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    Hezbollah’s weapons of mass delusion

    It is no longer possible to avoid a serious discussion of Hezbollah’s weapons and the party’s role in a new Lebanon. The alternative to such a discussion is a future of perpetual conflict between the Lebanese state and the Hezbollah state, with potentially disastrous consequences for everyone, most significantly the Shia community.

    Oddly enough, that opportunity exists today. In his ultimatum to the government last week, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, demanded it withdraw its two decisions on the party’s illegal telephone network and the transfer of the chief of airport security. But Nasrallah also mentioned moving to a dialogue, and now that his men have pulled their guns on us but are also finding they cannot do very much with them, what better topic to place on top of the agenda than Hezbollah’s weapons?

    Of course, we have no expectation the party will do so voluntarily. Hezbollah knows that without its weapons it is nothing; or at least nothing it wants to be or that its patrons in Iran want it to be. Would Nasrallah wish himself out of existence? No. But we also believe that that’s missing the point. By its actions last week, Hezbollah has already willed itself most of the way out of existence as the vanguard of a consensual Lebanese resistance against Israel. Ask any Sunni Muslim or Druze, ask most Christians, what he or she thinks about the resistance, and the answer will come: We don’t think about the resistance; there is no such thing.

    The question today that Nasrallah must answer is what kind of future he intends for Hezbollah and the Shia. For Hezbollah to cling to its weapons without conceding anything will only mean a continual recurrence of internecine fighting. And civil war would only swallow Hezbollah up in secondary conflicts, as it once swallowed up the Palestinian Liberation Organization, making resistance an afterthought.

    A second alternative is that Hezbollah will more actively strive to return the Syrian armed forces and intelligence services to Lebanon, so that they might protect the party, and its weapons, from the Lebanese majority. But what kind of bizarre plan is that? Does Hezbollah really expect to long survive domestically by collaborating with a foreign power in crushing Lebanon’s independence? Even if the international community signs off on a Syrian return – and nothing is less certain – does Hezbollah really believe the Syrians will return without having to re-conquer Lebanon by force? Surely Hezbollah can also guess that in any such war the Sunni community, particularly its most extreme elements, will rally against Syria and the Shia. If that’s the goal, then it’s not much of a plan.

    The third alternative is what we saw last week: Hezbollah tries to use its weapons to shift the balance of power domestically and impose its will. Well that plan failed in the Aley district this past weekend, as Hezbollah took heavy casualties in fighting against the Druze community. There is no military outcome to Lebanon’s deadlock, and Hezbollah doesn’t even have enough instruments to impose the semblance of a political solution.

    Hezbollah’s fourth option, which, unlike the other three, has the advantage of not being suicidal, is to move to a far-reaching dialogue over its weapons and to reinvent a less antagonistic domestic role for the party and the Shia community as a whole. It is the last thing that Hezbollah is likely to choose, and we wager it will never consider disarmament. But it is also the only path that has any hope of saving Hezbollah.

    If truth be told, we’re really not that concerned about what happens to Hezbollah as an organization. What we worry about is the Shia, who deeply merit prospects far better than the eternal war Hezbollah promises them. The Shia are an essential part of Lebanon’s future, our future, a community that, at that key moment when it was about to claim its long overdue place in the republic, was, instead, carried back by Hezbollah to an earlier time of isolation and resentment. That must end, which is why Hezbollah must agree to discuss its weapons. Nothing is more likely to harden Shia isolation and resentment than the gulf that these weapons will continue to create between Shia and the rest of Lebanese society.

    NOW Lebanon
    May 15th, 2008

    One response to “Hezbollah’s weapons of mass delusion”

    1. afd says:

      Carrot and STICK. WE STILL NEED TO Weapons.

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