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Lebanon chaos: Cui Bono?

01/24/2007

For many months, I have been trying to make sense of the events in Lebanon, without much success. First there was the Lebanon war. It was initiated by a senseless kidnapping, and it provoked a less than wise Israeli reaction to all appearances. The IDF displayed dismal and unbelievable incompetence, and the political leadership showed poor judgement. They started a full scale war, but then they didn't fight very much. Believe me, that almost nobody in Israel can understand how it is possible that reserves were not even mobilized until the last week of the war. Even then, only a tiny part of IDF's total strength was brought into play. This, despite the announced goal of destroying the Hezbollah.

At the very end of the war, reserves were finally mobilized and were making good progress in occupying a security zone south of the Litani. For their part, the Hezbollah was demonstrating that they could hit at Israel with impunity. Seemingly, neither side had anything to gain from a cease fire that made the Israeli advance senseless, and rendered the Hezbollah powerless against Israel, installing the Lebanese army in South Lebanon.

The conclusion of the war left Hezbollah powerless against Israel, but in a very strong political position internally in Lebanon. It left Israel seemingly at the mercy of its foes, principally Iran, and it alarmed Arab governments about the possibility of Iranian domination of the Gulf and the Middle East.

Events after the war were even more curious. Hezbollah initiated a protest movement that has now escalated into open violence and insurrection. They are supported by the Christian party of Michel Aoun. Their demands and the reasons for them are obscure. If you ask the demonstrators, they will tell you they are demonstrating for "rights" or for more economic aid to Southern Lebanon. In truth, they are there because Hezbollah and Michel Aoun put them there, and they don't even understand the demands of the Hezbollah.

They want more representation for the Shi'ites, but this demand has been on the table for decades. They don't want a proportional or majority representation, but just enough apparently to block any legislation. Why choose this period to demand redress, when Lebanon is reconstructing after a disastrous war, to push this demand? They want, it seems, to block the formation of an international tribunal to try the murderers of Rafiq Hariri, supposedly to protect their Syrian masters. However, everyone understands that after such a long time, it is unlikely that such a tribunal would uncover decisive evidence, especially not against any Syrian government officials who might be implicated. If it did uncover conclusive evidence, enough to convict people in a court of law, it is unlikely that the guilty parties outside Lebanon would ever be brought to justice, or that the Syrian regime would suffer in any way. This tribunal is therefore an unlikely cause for disrupting the government and economy of an entire country. It is an excuse. Why would the Hezbollah, which places so much emphasis on Lebanese unity and its supposedly patriotic stance, jeopardize Lebanon at its weakest moment? Why would they be joined in their effort to overturn Christian and Sunni political dominance by a Christian party?

When Rafiq Hariri was assassinated, a large section of opinion in the Middle East asked "Cui Bono?" Whose interests does it serve? They argued that Syria would not benefit from the assassination, but Israel would gain, by sowing discord and chaos in Lebanon. This argument, whatever its merits, was quite satisfying to those who insist that all the problems of the Middle East are due to the machinations of Tel Aviv circles and their evil neocon masters in Washington DC. They insisted that only Israel could benefit from internal dissension in Lebanon and from renewal of the Lebanese civil war. Therefore, they claimed that Israel must be responsible for assassinating Hariri. Without endorsing this particular idea, we can nonetheless carry the logic of asking "Cui Bono?" to its logical conclusion, and ask the same question about the Lebanon war and the Hezbollah revolt.

In the absence of any real motive for the evil that is being perpetrated by Hezbollah in Lebanon, which yesterday resulted in seven dead, we must ask, who benefits from the chaos? The Lebanese certainly suffer. Iran and Syria gain nothing, because they stand accused of trying to wreck an Arab country. The enmity of the west is focused on Iran and Syria. Israel's borders are quiet, the Hezbollah will ultimately get to rule in Lebanon. Resentment against Iran and Hezbollah will help to isolate Iran and Syria and mobilize support for action against them.

Only Israel and Hezbollah and the Washington advocates of active change in the Middle East benefit from the chaos perpetrated by Hezbollah. They will have an excuse for acting against Iran and Syria. Is it really too much to believe that Mr. Aoun was manipulated by cynical French foreign office agents, looking for a way for France to gain a better foothold in Lebanon by coming to the aid of the beleaguered Seniora government? Is it so hard to believe that both Israel and Hezbollah, if they did not actively collaborate, at least saw the advantages for each side in a situation where Hezbollah could gain political ascendancy inside Lebanon, or better, threaten to do so, while its ability to act against Israel was completely neutralized? Can the actions of Nasrallah and his minions, the terrible paralysis of Lebanon, an attack from within on a democratic Arab government, be anything but actions that serve those sinister circles in Tel Aviv and their neocon masters in Washington DC? Who will benefit from a renewal of the Lebanese civil war? Isn't Hassan Nassrallah acting as an agent of the Zionists and neocons? Isn't he acting as a tool of neocons and a collaborator with Zionists, for his own short-term gain? Shouldn't he be exposed as such?

Ami Isseroff

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