Lebanon unrest: Insiders’ views

Al Jazeera talked to experts on Lebanon concerning the new unrest in the country.

Nasrallah has not backed down after the government crackdown on Hezbollah [AFP]

Al Jazeera asked four experts on Lebanon whether they thought the new unrest in the country following a government crackdown on Hezbollah, which the Shia group’s called “a declaration of war”, was the beginning of a showdown or whether it can be contained or resolved. Here are their responses:

Mark Daou – active with the Lebanese party the Democratic Left Movement

“I think that this current situation is just part of an ongoing escalation of violence. I do not think that even if containing this did occur it would last that long because mobilisation has begun and the level of militarisation has increased dramatically.


“The conflicts have been increasing in their severity and their level of militarisation in the recent past. It has reached a new level and things will keep escalating in the foreseeable future as long as there is no political agreement and it does not seem as though there will be.


“So, if they contain, they will only contain the violence, but they will not take care of the issue.”

Jamil Mroue – editor-in-chief of the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star

“It is the beginning of a serious line up that threatens a showdown. Can it be resolved at this stage? Yes. The openings are possible for resolving it, but they are openings that are extreme.


“Will Hezbollah back down for free? The answer is no. Will the government back down for free? The answer is no. But Nasrallah has left an opening that leaves the possibility of communication.


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“He did not discount the government all out. He clearly indicated that the government [during the crackdown] was under the influence of Walid Jumblatt. In other words he exonerated Fouad Siniora, the prime minister, although in a humiliating way.


“My impression is that he left a minute, publically microscopic but for the knowing, an opening that needs to be capitalised on by Saad Hariri. Jumblatt is out of the picture now.


“What remains to be seen is if Hariri can match Nasrallah’s high ground.


“The prime minister does not have a parliamentary base. His potential role is to facilitate between the sides what may come. We will find out what that next move is when Hariri talks.


“We are talking about the outcome of a battle when we have just seen one side of the fight. We need to see the other side to see what arsenal is on the table.


“Whether this role left open by Nasrallah can be activated depends on what Hariri does.”


Mohsen Salah – Professor at the Lebanese University


“This depends on the decision of the 14 March. [When this is given] we will be able to see if the situation will worsen and that is not in the interests of any parties in Lebanon.


“They should come to terms with the opposition parties who have been calling for dialogue and constituting a national unity government. It is time to do this.


“They should resolve to the logic – the intellectual logic of the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. And they should come to terms with the opposition and sit down and constitute and bring about a national unity government in order to protect the army and the Lebanese people.


“It’s the aim of all the opposition parties – they all want this. They want a peaceful and tranquil country which brings peace to the Lebanese, which they deserve.


“The decision of the government concerning the telecommunication network was wrong and they should retreat from that in order to bring about peace talks.


“The opposition has asked the cabinet government to bring down these decisions. And they want peace and talks and dialogue. What Nasrallah asked for was only dialogue and retreat from these decisions.


“It is about time for the Lebanese to come together. Not to fight or to talk politically for the American interests or any other interests in the world.


“The opposition cannot do anything to prevent the escalation of the crisis. [Since fighting broke out] they did not escalate the crisis except undertaking their right to prevent any battle. They suggest to throw down your arms and talk, and they gave everything to the orders of the national army.


“Talks and peace are the real intention of the opposition parties. I think that they are not going to escalate anymore and it now depends now on the decision of the March 14.”


Pierre Akel – publisher of Middle East Transparent website

“I think this crisis is going to take a long time. The airport will remain closed for quite some time, maybe weeks, because Hezbollah is fighting this battle against the Lebanese government but with worries about its position.

“Since the assassination of [Imad] Mughniyah in Damascus, Hezbollah and Iran do not trust Syria, so they need the airport for the logistics of Hezbollah. If Nasrallah takes the airport, it will give him more independence vis-à-vis Syria. And it will allow Iran to help him. If they give up the airport, they put themselves in the hands of the Syrians.


“So, in fact, Nasrallah is fighting his war against [Fouad] Siniora and also against Bashar al-Assad implicitly. So he cannot give up very easily. Siniora cannot give up this battle because it will be the end of the Lebanese state.


“It could become a long crisis. It could become a civil war, but I think no one wants that. Nasrallah would be happy to go back to the situation of last week. He feels trapped and thinks even Syria may be part of this, what he calls, ‘plot’ against him.


“Saad Hariri is a moderate by definition, he is a businessman. But I think the government has no choice. If he accepts Nasrallah’s network in the country and its hold on to the airport, it is the end of the Lebanese state. So they have to stand up to him.


“The Lebanese have a way of finding compromises, but this has gone too far.


“Nasrallah is not the kind of person to hold back. It is kind of a fascist tradition. A great leader will never step back. You need good standing, not show any weakness.


“Nasrallah is the ‘great leader’ – he cannot stand down. He needs the airport for logistics in case Syria goes on with its dealings with Israel. So he cannot just walk away from this fight.”


Amal Saad Ghorayeb – independent political analyst


“It is a very critical situation. It is quite unprecedented since the end of the civil war, in that basically now this conflict is one between Hezbollah’s resistance and the government. Never before has a government not recognised Hezbollah’s resistance.


“The only compromise the sides can make at this point is over the clashes. Because these are clearly controlled clashes.


“As for the government’s decisions regarding the telecom network and the head of airport security, nothing short of revocation of those decisions will settle this conflict. Nasrallah said so.


“The government has pushed itself into a very tight corner, it is going to be very difficult for them to backtrack. And Hezbollah is going to accept nothing short of the government reneging on those decisions.


“Apparently there are reports of alleged negotiations between the two sides and perhaps members of the government were willing to offer, for example, another security chief that Hezbollah could choose. Any face saving device. But according to these reports Hezbollah has turned down such offers.


“That’s why I think it’s going to be very hard for them. There is no middle ground here at all. When Nasrallah depicts the conflict as one which is something of an existential one, targeting the resistance, and draws parallels with the [2006] July war, this renders the whole conflict a ‘May war’ if you like.


“This is a new war. It is a war directed against the resistance – at least that is how it is perceived. There can be no compromise now, just as there was none back in July [2006].”

Source: Al Jazeera

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