Monday, November 20, 2006

Shia Walk

French Plan for Lebanon Collapses


"The Shia, the largest community in Lebanon, are no longer represented in the Lebanese government. It could be just part of Lebanon's bloody-minded politics--or it could be a most dangerous moment in the history of this tragic country.

At the weekend, the Hizbollah and the Amal movement walked out of the Lebanese body politic, splitting apart the gentle, utterly false, brilliantly conceived (by the French, of course) confessional system that binds this tortured nation together. There will be demonstrations by Hizbollah to demand a government of "national unity", which means that Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, winner of the so-called "divine victory" against Israel this summer, insists on another pro-Syrian administration in Lebanon.

For a world which has decided to support Lebanon's "democracy", this is grave news. The resignation of five cabinet ministers, two from Hizbollah and three from Amal, cannot bring down the government (which needs eight ministers to resign in order to destroy it), but it means that the largest religious community is no longer officially represented in government decision-making. The Hizbollah are warning of demonstrations which could tear the country apart.

It's not that simple, of course--nothing in Lebanon is--but it's enough to frighten the democratically elected cabinet of Fouad Siniora, Hariri's friend and confidant, and--even more--the Americans who supported "democracy" in Lebanon and then cared nothing for it during this summer's Israeli bombardment of the country.

The Christians probably account for fewer than 30 per cent of the Lebanese population, and the Sunnis--who largely support them through the leadership of Hariri's son, Saad--create a majority which the Shia cannot outnumber. But Syria and Iran--the armourers of the Hizbollah--are waiting to see what the United States will offer them before cooling the Lebanese oven.

Either way, the Christians and the Sunni Muslims of Lebanon are now being torn from their Shia co- religionists. Rival street protests between Christians and Sunnis on the one hand, and Shia on the other, can scarcely be pursued when most of the Lebanese army--a re-formed force of some integrity--are mostly Shia. Bad news indeed."

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