Living in Beirut, I was concerned last weekend when there was violence (three killed, others injured) inside the city in response to what’s going on in Syria. People started talking about it being the worst violence since 2008 and everyone was nervous about a civil war starting again.
Hezbollah is a political party*. Yet, Hezbollah is also an armed militia and in 2008 they did use those weapons against the Lebanese.
It’s complicated, messy and for me, I’m finding sifting through the coverage challenging.
I was relieved to read a transcript of a speech given last week where a Hezbollah party leader told everyone to CHILL OUT. But it’s not that simple.
I found this NowLebanon.com post to sum it up well:
“[…] Lebanon is succumbing to populist impulses and their impresarios, which cannot represent a good development for the future.
Lebanon’s political class is frequently, and quite reasonably, maligned. However, the street is infinitely worse. […]
To a great extent, Hezbollah has only itself to blame. The arrest of Mawlawi by the General Security directorate was a reckless, suspicious operation that was certain to lead to a heightening of sectarian animosities. The party, and behind it the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, manipulated events in Tripoli to show that the city is a Salafist stronghold—in that way confirming Assad’s contention that he is fighting a coalition of armed jihadists.
Like many traps, it threatened to backfire when two Sunni clerics were killed in Akkar and fighting spread to Beirut. A Sunni-Shia conflict is not something Hezbollah desires, not when its strategic objective is to use legislative elections next year to gain control of parliament, then the presidency, then the broader apparatus of the state. This mad scheme cannot conceivably work, even less so when the Sunni community feels invigorated by the failure of the Assad regime to prevail in Syria. Yet Hezbollah, in order to survive in a post-Assad Middle East, needs to anchor itself somewhere while simultaneously avoiding suicide in a new Lebanese civil war.”
(*One of the strange things about apartment hunting here was realizing that Hezbollah is head quartered in Lebanon and there’s a ‘Hezbollah’ part of town. Hezbollah is so synomous with terrorism in the United States, that many articles refer to members as “Hezbollah Terrorist” so-and-so. It was interesting to find out that only eight countries call Hezbollah a terrorist group and only six of those call the entire group terrorist: Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, Israel, Netherlands and the United States.
The UN’s Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, said in 2006, “It’s not helpful to couch this war in the language of international terrorism. Hezbollah employs terrorist tactics; it is an organization, however, whose roots historically are completely separate and different from Al Qaeda.”)