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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

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Nov 18th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Extremism In Lebanon arrow Beware of Hezbollah’s campaign in Lebanon
Beware of Hezbollah’s campaign in Lebanon PDF Print E-mail
Written by Phillip Smyth   
Saturday, 29 September 2007

Lebanon's 2005 Cedars Revolution
Lebanon's 2005 Cedars Revolution

By Phillip Smyth: The headquarters of the International Lebanese Committee for 1559 had their walls decorated with posters reading, “Syria, Shove Your Civil War” and “Life Liberty and Lebanon.” The group works for the disarmament of Lebanese militias in accordance with UN resolution 1559, Hezbollah is of primary concern. I talked with the leader of the Committee, Toni Nissi. Nissi believes Hezbollah is still an armed force because of the weakness of the Lebanese government, military, and its strong support from Syria and Iran, telling me, “the Bush administration tried last year to send 40,000 NATO troops in Lebanon to clean out Hezbollah and the militias. The problem is we never help anyone who tried to help us, all the time the leaders of the Lebanese were loyal to themselves, to Saudi Arabia, or some other country. We need leadership that thinks about the people, less about themselves.” Nissi is a strong supporter of enforcing chapter 7 of 1559, an article calling for foreign troops to dislodge the militias. He believes that only outside intervention could really topple Hezbollah’s military power. Because of his anti-Hezbollah stance Nissi has been characterized by Hasan Nasrallah himself as “the Beirut branch of the Mossad.” Lebanese media that wants to air his views are often violently threatened by Hezbollah. Even his fellow employees have admitted that he was a prime target for Syrian or Hezbollah retaliation, as a result, he and his family live in hiding.

While mostly catering to the Shi’ite population, Hezbollah has permeated every inch of Lebanese society. On television there is al Manar, Hezbollah’s propaganda/news outlet, also including music videos by famous pop-stars such as Julia Boutros glorifying Hezbollah and Nasrallah. Hezbollah has even launched a video game, which is currently on display in their 2006 war museum. During the summer, in Shi’ite southern Beirut,  I heard the daily Hezbollah sponsored celebrations for their “divine victory” in 2006. Usually there was just sporadic gunfire in the air, but, in one instance, they reenacted a missile strike they carried out against an Israeli warship, attacked during last summer’s the war. The subsequent shock from the blast shook the windows of my university all the way in central Beirut.

Hezbollah controlled areas extend from southern Beirut, through southern Lebanon bordering, Israel and in the northern portion of the Bekka Valley bordering Syria. Even in the posh downtown of Beirut, Hezbollah protesters, and their pro-Syrian allies have encamped themselves to protest the anti-Syrian majority government. As I drove down the streets of southern Beirut, in the area called Dahiya, the streets were quiet, but Hezbollah was out in full force. Hezbollah is based in the area, posters of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah covered buildings, rubble from Israeli air strikes was piled where apartment blocks once stood, locals and Hezbollah militiamen watched as my car drove through the area. With thousands of armed militiamen, long and short range rockets, direct control over wide swaths of Lebanon, the largest parliamentary bloc in Lebanese parliament, an alliance with Michel Aoun’s Tayyar (a mostly Christian party), and the support of most Shi’ite Muslims in Lebanon, Hezbollah is a force to reckoned with. After last summer’s war, Hezbollah’s power was more than evident.

Weapons still pour across the Lebanese-Syrian border, most of the arms go to and are smuggled by pro-Syrian Palestinian terror groups, such as the PFLP-GC, Fatah al Islam, in addition to getting delivered by and to Hezbollah. When I was waiting at the Lebanese border to cross into Syria it was a common site to see Syrian army personnel inside Lebanese territory. In my talks with Toni Nissi, he told me about a fact finding mission he led to the Bekaa Valley, where the Syrian Army still physically occupies much of eastern Lebanon. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Syria occupies at least 177 square miles of Lebanese soil.” The maps and charts show the Syrian objective. Damascus is systematically occupying the high ground of the Bekaa and Akkar districts. Nissi showed me photographs along with GPS points showing Syrian Army positions, Syrian T-62/T-72 tanks, and even a Syrian surface to air missile site, all within Lebanese territory.  On the fact finding mission Nissi was fired upon by the Syrian army. Later he showed me a shell casing, he explained that he, “ran to the Syrian positions to pick up the bullets.” When he attempted to lead other fact finding missions the Lebanese government often wouldn’t allow him to pursue the issue. With a porous border and lack of strong government support, Hezbollah and other terror organizations find the smuggling of arms into Lebanon to be an easy task.

Baalbek, famous for its Roman ruins, lies in the heart of the Hezbollah controlled Bekka Valley. On the road to Baalbek, posters of the assassinated anti-Syrian politician Walid Eido, pictured together with his slain son, were coated with excrement, most likely thrown by pro-Syria Hezbollah supporters. Trash cans in the area have American flags or USA painted on them and the Ayatollah Khomeni’s smiling face graces many billboards. Everywhere one turned, there was another Nasrallah poster. Near the Roman ruins, there were gift stores. These weren’t the normal gift stores one might find near a major tourist site, there were no trinkets made of cedar wood, or T-shirts with pictures of the Temple to Baccus on them. Instead, these stores sold Hezbollah’s yellow flags, T-shirts featuring Nasrallah, DVDs showing Hezbollah operations, all the while playing Hezbollah songs on loud speakers.

At my Arabic program for foreigners in Beirut, the chief assistant to the director of the program was the former head of the Hezbollah student union at a university in Jbeil. I speculated, Hezbollah could know the location and most of the movements of a large body of Western students inside Lebanon. If hostilities broke out between the United States and Iran, Hezbollah, or Syria, the group, through its intelligence apparatus, could, in respect to programs catering to Westerners, easily carry out operations against Western students.                                  

Even though the “Party of God” exerts enormous influence, there is a strong opposition to the group in Lebanon. First, there is the March 14th coalition, the leading anti-Syrian grouping that consists of Sunni (Mustaqbal), Christian (Kataeb, Lebanese Forces), and Druze parties (notably Walid Jumblatt’s PSP). One of my friends at a Lebanese university said hostility was so high between Hezbollah and the majority Christian students, that Hezbollah supporters were not allowed in the cafeteria of his school. Recently, violent riots (involving stones and fists) broke out between the two sides (primarily Mustaqbal and Hezbollah), following a Nasrallah speech.

Nevertheless, Hezbollah continues to ship in more arms, receive more money, exert more control over of the Shi’ite and portions of Lebanon. Calling Hezbollah’s control of certain areas as a “state within a state” is now cliche, especially considering how feudal and sectarian Lebanon is. The problem exists with Hezbollah’s possession of heavy weapons,  its tendency to execute operations against sovereign states, often against the interests of the Lebanese state, and also its allegiance, and its support of the interests of outside states such as Iran and Syria. In Lebanon many Christians and Sunni Muslims fear that broader Shi’ite influence (under the auspices of

Hezbollah) will result in Lebanon being under a Khomenist-Islamist governance. In the words of one Lebanese Christian friend, “they want to turn us into Iran,” to a Sunni friend, “Hezbollah is crazy, they live in the 1100s.” With much of Hezbollah’s allegiance going to the ideals of Ayatollah Khomeni, it is easy to see why many would feel that way The Shi’ite students I shared the university with, while thoroughly anti-Western, enjoy the benefits of Western life, and may not support the effort at extreme Islamisation. Regardless of that, the hardliners of Hezbollah have foreign backing and are armed to the teeth. In poorer rural areas Hezbollah pays women to wear the chador and for men to grow a beard. With the increased radicalization and feeling of power generated by the 2006 war, Shi’ite relations with other sectarian groups is extremely strained, according to one professor at Lebanese American University, “the Lebanese [sectarian] groups don’t know how to share power, and now Hezbollah wants all the power.” Only time can tell what’s in store for Lebanon.

Phillip Smyth is a researcher associated with the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights based in Lebanon. He wrote this article for the Cedars Revolution News. 

 



Last Updated ( Saturday, 29 September 2007 )
 
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