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Monday, December 04, 2006

HizbAllah's Offensive in Lebanon: Day Three

By Walid Phares

On the third day of HizbAllah’s campaign to takeover the Lebanese Government, more sectors from civil society began to rise. But they weren’t rising with the pro-Iranian militia in as much as they were rising to oppose its move. However on the other hand, it was further noticed that a number of Western media increased their support to Nasrallah’s organization.

From Saturday late night into the early hours of the morning, more incursions by HizbAllah’s elements were signaled inside the traditional Sunni West Beirut. A battle with rocks took place in many streets leaving a number of wounded and one HizbAllah militiaman dead. The Iranian-backed militants staged their “thrusts” into Sunni areas from their launching pad in the “protest” areas in downtown, commonly described by the opponents as the “coup d’Etat” basis. According to sources in the Lebanese Army, the gradual “coup” is taking place with a minute preparation coordinated by the Iranian embassy in Beirut. A “War room,” including HizbAllah, Syrian intelligence, President Lahoud’s secret services, Baath Party, Syrian National-Socialists and representatives from General Michel Aoun’s group, is directing the campaign.

On the political level, the single most important development is the decision made by the March 14 movement and the Cedars Revolution leaders to “move the headquarters of the Government to Mount Lebanon if the Syro-Iranian militias would overrun the Prime Minister’s office.” Such a decision means that the Seniora cabinet and the leaders of the anti-Syrian majority in Lebanon will resist the onslaught of HizbAllah’s forces and would eventually call on the people to oppose the coup d’Etat. In Washington and Paris, Governmental sources said that bringing down the Government outside the Parliament is a red line. In New York, the Security Council members, particularly the US and French delegations have clearly signified their rejection of a violent crumbling of a democratically elected cabinet. This view is widely shared by the majority of Arab moderate countries, including Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

A new development occurred overseas as the leaders of the Lebanese Diaspora declared their “rejection of HizbAllah’s aggression against Lebanon’s civil society," as they signed a joint declaration published by multiple web sites as well as as-Siyassa and al Muharer. Joe Baini, the Sydney-based President of the World Council of Cedars Revolution said “we’re 12 million Lebanese in 32 countries and we are the numeric overwhelming majority of the Lebanese people.” In a letter addressed to the Lebanese Diaspora, Baini said “we are warning Iran and Syria not to interfere in Lebanese affairs, and we are warning HizbAllah not to clash with the Lebanese people. We, the overseas majority of Lebanese, who maintain the economic lifeline to Lebanon, will not accept the Terror action by a minority of radicals who take their orders from Tehran and Damascus.” It is to note that the “Lebanese lobby”, as it is known worldwide played a critical role in the calling for and making of UNSCR 1559 in 2004, which ordered Syria to withdrawal from the country and asked HizbAllah to disarm.

In the battlefield of media, more indications are developing about the HizbAllah propaganda influence. Media watchers out of Lebanon and overseas have noticed the circulation of “stories” by a support network to the pro-Iranian organization, attempting to depict the developments in Lebanon as taking place between a militant group and a Government backed by militias. This war of ideas, launched by the “War room” in Beirut, is financed –according to leaders from the Cedars Revolution- by “huge amount of Iranian Petro-dollars.” Roger Azzam, an NGO activist in Lebanon said “the treasury of the Islamic Republic in Tehran is fully open for this battle.” Azzam said “millions of dollars have been allocated to feed all needs such as establishing a new TV station in Lebanon and taking care of media people both in Lebanon and worldwide. The Iranians we hear have hired PR companies around the world to win the public opinion battle.” In Canada, the chairman of the Lebanese Human Rights committee said “we see some of the HizbAllah propaganda influence even here.” Elias Bejjani indicated for example an article in the Globe and Mail daily in Toronto which title is revealing: “West help Lebanon build militia to fight HezbAllah.” Mark McKinnon, the author of the article, wrote that the Internal Security Forces (ISF) is a “militia,” backed by the United States, France and Arab countries. The journalist, according to Lebanese Bloggers, was trying to “sneak a new twist in the ongoing conflict in Lebanon: that is to portray the Lebanese regular police as a militia equivalent to the Terror group HizbAllah.” In fact the article said: “Critics charge that the force is dominated by Sunnis, and that its real purpose is to defend the government of Mr. Siniora, a Sunni, against the growing power of the country's large Shia population.” Toni Nissi, an NGO leader working on implementing UN resolutions, said "the article is a piece of propaganda aiming at creating a mindset worldwide that a civil war is in the making between Shiia and Sunnis in Lebanon, just to make the point that democracy can’t work in this country.” Nissi said the ISF existed for decades, this is Lebanon’s internal security force; and indeed it is its duty to defend the people and the Government against the Terrorists of HizbAllah. “We’re stunned that Canadian newspapers want to equate legal authorities with Terrorism.”

On another front, next steps by HizbAllah may include the introduction of Syrian intelligence in the covert operations battle against the Government. Sources in the Lebanese army told Cedars Revolution leaders that “hundreds of armed elements have been crossing the international borders between Syria and Lebanon with sophisticated individual weapons.” Lebanese and Arab newspapers said over the week end that dozens of trucks have crossed the borders and headed to HizbAllah’s bases in southern Beirut and the Bekaa valley. “All indicate, said Walid Jumblat, the Socialist Druse leader, “that the Iranians and the Syrians are staging a coup.”

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