Hezbollah's Beirut Blitz

Hezbollah has waged its expected blitzkrieg against the democratically elected Government of Lebanon. Within 24 hours, the pro-Iranian militia blocked Beirut International Airport, established an exclusive security zone in south Beirut and deployed its forces into several Sunni neighbourhoods in the capital. Soon the "Party of Allah" may be in control of large areas of the Lebanese Republic. In short, this could mutate into a slow motion coup d'état. What's behind the blitz?

The Syro-Iranian axis enflaming  various battlefields in the region, from Basra to Gaza, has instructed its proxy local force on the Lebanese battlefield to surge against the pro-Western Government of Fuad Seniora. The Lebanese Government had asked Hezbollah to remove cameras installed inside the international airport and to begin the dismantling of a parallel telephone communications system. In addition, the Government removed the Airport commanding officer for collaboration with the terror group.

Within 24 hours, the "Hizb's" commander Hassan Nasrallah reacted and launched his coup. In a press conference he declared war against the Government and accused it of being an "agent of the Americans." A few hours after, Hezbollah's Special Forces and snipers tightened their grip around the Airport and moved into Sunni West Beirut. They seized the strategically located neighbourhood of Ra's al Nabaa overlooking both (Christian and Muslim) sides of the capital, fought their way into Hamra Street and practically controlled more than 90% of West Beirut. By midnight, half a million Lebanese Sunnis found themselves under an Iranian-sponsored "occupation."

Across the former green line, the Christian sectors of the capital remained outside the control of Hezbollah, with hundreds of armed youth taking position on the roof tops of tall buildings. Will Nasrallah order an invasion of East Beirut or will he ask his "Christian puppets" to do the job for him? In the Chuf Mountains, south of Beirut, the Druses are besieged: The March 14 Coalition seem to be physically targeted for elimination, unless a third force protects it.

Where is the Lebanese Army? Well, its commander made sure his units would not side with the Lebanese Government in its struggle against Hezbollah. This was called "neutrality." That would be the equivalent of the U.S forces not intervening if a gigantic militia emerged in America and surrounded the White House, the U.S Congress and all federal buildings. Unreal in a democracy, but very real in a country where the influence of Syria and Iran have not been reduced by the mere rise of the Cedars Revolution. And that is precisely what Washington's foreign policy architects haven't been able to comprehend.

Within the Beltway, lots of analyzing on both sides of the Potomac: What can the U.S do to respond to the Syro-Iranian offensive which is obliterating a young democracy so dear to the speech writers of the President and to many congressional leaders from both parties? A crushing defeat to democracy in Lebanon under the eyes of an American public eager to see advances in the War on terror will be devastating. U.S warships are patrolling the international waters along the Lebanese coasts. A ten thousand-strong UNIFIL force is deployed inside southern Lebanon.

But what can this deployment of force do to deter Hezbollah's determination? Many had advised the U.S Government years ago to implement gradual steps to contain Hezbollah in Lebanon. The precious four years since the issuing of UNSCR 1559 have now expired and the Government of Fuad Seniora is on the verge of collapse or reduction. What can the coalition of the willing to-save-Lebanon do at this point?

It can still do few things. First invoke Chapter 7 of the United Nations at the UN Security Council and let the international body decide on this matter. Meanwhile go to plan "B" and extend all support possible to a democratically elected Government in jeopardy. The international community has still significant allies inside the country. An overwhelming sector of the public with most of the Sunnis, Christians and Druze plus a minority among Shia, two thirds of the Lebanese Army, a majority in Parliament, backed by millions of Lebanese in the Diaspora.

On the ground, Hezbollah has thousands of fighters but it has never experienced "occupying" other Lebanese. The Iranian-backed organization may be tempted to eliminate other Lebanese leaders, Druze, Sunnis and Christians, but that would put Nasrallah and his assistants on an international list of war criminals.

The next few hours and days are crucial in Lebanon. An interim compromise may also emerge. But as the Roman adage goes, Alea Iacta Est -- the dice have already rolled. Hezbollah is not a "resistance" anymore, ironically. By now it is an occupier of its own country.

Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of the newly released book, The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.
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