Headlines and commentators over the weekend declared that a “civil war is raging in Beirut,” “Siniora and Jumblatt are fleeing,” “the government is collapsing,” and “Iran is taking over.” Yet the truth is far from that, and again attests to how little we understand what goes on in Lebanon, and possibly in the whole Middle East.
Just like in the crisis of December 2006, when tens of thousands of Shiites besieged Siniora’s government palace, the same happened this time around: Prime Minister Siniora adopted the tactic of weakness. This is the same tactic he used against us during the Second Lebanon War, when he broke into tears in order to exert international pressure on Israel.
Siniora is a true artist when it comes to understanding the Middle East. He did not fall into the trap of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and did not unleash the Lebanese army against Hizbullah’s fighters. Had he done so, Nasrallah would have taken advantage of it and really taken over Beirut. Instead, Siniora allowed Hizbullah to enter areas it doesn’t belong in, thus making Nasrallah fall into a trap himself.
The latest developments completely exposed Hizbullah’s grave deception, which in the past argued that it will be using its arms only against Israel. With his own hands, Nasrallah proved the falsehood of its supposed right to exist as Lebanon’s last militia. With his own hands, he reinforced the demand that Hizbullah disarm, as called for by Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701.
Hizbullah lost quite a few points in Lebanese public opinion in the past few days, which comes on top of the immense damage caused to Lebanon by the group’s war against the IDF.
Siniora government stronger nowBeyond that, Nasrallah’s decision to initiate a crisis failed to undermine the Siniora government’s foundations, and this government will continue to be the majority within Lebanese politics. Nasrallah failed to prompt the government to resign, as he would very much like to do. On the contrary, he boosted the Siniora government, because through this belligerent move he united many Lebanese around the position that Nasrallah is the greatest danger to Lebanon’s stability.
In the short and medium range, the crisis has ended, but Lebanon is in deep trouble, and has in fact lost the possibility of being a relatively pluralistic and free country. It is only a matter of time before the Shiites take over Lebanon, a move feared by all other ethnic groups.
Since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri by Syrian and Hizbullah agents in February 2005, a total of 150,000 people emigrated from Lebanon. These emigrants are Christians, Sunnis, young people, and wealthy Lebanese, who are leaving behind the Shiites. All the Shiites need to do now is sit and wait. There is no need for coups and humiliation, as happened this past weekend. It will take some time, but their takeover of Lebanon will come on its own.