Monday, December 11, 2006
Another Mediocre Piece On Lebanon
By Robert Fisk
"With Fouad Siniora's cabinet hiding in the Grand Serail behind acres of razor wire and thousands of troops - a veritable "green zone" in the heart of Beirut - the largely Shia Muslim opposition, assisted by their Christian allies, brought up to two million supporters into the centre of the city yesterday to declare the forthcoming creation of a second Lebanese administration. A "transitional" government is what ex-general Michel Aoun called it, while Naeem Qassem, Hizbollah's deputy chairman, spoke ominously of the mass demonstrations as "the separatist day"......
Already, Mr Siniora's administration is being referred to in the American press as Lebanon's "US-backed government", the virtual kiss of death for any Arab leader these days, while Mr Aoun's split with his fellow Christians could prove fatal to him. Only because of his weird alliance with the Hizbollah can the latter claim that their opposition represents Christians as well as Muslims. True to the ironies of Lebanese politics, it was the same former general Aoun who fought a "war of independence" with Hizbollah's Syrian friends in 1990, a conflict which he lost at the cost of 1,000 lives.
But even supporters of Mr Siniora's administration were taken aback by the vast numbers of Lebanese that Hizbollah could mobilise yesterday, men and women who in many cases came from the villages and urban slums which suffered near-total destruction in this summer's war. Their speakers played the role of representatives of the poor - "the people of the street" is how one foolish Sunni prelate called them on Friday - who had no time for the privileged classes or feudal pretentions of the government's supporters........
But something even more dangerous was getting loose yesterday. The sheer size of the crowds apparently permitted Mr Qassem and Mr Aoun to demand a different - or a rival - government. But it was not Shias but Mr Siniora's supporters who won the last elections in Lebanon. If that election result were no longer valid, what did this say about the Hizbollah's respect for electoral politics and Lebanon's constitution?
And the growing Shia-Sunni divisions here mirror, in faint, pale but frightening form, the tragedy of the two sects in Mesopot-amia. Shias have twice attacked the Beirut Sunni suburb of Tarek al-Jdeide, a Shia has been murdered and turned into an opposition "martyr", and the mufti of the Sunni Qoreitem mosque is reported as attacking the historic Shia imams, Ali and Hussein."