Politics & Policy

Cedar Losing

Hezbollah is proving to be a very capable and determined force in Lebanon, and a great danger to the wider world as well. In July 2005 it overplayed its hand by attacking Israel and bringing retribution down on itself and on the Lebanon it claimed to be protecting. Since then, however, the main imperialist instrument of Iran has enjoyed running rings around the United States and the United Nations, neither of which has any coherent idea of what is to be done.

As the self-appointed representative of the Shiites – and armed and financed by Tehran – Hezbollah and affiliated agents have been busy murdering personalities from the Lebanese Christian, Druze, and Sunni communities, and making sure to intimidate everyone else. This has the desired effect. Shiites already are the majority in the country, while Christians and Druze are more or less reconciling themselves to second-class status and probable long-term repression. Not so the Sunnis.

#ad#The confrontation between Shiites and Sunnis is shaking the whole Muslim world, and has the capacity to precipitate civil war in many a country, and above all right now in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the preeminent Sunni states, are outraged by this Shiite drive to dominance, and thoroughly frightened by it, as well they might be. The Iranian nuclear program only confirms that the balance of power throughout the Muslim world is shifting in favor of the Shiites, hitherto underdogs. Accordingly, the Sunni states have been urging the Lebanese Sunnis to go on the offensive, and helping them to do so.

Last November, the mandate of the then Lebanese president expired. Ever since, Hezbollah has blocked all attempts to elect a successor, prolonging a tense political stand-off. The so-called March 14 governing coalition under Prime Minister Fuad Siniora continuously tried to assert the nation’s sovereignty and independence of action. A few days ago, an evidently baffled Siniora began an open trial of strength by ordering the army to take steps that would lead ultimately to disarming Hezbollah and converting it into a political party like any other in a democracy. Composed largely of Shiites, the army refused to tackle other Shiites. Sunni militias were not so reluctant. Nearly 100 people died in the same sort of Shiite versus Sunni confrontation that is happening in Iraq and which could break out in any other place of Iran’s choosing.

The victorious Hezbollah then played its cards with consummate skill. In an agreement reached in the Qatari capital of Doha with the Sunnis, Hezbollah at last consented to the choice of a new Lebanese president, as first proposed all those months ago. In return, it obtained enough seats in the cabinet to be able to veto any measures it does not favor, and therefore it made sure to retain its arms and its capacity to initiate wars.

In effect, Hezbollah has power but not responsibility, the dream position of a militia with no legal or constitutional standing. In this bind, without the monopoly of state power, the Siniora government is unlikely to last much longer, and Lebanon may well fall with it. Then the ayatollahs in Tehran will garner yet another Shiite colony, one which would give them access to the Mediterranean. The Doha Agreement looks like today’s version of the 1938 Munich Agreement, whereby a democracy bites the dust and the on-lookers either pretend not to notice or cry “Peace in Our Time.”

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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