by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog
Four weeks on, the street protestors in Lebanon are not showing any signs of relenting; and neither is the government. An activist has been killed by a Lebanese Army bullet during an attempt to close the southern coastal highway that links Beirut with Saida. This incident occurred almost 24 hours after a televised interview of President Aoun in which he said that, if some Lebanese don’t like the situation in Lebanon, they can leave. This was interpreted as a call for them to emigrate, sending tens of thousands angrily to the streets and escalating the protests to an unprecedented level across the small country. And, even though PM Hariri has offered his resignation a fortnight ago or so, President Aoun is holding on firmly to his presidential seat, not contemplating resignation, any more than calling to dissolve the Parliament.
The protests so far, seemingly remain headless, and without very clear objectives other than the slogan “Killon Yaani Killon”, and which means “all of them means all of them”; implying that their revolt is against all Lebanese politicians without any exception. So although they do not have a formal list of demands and spokespersons, the protestors are asking not only for the cabinet to resign, but also that of the President, the Speaker of the House (Berri) and for Parliament to be dissolved and putting a ban on all existing politicians from rerunning for office. They are also calling for holding officials to account and having their loot reimbursed to the people.
Nearly a week ago, a clean, personal reliable source, close to government officials, a personal friend who is a former Lebanese Ambassador, told me what is now common knowledge. He told me that Hariri will be re-appointed to form a new cabinet of technocrats from the outside of the Parliament. I told him this proposal was not plausible. According to this model, President Aoun and Speaker Berri will keep their positions and Parliament would not be dissolved. Another version of this model was contemplated but with a different figurehead to lead rather than Hariri. Either way, it is highly doubtful that the protestors will accept this as a partial win. They will not see it as a win at all. To add insult to injury, in an unsavoury twist, Aoun, in an interview to LBC TV, stated that he cannot form a cabinet comprised of total independents. He exclaimed to the journalist: “Where do you expect me to find independents? On the moon?
He was therefore alleging that all Lebanese people have a certain political inclination or another. https://www.facebook.com/LBCILebanon/videos/421437568541547/ . The impact of this statement fell like a bombshell, especially that demonstrators are exhibiting all sings of independence from politics; under the slogan of “Killon Yaani Killon”, as they are asking for everyone to be removed.
In my previous two articles, http://thesaker.is/the-lebanese-fall-hezbollahs-latest-challenge/ & http://thesaker.is/hezbollahs-unchartered-frontier/ I have emphasized how Hezbollah is losing popularity as a result of this impasse. As a matter of fact, the anti-Hezbollah rhetoric is on the increase faster than I predicted, and thus far, in the eyes of the protesters, chairman Nasrallah has done little to curb the growing tsunami that is increasingly threatening his position and standing; even within the ranks of his own demographic heartland.
A recorded audio has been shared on social media of an alleged Hezbollah fighter addressing Nasrallah. https://www.facebook.com/333297347057781/posts/1197045050683002?vh=e&d=n&sfns=mo
In a 6 minute harangue, he is telling Nasrallah that he is proud of his personal past, having fought Israel and the internal enemies of Hezbollah in the streets of Beirut in May 2007. He asks Nasrallah why has he turned away from his principles and is suddenly supporting Hariri (a former political adversary). He added that if he sees a single drop of innocent blood shed on the streets, he will give up his weapons and leave Hezbollah. The alleged soldier is pleading with Nasrallah and informing him, that for the first time ever, there are people within the Shiite demographics who are criticizing Nasrallah and even swearing at him.
Whether or not this audio recording is genuine or some Hollywood production, facts are that people of different walks of life are expressing feelings of being let down by Nasrallah, and the number of street protests in Hezbollah heartland is gaining momentum.
But, what Al-Akhbar News reports, cannot be the work of Hollywood. Al-Akhbar has been a staunch supporter of Hezbollah and the axis of resistance ever since its inception. For Al-Akhbar to publish an article titled “A Letter to Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah” in a manner that critiques his decision making in regard to the street uprisings is an unprecedented development on the resistance axis media scene https://al-akhbar.com/Politics/278696. When one’s own supporters express dissatisfaction, one ought to stop and have a look at what one is doing or not doing. Nasrallah is not showing any signs of implementing any change.
I said it before in my last article and I will say it again. This is not a fight that Hezbollah has trained for. As a resistance force, Hezbollah transmits its power from grass root support, and if it loses this support, its foundations that underpin will be shaken.
There are now even talks about Hezbollah’s role in the actual corruption. Only two weeks ago or so, the major criticism and discussion was as to how Hezbollah could turn a blind eye to corruption. Now, it is alleged that the biggest financial benefactor of corruption has been Hezbollah. Traditionally, politicians and/or their cronies control different ministries and infrastructures and collect corruption money in the form of bribes, commissions, price fixing, monopolies, profit shares and so forth. Allegedly, Hezbollah has been collecting protection money from all involved. This includes different utilities, department of roads, the airport and sea port of Beirut, customs, you name it.
In a televised speech recorded on the 11th of November, Nasrallah has absolved himself and Hezbollah of any members who could be corrupt and openly declared that he will not offer any Hezbollah member impunity if accused and found guilty of corruption https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrHD7Xh1LJs&feature=share . It appears that the angry street protestors do not want to hear this, not caring or perhaps believing what Nasrallah intends to do now as much as what he did not do earlier. They are more focused currently on the most offensive statements made by Aoun a day later. Either way, such accusations have never, ever been made against Hezbollah in the past; not even by its most aggressive political enemies. Previous attacks had always been aimed at its military prowess and having a private army and a “state within the state”, but corruption per se was not on the attack agenda.
Again, it appears Nasrallah is not showing any signs of wanting to dialogue or to compromise. The above-mentioned anonymous person behind the audio recording is asking him, “why are you doing what you are doing? Is it simply because you won’t back down on a statement you made? Is your word more important to you than the blood of Lebanese people?” He was a tad short of referring to Nasrallah as being arrogant.
There is a fork in the road, whether chairman Nasrallah is prepared to recognize it or otherwise. And, by sticking to the default rules of engagement that he is familiar with at all levels, he will may well soon find himself in a situation that is out of control and untenable. If all the current indications are indeed accurate pointers, then it is quite possible that the out-of-control status has already been reached.
Such a scenario does not only impose danger on the future and longevity of Hezbollah as a resistance group, but also on the personal safety of Nasrallah himself. After all, targeted killings in Gaza at the hands of the IDF are all a result of treasonous actions of on-the-ground hired Palestinian informers who pass on to Israel who is where and when. Israel does not have eyes on the ground, except for the eyes of such agents; Palestinians who are prepared to give out locations of Hamas leaders for a bagful of silver.
In contrast, Hezbollah has this far enjoyed immaculate loyalty from its rank-and-file. But what if cracks start to appear? Will the safety of Nasrallah be compromised? Will the discretion on military matters also become at risk?
Some may argue that the assassination of Hezbollah’s Imad Moghnieh back in 2007 was the result of in-house treason. It wasn’t, and that is how strong Hezbollah has thus far been. I will not say more about this other than saying that it was an act of treason, but not one that was perpetrated by Hezbollah.
The cycle of rise and fall is a natural process, and every entity is subject to it. Sometimes the fall is a question of choice and a matter of resignation and resolve, rather than defeat; a diversion following the reaching of milestone targets. After all, the French Resistance lost its pretext to exist after the Nazis were driven out of France. In Lebanon however, even though Hezbollah has driven Israel out, realistically speaking, the need and role of a deterrent force to thwart any future assaults cannot be over looked. Israel thrives on expanding, and it is in dire need of more fresh water resources; something that the Lebanese south is rich of.
Here is a big question: If Hezbollah hypothetically disarms willingly, will Israel respect the integrity of Lebanon? And if the answer is no, who will protect Lebanon after Hezbollah ceases to exist? No one can answer this question, and Israel cannot and will not give affirmative answers and promises that can be taken seriously. After all, Israel has broken so many international laws, so many accords and a countless number of UNSC resolutions that it cannot be trusted by Arabs any more than the American Government can be trusted to uphold its treaties with Native Americans.
Voices within Lebanon asking for the disarmament of Hezbollah on the other hand, have their own logic to put on the table. They are asking for the enactment of one law for all and that there should be only one army in Lebanon; the legitimate Lebanese Army. The problem with this lot is that they by-and-large either have a history of being Israeli pawns, or pawns of the Saudis who are the bed-fellows of the American/Israeli roadmap, and which in reality is nothing short of giving Israel security at the expense of the rights of Palestinians to say the least.
When I state “to say the least”, this is meant to indicate that the policy of expansion is an integral part-and-parcel of the Israeli military “culture” that has been put into practice not only in Palestine, but also Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The danger of Palestinian rights being sidelined therefore can be followed by a further sidelining of the rights of other Arabs; in this case those who are Lebanese.
Back to Lebanon then.
There is no doubt in my mind that, until and if the Arab/Israeli deadlock is resolved, one way or the other, Lebanon needs to be prepared for the worst, and no party can protect the country to this effect better than Hezbollah. If Israel wants to change the situation of the stalemate with its neighbours, if it wants real and just peace, it will need to present itself in a manner that guarantees that it can be trusted. It will have to, first and foremost, offer justice for Palestinian people and present clear actions of good will to other Arab states, however, there is no indication that it ever will.
The issue here is that Hezbollah has risen to its position based on awareness of the danger, courage to stand up against it, building an adequate popular support base, devoting a deep level of diligence in order to rise to the task against all odds, train, equip, prepare and fight and win; not only once….
The USA and Israel have the military might to nuke all of Lebanon and reduce it to a crater, literally remove it from the map and move the coastline east. But to actually physically disarm Hezbollah against its will, they cannot; and Nasrallah knows this too well. But this should not generate a false sense of security, because Nasrallah must also see and realize that no empire is immune to Trojan Horses.
Nasrallah holds the key in letting Trojan Horses in or keeping them out. Currently, it appears he is taking for granted that he can keep them out, despite much recent evidence showing the potentiality of the contrary; a type of dissent that can generate Trojan Horses. Dare I say that he holds the key until further notice, and he should not allow this key to drop from his hand.
People in Lebanon want new faces. They want to hear apologies in action, apologies that work and they don’t want to hear excuses for failure. All that Nasrallah needs to do is to admit that he has done serious mistakes by holding on to his alliance with Aoun and co, that he should have stepped in and done something about the corruption long before the uprising began, and that he should not have engaged in politics in the first place. He should offer a serious apology to the Lebanese people and go back underground. Personally I see no other way out of this trap set for him.
Whatever the uprisings in Lebanon lead to, it seems unlikely that Lebanon will return to its former status quo. Power brokers in Lebanon will have to adjust or vanish; and Hezbollah is not an exception. If there is foreign intervention in the street protests as some claim, and if conspirers are constructing a trap for Hezbollah, Nasrallah is walking right into it. He needs to take a diversion, unpalatable even as it may be. Hezbollah’s unchartered frontier requires new strategies and Nasrallah needs to adapt and respond before it is too late.