Monday, November 8, 2010

Questions Facing Hezbollah

By Abdullah Iskandar
This comment was published in al-Hayat on 7/11/2010

The government cabinet in Lebanon is nearly paralyzed, the National Dialogue is threatened to stop, there are accusations against the Presidency of the Republic of leaving its position of neutrality and consensus, there is a gradually growing debate over the role played by the Parliament and the powers it enjoys, and doubts are being raised here and there over the extent to which military and security institutions would be able to prevent any security breakdown.

Thus all institutional and legal security valves, which could contain any lapse in the political conflict, have lost their function. And there are no longer any regional understanding protecting such a function, since local parties are breaching the red lines, which had been set down in order to preserve what remains of the ability to keep the situation in check.

Indeed, it is no longer a matter of how to resolve this or that issue, but rather of how to organize continued survival in a politically and religiously pluralistic country, and how to keep in check the internal balance of power in a manner that would allow maintaining the system of government which arose from the Taif Agreement… or at least this is how things should be if internal consensus over this were to be maintained, as is being said so far.

Such internal exposure involves dangers that could me lethal this time, and forestalling such exposure represents a priority that exceeds in terms of the danger it entails all of the issues that are currently the object of conflict, including that of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). And if some Christians have gathered at the Patriarchal See in order to stress the evident dangers resulting from drawing away from the state and its institutions, and have been met in such concerns by the Future Movement, which represents the majority of Sunnis in Lebanon, the question regarding these concerns becomes strongly put forward to Hezbollah, not as a movement that raises the banner of resistance or clings to its weapons, but as a fundamentally Shiite movement.

The question is put forward to Hezbollah because it has made the issue of the STL one that concerns the core of the system, rather than a mere judicial investigation, even if claimed to be politicized. At the same time, and regardless of its intentions, it has not provided sufficient political and security guarantees that the core of the system will not be harmed. In fact, one hears from its periphery of scenarios, which it has not officially refuted, that speak of the ability to turn the tables on everyone and to cause change even through violence.

The question asked of Hezbollah, as a strong Lebanese Shiite movement, is about how far it will go in its wager on tests of strength to the point of becoming disconnected from other Lebanese sectarian constituents that are no less representatives of their sects than it is. Hezbollah may deny, perhaps rightly, its intention of settling things at the security level or to change the system in its favor, but this may well be the outcome and the result of a course that the country has begun to take. Moreover, denying such intentions does not exclude arriving at such a result.

Hezbollah is much more concerned than others to answer these questions, especially as it asserts in its discourse working to prevent civil strife, in both its inter-Muslim and Muslim-Christian aspects. The party’s Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah has had the habit of opening every one of his appearances in the media with a political overview of the region, which means that he is monitoring developments at every level. Such monitoring cannot overlook the tremendous and dangerous concerns regarding strife in the region, and it cannot overlook the growing fears of the Christians in particular of being turned into unwanted elements and perhaps being targeted with marginalization, displacement and killing. This reflects on Christians in Lebanon, who consider for historical reasons that the guarantee of their role remains in the nature of the system and in the active participation it provides them.

And during this period inflamed with concerns and fears, any ambiguity in Hezbollah’s stances turns into more concerns and fears for its national partners, and reduces chances of reaching understandings that would address the party’s concerns as well… concerns which some of its supporters consider that dispelling should be a unilateral endeavor.

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