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Lebanon: Sunnis Fighting Sunnis

al-haririIn a clear reference to former Lebanese prime minister Hariri (junior), the press office of Sunni member of parliament Mohammed Safari held those responsible for inciting violence to be responsible, as well as those committing the violence. The offices of Sunni lawmaker Safari were attacked by Sunni protesters angry at his support for the new Lebanese prime minister, the Sunni businessman and briefly prime minister in 2005 Miqati.

The Lebanese political situation is unfolding on at least three levels:

  • Hezbollah vs. Sunni;
  • U.S./Israel vs. Iran and those Lebanese who want a Lebanon free to pursue a policy independent of U.S./Israeli wishes;
  • Internal Sunni politics.

Hezbollah’s restraint and protestations about wanting the new pro-Hezbollah government to remain a “unity government” including representatives from the Hariri camp notwithstanding, the political situation so far clearly constitutes yet another rise in Hezbollah’s power (stimulated in 2006 by its success in resisting Israeli aggression). Whether or not it can do better, with its new Sunni allies, at governing Lebanon for all Lebanese than Hariri did is an open question.
 
Representing Tel Aviv militarist interests, which want a helpless and dependent Lebanon, Washington is, rather ineptly (judging from its public behavior), trying to play the spoiler, and it may yet succeed: Lebanese politicians are not known for their ability to put national interests ahead of personal ones.
 
The attack on Safari’s Tripoli offices addresses my question yesterday about the possible significance of a split in the Sunni camp.  With the Lebanese Shi’a probably already the largest and fastest growing “confessional” group in Lebanon, not to mention the one with both the most modern political party and the most powerful militia, an open split among the country’s billionaire Sunni businessmen politicians would seem pretty significant for Lebanon’s balance of power.
 
If Hezbollah wants to seize the initiative as leader of all patriotic Lebanese, a convincing policy to help the poor of all confessions that clearly offered something to the poor Sunni of Tripoli and perhaps even the 400,000 long marginalized and mistreated Palestinian refugees who fled the Israeli ethnic cleansing campaign of 1948-9 would be a landmark first step.
 
Miqati is calling for unity; can he come out swinging as the true reform candidate Lebanon needs? To do so will require some creative thinking: with Saudis, Americans, and Israelis all either alienated or actively opposed to the success of Miqati’s imminent rule, he has few places to go for resources.

Mr. Erdogan, are you listening? Some spare change and a small Turkish “peace corps” effort right now would really put Turkey on the map as a regional leader.


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