

What actually has happened it seems is that Hezbollah, which is Shi’a, and opposing militias, which it seems are mostly Sunni, got into a series of firefights that apparently continue. The Army, according at least to NPR’s reporter in Beirut, sees itself as a neutral force, and won’t take sides right now, but the result is a proliferation of militias and anarchy.

This dovetails reasonably well with what little I know of Lebanon’s dynamics, but the upshot is that no one is quite certain what’s up. Last I heard Hezbollah had shut down the airport and the Army was headed there to re-open it, but how I don’t know. In any event, the news ain’t good.

EDIT: From perusing the BBC and Al Jazeera (they have some interesting interviews: http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/394DF794-AF0B-466D-91E6-851BC95223D7.htm), it looks like the NPR reporting was pretty solid. And to think Beirut was one of my travel options this summer. Istanbul is looking like the right choice now…

Interestingly enough from what I’ve read the fighting started when the government moved to shutdown some sort of private telecommunications network that Hezbollah built at some point over the last few years.

Another article here:

That’s a pretty piss-poor excuse for an army.

Yeah, yeah, long civil war, army still forming, little institutional history, no dependable cadres, etc. etc. They need to start somewhere. A state that can’t enforce a monopoly on extreme violence within its own territory is a state with no future.

I’ve been reading alot of the Lebanon blogs recently. It’s a power show by Hezbollah and an attempt to stop the govt from reducing their power. They are banking on the fact that they have enough popular support to pull it off. Not sure where this whole thing is headed though. Probably just another stalemate.

Here are some of the blogs with on the spot reporting:

I don’t get it… why are you apologizing for perusing Al Jazeera?

Noted; automatic defensiveness engendered by a long history of getting hostile comments for referencing anything not produced by Western media conglomerates I guess, heh.

It’s a power show, but it’s one that is in response to an attempt by the government to shut down Hezbollah’s private telecomm network.

I believe the reason the army moved out of clash zones is the fact that Saad Hariri was trying to broker a peace deal last night with Hezbollah that would label the government’s attempt to shut down the network a “misunderstanding”, which I guess is what Hezbollah wanted ultimately, though fighting continues.

Interesting. I actually seek out non western news media for the specific purpose of seeing how the news gets reported in other areas of the world. I prefer to read both viewpoints and form my own opinions.

I couldn’t access the OP article to see if the quote was there, but at the end of this article is an interesting perspective from Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.

In his speech, Nasrallah argued that Hezbollah’s telecommunications system is a weapon that is legal under the Taif Agreement, which ended Lebanon’s civil war in 1989. That agreement called for the disarmament of all militias except for Hezbollah because of its role as a resistance group against the Israeli occupation, which ended in 2000.

Hezbollah sees the Lebanese government’s ban of its communication system as a pretext for arresting its members. Nasrallah said the secure line of communication allowed Hezbollah to thwart Israeli forces during the 36-day war in 2006

“As a resistance, we don’t have a big budget like the United States and Israel,” Nasrallah said. “When we need to face them and their high technology, we need to have the simplest means of networking.”

It’s like a guerrilla version of 2nd amendment arguments.

The problem is Hezbollah is a state within a state. There will never be long term stability there as long as Hezbollah will take up arms when they don’t get their way.

Hezbollah Indicted for Hariri Assassination

Uh oh.