Right now, Lebanon can be divided into four regions. The center is Christian. The North is Sunni. The South is Shia. The fourth region is Beirut, which is a mix. Though stuck in the Christian center of Lebanon, the wealth of Beirut -- originally a Christian achievement -- has attracted Druze, Muslims, and others. The consequence is that even if Lebanon were split into three independent nations, no way could be found to split Beirut. A peaceful separation of Lebanon is not possible.
It is the southern region, south of the Litani River, which is the chief problem. The south of Lebanon is heavily Shia. This is Hezb’allah territory. They are a nation unto themselves with broad local support. While Hezb’allah claims loyalty to Lebanon, in actuality it rules the Lebanon by fiat from the south. Hezb’allah really is an Iranian and Syrian proxy force whose aim is to destroy Israel.
Hezb’allah came into the picture as an Iranian and Syrian proxy who entered into the Lebanese Civil War -- started by Sunni Palestinians -- in order to "resist" the Israeli intervention intended to help the Christians and throw the PLO out of Lebanon. In 1983, Hezb’allah became famous when its suicide bombers attacked American and French peacekeeping forces in Beirut, killing hundreds. Suicide bombing was a tactic foreign to the Western forces -- and at that time, the military could not deal with it. America and France quit the area. Hezb’allah had won.
During the next two decades, Hezb’allah would really earn their dues and fame by fighting Israeli forces in south Lebanon. In 1983, Israel had set up a military zone south of the Litani River in Lebanon to prevent terror attacks on northern Israel. Hezb’allah responded with professional squads of guerrillas who harassed Israeli forces non-stop. This was a well-funded, world-class professional force, not local freedom fighters, as they liked to portray themselves.
In 2000, Israel pulled out of Southern Lebanon almost overnight. The hated Israelis had run away. Hezb’allah had won. The Muslims had had their first major victory; and their first world class army.
IDF Chief Gantz Says Hezb’llah is Better Armed Than Most Nations – the AlgemeinerThe only thing was: Hezb’allah had no intention of restoring power in the south to the government in Beirut. Oh, the government in Beirut was allowed to remain in place, provided it did not interfere with Hezb’allah's "resistance," but Hezb’allah remained the power behind the throne.
Anytime a Christian or Sunni in Beirut wanted to rein in Hezb’allah, the guns were displayed and the reformers were put in their place. In 2005, Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by agents of Hezb’allah. His crime? Hariri wanted Lebanon to be free of Syria, Hezb’allah's patron. So much for Hezb’allah's claim about liberating Lebanon.
In 2006, Hezb’allah started a war with Israel, without any government knowledge or permission. The politicians were too frightened to do anything but praise Hezb’allah for resisting the Israelis. In secret, however, reports came out that the politicians were furious. Would they say anything? Criticism of Hezb’allah is dangerous.
Lebanese Christians were beyond furious. They were tired of Hezb’allah running the country. However, when Israel started bombing targets in Christian towns, the Christians were understandably upset.
"The Christians were supporting Israel in 2006 until they started bombing their bridges," - Ha'aretzBut even Israeli commanders had to admit that Hezb’allah was not the PLO. They were not scared rabbits who ran at the first whiff of cordite. Hezb’allah stood and fought. Fearing major casualties, the Israelis negotiated a withdrawal after destroying Lebanon by air.
On paper, Israel was winning. Lebanon was shattered; but Israel had taken a hit. Thousand of rockets had fallen on Israel. Many Israelis were sleeping on beaches to avoid building collapses. Israel was no longer invulnerable. On the land war in Lebanon, Israel was winning, but not without casualties.
Yet, Israel quit again, without obtaining a clear-cut victory. In the twisted logic of many, Hezb’allah had beaten Israel twice. Hasan Nasrallah, the head of Hezb’allah, was now the Muslim equivalent of a rock star. Of course, Lebanon was set back 20 years; but what did Nasrallah care? Hezb’allah was not about Lebanon, it was only about destroying Israel.
In 2008, in an honest attempt to re-assert sovereignty, the Beirut government tried to shut down Hezb’allah's separate telecommunications network, and to remove Beirut's airport security chief, an ally of Hezb’allah. The government was tired of smuggling through ports of entry and secret communications behind their back. Hezb’allah threatened civil war. Street fighting in Beirut occurred. In the end, Hezb’allah won. The government rescinded the decrees under fire.
By now, it should be obvious that the Beirut government is powerless to do anything but collect garbage and meet diplomats. It exists at Hezb’allah's sufferance only to keep up pretenses; and because Hezb’allah does not care about Lebanon enough to control it. Hezb’allah exists only to wage war on Israel. Free elections are allowed, not so much because they are rigged, but rather because they are pointless. Let the people elect whom they want. Hezb’allah controls the show.
Hezb’allah may now have 80,000 missiles. Longer range, more destructive. If another war occurs, on paper, Hezb’allah has the potential to flatten Israel by launching thousands of missiles per day. Israel has no choice but to knock out Hezb’allah quickly.
Israel says it will hold the Beirut government responsible for Hezb’allah's actions, as if Beirut could control Hezb’allah when Israel failed twice. In this case, Israel is blaming the hostage; and may be out of line.
While all this is going on, Sunni Salafist extremists are taking over the north of Lebanon. They hate the Shia -- and would fight Hezb’allah, except that the Christians are in-between both groups. Both sides, the Sunni Salafists and the Shia Hezb’allah, have sent volunteers to fight in Syria for opposing sides.
About 1 million Syrian refugees have landed in Lebanon, adding to the half-million Palestinians that no one wants.
With an official population of only 4.8 million, Lebanon has lots control of her borders, her citizenry, her sovereignty, etc. Lebanon does not exist, except as a tool to be used by Palestinians, Sunni Salafists, Shia Iran, secular Syria, or whomever cares to manipulate her. The government is a fiction. Their Army breaks up into sectarian militias at the first sign of real trouble.
The Christians -- the only civilized group -- have rebounded in number, but not enough to overcome the Syrian refugees. Christians are 41% of the citizenry; but between Hezb’allah in the south, Salafists in the north, and a million Syrian refugees, the Christians will be lucky to survive. The Saudis are pumping money into Lebanon trying to bring it into a Saudi orbit in order to counter Iran and Syria who actually run Lebanon through Hezb’allah; but in fact, Lebanon is a tinderbox waiting to explode at the first spark.
The Christians, who usually have relatives in the West, should git while the gittin' is good. Lebanon will not survive the next war. Make no mistake, a war will come. Israel has already struck pre-emptively to prevent the arrival of major weapons being sent to Hezb’allah from Syria. If Israel attacks Iran, it will have to simultaneously hit Hezb’allah, or face tens of thousands of missiles being fired in retaliation.
Pity Lebanon! Though beautiful in climate and natural wonders, it never had a chance. The Palestinians, the Sunni Muslims, the Shia Hezb’allah, and Salafists never cared about Lebanon -- only the Christians did. The Christians should leave, drawing some small satisfaction that the Muslims who ruined their country will have to live with the consequences.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.
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