Sunday, May 11, 2008

From Syria Comment

Syria Comment
...By pulling back from the city it so easily conquered and by turning over its strategic centers to the Lebanese army, Hizbullah has been gracious in victory.

It has not pressed its superior hand, putting paid to the irresponsible claim that Hizbullah wants to impose an Iranian-style, Islamic mullocracy on Lebanon's Christians and Sunnis. On the contrary, it can be argued, Hizbullah is trying to broker the type of power-sharing government that the US would only be too eager to see emerge in divided Baghdad.

It is surprising to hear that Hizbullah is not demanding more in exchange for its withdrawal. It accepted to return to the "status quo ante" on rather easy terms. The next few days will clarify whether it is not demanding more...

In the past the opposition insisted on a third of the seats in cabinet; it also hoped to push through favorable reforms to the voting law.
...Hizbullah has demonstrated that it can move swiftly and decisively. It has also demonstrated that it can game out its actions and is prepared for its end-game, something that others in the region seldom seem to do. Playing out the various scenarios before launching into action is a virtue that the US and its allies, with all their resources, are capable of doing well. I have participated in several war games in Washington; they are a frequent and valuable tool on the Potomac. But if Washington didn't try to dissuade the Siniora government from challenging Hizbullah's communications system and then advised Hariri to make the several demands he did for retracting the order - the most important of which was the immediate appointment of Suleiman as President — Washington was clearly not heeding the advice of its best people. This is a recurring characteristic of the Bush administration.

Hizbullah has done what it said it would do - not more, nor less. The constant grinding among the religious communities is making Lebanon more sectarian with each new conflict. Fewer Sunnis than ever will be able side with Shiites and vice-versa. The Shiites will become ever more convinced that they cannot give up their arms without first getting constitutional guarantees that they will get their fare share of representation. As things stand today, the Shiites allocated 21% of parliamentary seats even though they may represent close to 40% of Lebanon's population. This is a lingering institutional imbalance left over from Lebanon's colonial legacy, when Shiites were discounted politically as poor sheepherders and dirt farmers. The notion that Lebanon can achieve stability before these sectarian imbalances are rectified is not a sound one.

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