Hezb'allah Rampage in Beirut

Rick Moran
The situation this morning in Lebanon is very tense. In response to actions taken by the government of Prime Minister Siniora, Hezb'allah supporters have rampaged through neighborhoods, initiated gun battles with Sunnis, and most threateningly, closed the only road to the international airport by setting up roadblocks using dirt to block the highway, and erecting a tent city similar to the one they have set up in downtown Beirut that has paralyzed the city for more than a year.

The war of words between Lebanon's political leaders has translated into actual battles on the streets, as Wednesday's opposition-supported labor strike quickly devolved into violent clashes and rioting. With the labor issue apparently pushed off the agenda, unrest has been stripped down to a contest between the government and Hezbollah, which the government has accused of trying to stage a coup.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah's intractability has become the subject of increased government focus, culminating with the cabinet's removal of Hezbollah-linked Brigadier General Wafiq Shqeir from his position as airport security chief, and the declaration that Hezbollah's private communications network is "illegal and unconstitutional," after a marathon cabinet session ending early Tuesday.

Hezbollah has given the Siniora government a 48-hour ultimatum to revoke the decisions.  However, the government remains adamant that any retreat is out of the question.

Today, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will deliver a "historic" address, at his first press conference in two years. It is possible Nasrallah will use the podium to attempt a face-saving exit before the situation fully detonates. However, with so much at stake, it seems far more likely that Nasrallah's words will veer in the opposite direction.

It is a virtual certainty that Hezb'allah's "private" communications network - an extensive set up that handles wireless phone and other telecommunications protocols - is a spy network for Syria and may be used in the future to plan violence and assassinations against the March 14th government forces. Siniora and his government - standing up to Hezb'allah for the first time - has not only shut down that network and fired the pro-Syrian officer who ran it from the airport, but has all but declared Hezb'allah a "state within a state."

Those are fighting words to Hezb'allah.

Today, Hezb'allah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave his first press conference in two years and threw down the gauntlet to the government, daring them to challenge Hezb'allah's status as the "resistance" to Israeili aggression and their privileged position within the state:

I said, before Jumblatt, that any hand that reaches for the resistance and its arms will be cut off. Israel tried that in the July War, and we cut its hand off.

We do not advise you to try us.

Whoever is going to target us will be targeted by us. Whoever is going to shoot at us will be shot by us.
Let's look into who is really harming the people and stealing their money. Unfortunately, this is the government. Jumblatt acknowledges this openly on TV.

Jumblatt is a liar and a killer. He sits up there and draws red lines, and the martyrs and people who defended Lebanon will be handed over to the courts. This is not a government, this is a gang.

Herein lies the real reason Hezb'allah has taken to the streets; Nasrallah's complaint that "people who defended Lebanon" will be put on trial. He is referring to the Hariri Tribunal that may start as early as next month under the auspices of the United Nations. It is a dead certainty that Hezb'allah's role in some of the political assassinations that have rocked Lebanon over the past 3 years will be revealed. Nasrallah, and his patron in Syria Bashar Assad, will do everything in their power to prevent the tribunal from sitting. If it means taking the country to the brink of a civil war, so be it.

In the end, none of the parties want a civil war which makes Nasrallah's gambit of closing the airport a risky undertaking. He is banking on the fact that all sects will do whatever is necessary to prevent the country from sliding into chaos - a good bet to make except it may get to the point where the political leaders will lose control of their followers at which point all hell will break loose.

Instead of trying to calm the situation, Nasrallah's words have thrown gasoline on the fire. Meanwhile, citizens are cleaning and oiling their weapons and preparing for the worst.





The situation this morning in Lebanon is very tense. In response to actions taken by the government of Prime Minister Siniora, Hezb'allah supporters have rampaged through neighborhoods, initiated gun battles with Sunnis, and most threateningly, closed the only road to the international airport by setting up roadblocks using dirt to block the highway, and erecting a tent city similar to the one they have set up in downtown Beirut that has paralyzed the city for more than a year.

The war of words between Lebanon's political leaders has translated into actual battles on the streets, as Wednesday's opposition-supported labor strike quickly devolved into violent clashes and rioting. With the labor issue apparently pushed off the agenda, unrest has been stripped down to a contest between the government and Hezbollah, which the government has accused of trying to stage a coup.

In recent weeks, Hezbollah's intractability has become the subject of increased government focus, culminating with the cabinet's removal of Hezbollah-linked Brigadier General Wafiq Shqeir from his position as airport security chief, and the declaration that Hezbollah's private communications network is "illegal and unconstitutional," after a marathon cabinet session ending early Tuesday.

Hezbollah has given the Siniora government a 48-hour ultimatum to revoke the decisions.  However, the government remains adamant that any retreat is out of the question.

Today, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah will deliver a "historic" address, at his first press conference in two years. It is possible Nasrallah will use the podium to attempt a face-saving exit before the situation fully detonates. However, with so much at stake, it seems far more likely that Nasrallah's words will veer in the opposite direction.

It is a virtual certainty that Hezb'allah's "private" communications network - an extensive set up that handles wireless phone and other telecommunications protocols - is a spy network for Syria and may be used in the future to plan violence and assassinations against the March 14th government forces. Siniora and his government - standing up to Hezb'allah for the first time - has not only shut down that network and fired the pro-Syrian officer who ran it from the airport, but has all but declared Hezb'allah a "state within a state."

Those are fighting words to Hezb'allah.

Today, Hezb'allah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave his first press conference in two years and threw down the gauntlet to the government, daring them to challenge Hezb'allah's status as the "resistance" to Israeili aggression and their privileged position within the state:

I said, before Jumblatt, that any hand that reaches for the resistance and its arms will be cut off. Israel tried that in the July War, and we cut its hand off.

We do not advise you to try us.

Whoever is going to target us will be targeted by us. Whoever is going to shoot at us will be shot by us.
Let's look into who is really harming the people and stealing their money. Unfortunately, this is the government. Jumblatt acknowledges this openly on TV.

Jumblatt is a liar and a killer. He sits up there and draws red lines, and the martyrs and people who defended Lebanon will be handed over to the courts. This is not a government, this is a gang.

Herein lies the real reason Hezb'allah has taken to the streets; Nasrallah's complaint that "people who defended Lebanon" will be put on trial. He is referring to the Hariri Tribunal that may start as early as next month under the auspices of the United Nations. It is a dead certainty that Hezb'allah's role in some of the political assassinations that have rocked Lebanon over the past 3 years will be revealed. Nasrallah, and his patron in Syria Bashar Assad, will do everything in their power to prevent the tribunal from sitting. If it means taking the country to the brink of a civil war, so be it.

In the end, none of the parties want a civil war which makes Nasrallah's gambit of closing the airport a risky undertaking. He is banking on the fact that all sects will do whatever is necessary to prevent the country from sliding into chaos - a good bet to make except it may get to the point where the political leaders will lose control of their followers at which point all hell will break loose.

Instead of trying to calm the situation, Nasrallah's words have thrown gasoline on the fire. Meanwhile, citizens are cleaning and oiling their weapons and preparing for the worst.