Wednesday, June 11, 2008

LEBANON FALLS

Date: Wednesday 11 June 2008
Subj: Lebanon Falls.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


Iran-sponsored, Shi'ite dominated Hezballah does not want to govern Lebanon. What Hezballah wants -- indeed demands -- is freedom to ignore UN resolutions and re-build, re-organise and re-arm for war with absolute impunity.

In a 6 May cabinet meeting that lasted until 4am the next morning, the government (which is dominated by the Sunni-led March 14 forces) declared that Hezballah's extensive, completely independent communications network must be integrated with the government's. Of particular concern to the Telecommunications Minister, Marawn Hamadeh, was an "illegal and unconstitutional" communications and surveillance system that had been installed on Runway 17 of Beirut airport by Wafiq Shuqayr at Hezballah's request. The cabinet therefore also voted to remove Shaqayr -- a Shi'ite with known ties to Hezballah -- from his position as chief of airport security.

Hezballah's response was immediate, swift and devastating. Hezballah blockaded all the roads to the airport, seized Sunni West Beruit and shut down all the Sunni-owned pro-government media. After two days of fighting in Beirut, Hebzallah moved its fight to Druze areas of Mount Lebanon. Eventually, with the state at the brink of civil war, and with their homes under siege, both Hariri (Sunni leader) and Jumblatt (Druze leader) were forced to negotiate on Hezballah's terms. It was a most impressive blitzkrieg.

The Lebanese Army under the direction of General Suleiman (who was appointed to the post with Syrian approval in 1998 when Syria controlled Lebanon) did not resist Hezballah. Yet this is the same army that doggedly fought and profoundly defeated al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam (Sunni) in north Lebanon over three months in the summer of 2007.

Once Hezballah had proved its power, it handed its gains to the Lebanese Army. The government revoked its 6 May cabinet decisions and transferred the contentious issues -- Hezballah's communications network and Wafiq Shuqayr's position as chief of airport security -- over to the Army commander General Suleiman who declared both issues null.

Then on 21 May in Qatar (which is according to analyst Barry Rubin "an integral part of the Iran-Syria-Hezballah axis") the Lebanese government capitulated to Hezballah's conditions and surrendered its sovereignty. Lebanon has fallen. Hezballah now has veto power over all Lebanese government decisions; their candidate -- General Michel Suleiman -- has been installed as president; they control one-third of the cabinet; and they have authority to gerrymander and create smaller electorates in order to ensure victory at the next legislative elections. On 22 May the UN endorsed the agreement. Lebanon is now, in the words of Barry Rubin, "part of the Iranian bloc" and Hezballah is free to advance its war agenda unhindered.

Lebanon's fall will probably go down as the most geo-strategically significant event of 2008. Yet there was barely a sound. Instead of crashing like a major tsunami-inducing earthquake, the fall of Lebanon was more akin to a small, weak, abandoned man being kicked into quicksand by a pack of bullies. And as darkness envelopes this poor sinking man, his supposed friends, from the comfort and safety of their faraway palaces, praise all parties for avoiding war and making peace.

From this point I will limit myself to commenting on the religious liberty implications. However, I will provide a list of what I regard as the best reporting and analysis on the Hezballah blitzkrieg and resultant political situation.

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IMPLICATIONS


The fall of Lebanon is the continuation and confluence of two trends that are being monitored by WEA RLC: the Shi'ite ascendancy and the decline of US influence. It has horrendous implications not only for Lebanon but for religious liberty and security in the whole Middle East.

For background see WEA RLC analysis on these two trends:

Religious Liberty Trends 2006-2007
3. RL TREND: SHIITE ASCENDANCY
Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
By Elizabeth Kendal, 5 Feb 2007

Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008
(trend 2: "The New Cold War")
Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
By Elizabeth Kendal, 15 Feb 2008

While Hezballah does not want to govern Lebanon, it is without a doubt preparing the ground for regime change. It is only a matter of time now before the weak, abandoned and subservient pro-Lebanon, pro-West, "moderate" and Sunni-led government is replaced with one that is pro-Syria, pro-Iran, pro-Hezballah and pro-jihad. In the mean time we will doubtless see many "moderate" Sunnis, Druze and even some Christians behaving as abandoned, subjugated peoples and falling into line behind Hezballah for survival purposes.

As Shi'ite power rises and advances across the region, and as US influence declines, US "allies" in the region -- that is the Sunnis (great respecters of power) -- are switching sides. The latter portion of the Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008 posting, under the subheading "A Word on the Middle East", notes several indicators to this effect. Now further to this, recent reports from Compass Direct () reveal a sudden ominous and dramatic rise in religious repression and hostility from the formerly progressive and West-friendly regime in Jordan. Having demonstrated its power so profoundly, Hezballah will not have to work too hard in Lebanon to get the Sunnis to line up behind its anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, pro-Sharia, pro-jihad "Islamic" agenda.

As noted in WEA RLC Religious Liberty Trends postings, both the Shi'ite ascendancy and the decline of US influence do not augur well for the religious liberty and security of Christians in the Middle East. As these two trends converge, each will cause the other to escalate. Over recent decades, US influence in the region (which extends most from America's economic power) has forced Arab states to constrain Islamic forces. As circumstances change and the constraints disappear and as the repressive and apocalyptic Iranian cleric-led regime assumes the role of regional hegemon, the future for Christians and all non-Muslims in the Middle East is extremely precarious.

RECOMMENDED REPORTS

Hezballah's Blitzkrieg:
"A deadly miscalculation in Lebanon",
By Sami Moubayed, 14 May 2008
Asia Times Online
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JE14Ak03.html

Facts (and maps) concerning Hezballah's communications network:
"Hezbollah's Communication Network Confirms Its Terror Goals"
By Walid Phares, PhD 21 May 2008
World Defense Review
http://worlddefensereview.com/phares052108.shtml

Best analysis:
1) "The Fall of Lebanon",
By Barry Rubin, 24 May 2008
The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
http://www.gloriacenter.org/index.asp?pname=submenus/articles/2008/rubin/5_24.asp
In this piece Barry Rubin compares the situation in Lebanon and the wider Middle East in May 2008 to that of Czechoslovakia and central/eastern Europe in October 1938 after "Britain and France effectively turned Czechoslovakia over to Nazi Germany".

2) "The Nasrallah speech: Hezbollah ruled, the West is fooled"
By Walid Phares, PhD 2 June 2008
World Defense Review
http://worlddefensereview.com/phares060208.shtml
In this piece Walid Phares dissects and analyses Nasrallah's victory speech.

-- Elizabeth Kendal