HOME About Blog Contact Hotel Links Donations Registration
NEWS & COMMENTARY 2008 SPEAKERS 2007 2006 2005

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Analysis: Lebanon on the verge of a coup?

WASHINGTON, March 1 (UPI) -- Lebanon's charismatic Druze leader Walid Jumblatt was in Washington this week seeking support from the Bush administration for the pro-democracy March 14 Movement and for the beleaguered Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

The leader of the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party who in the past tended to gravitate more towards the Soviet Union -- at least from a philosophical perspective -- thanked President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac for their help and support in getting the Syrians out of Lebanon.

At the same time, Jumblatt raised a worrying alarm, saying that Lebanon was on the verge of a coup d'etat.

Almost two years after the departure of Syrian troops, the crisis playing itself out on the streets of the Lebanese capital Beirut has started to intensify. On one side of this political tug-of-war is Iran and its Syrian ally, while on the other is the pro-Western, pro-free market economy, pro-democracy forces. The first prize of this contest is nothing short of the domination of Lebanon.

Jumblatt, much like former President Amine Gemayel before him, came to seek assistance from the United States at a time when Lebanon is starting to feel pressure from Damascus once again.

One of the immediate problems facing pro-democratic forces in Lebanon is to insure the smooth transition of power. But for that to happen, the parliamentarians must be able to convene and to cast their votes for a new president.

However, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and leader of the Amal movement is a Shiite and an ally to Hezbollah. There is worry on the side of the March 14 leaders that upon directives from Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Berri could padlock the Parliament and prevent the election from going ahead. Should Parliament fail to elect a new president the country would find itself in a constitutional crisis.

Siniora's government, meanwhile, has been under siege -- literally -- for the last several weeks as supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah movement are camping day and night in a makeshift tent city erected around the prime minister's office in the renovated city center of Beirut. Ironically, it was thanks to slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri that the city center, completely devastated by 19 years of a bloody fratricidal civil war, was rebuilt.

While the civil war officially ended in 1990, the country has to date failed to establish a national dialogue or reconciliation committee or to even erect a single plaque to the memory of the 150,000 people killed. If anything, the situation only seems to grow more worrisome.

"We are on the verge of a coup d'etat," Jumblatt told members of the Lebanese community in Washington Tuesday night, after meeting with President Bush and other senior members of the administration.

Jumblatt said he feared the pro-Iranian and Syrian militia was pushing Lebanon towards the brink of civil war. The ultimate aim of Hezbollah, he said, was to turn Lebanon into an Islamic republic based on the Iranian model.

Jumblatt asked the Lebanese to place the country's interests above of those of a particular sect, religion or community, because Lebanon's future was at stake.

"Stay united, stay united beyond all confessional rivalries," said Jumblatt. "We are Lebanese first."

The Druze leader said he feared the current showdown between Siniora's government and the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite Hezbollah militia was scaring away many Lebanese, particularly Christians.

"Lebanon without the Christians would not be Lebanon," said Jumblatt. "We are Lebanese first and we are for Lebanon's independence and we're Lebanese first."

Jumblatt lamented that the country lost many prestigious people in its fight for independence; politicians, journalists and intellectuals. Since the assassination of Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14, 2005, a number of prominent politicians, journalists, and members of parliament and other personalities have also been assassinated.

To date no one has either claimed responsibility or been charged for any of the crimes, but many Lebanese believe the orders have emanated from Damascus.

Jumblatt, accompanied by fellow Druze politician and Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, had met earlier with Bush for a private session at the White House. "What I heard yesterday from President Bush was very encouraging," Jumblatt said. Hamadeh later reiterated in a private conversation with United Press International that Bush had promised support for Lebanon and its democratically elected government.

Still, Jumblatt was not over optimistic in his outlook for the immediate future. "I'm afraid that the price (for independence) is not over," he said. "The Syrians are officially out. But unofficially are in; we have to face their allies in Lebanon."

Jumblatt predicts it's going to be a very long, long bloody fight. "Don't expect to see miracles in the near future," said the Druze leader.

"It's between preserving the Cedar Revolution, preserving Lebanon as a multi-confessional country, preserving Lebanon as a free country; with a free press, free economy, free enterprise, all to be subjected to the totalitarian approach of Hezbollah. And when you say Hezbollah it means Iran, Persia, and the totalitarian approach of the Syrian regime," he said.

"The battle is going to be a long, long one," added Jumblatt.
Web IntelligenceSummit.org
Webmasters: Intelligence, Homeland Security & Counter-Terrorism WebRing
Copyright © IHEC 2008. All rights reserved.       E-mail info@IntelligenceSummit.org