August 5, 2008


Hezbollah Strengthens Its Grip in Lebanon: Winning Israel's release of a notorious killer gives the militant group a key success (Mitchell Prothero, August 4, 2008, US News)

"Kuntar? It was never about him—it was the sacred promise of Sayed Hassan to return the prisoners that was pursued. The file on Kuntar was symbolic to show that only armed resistance can force the Zionists to act," declares a Hezbollah fighter whose nom de guerre is Abu Hussein. "He is only free because of his value as a message to those who want us to talk without the dignity of arms."

And to make sure no one missed the point, Nasrallah arranged for Kuntar and the Hezbollah fighters to be flown to Beirut's international airport for a red carpet celebration that included the newly installed President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, and Lebanon's new cabinet, which includes 10 opposition members that provide Hezbollah and its allies with veto power over all government decisions.

Members of the pro-western government were put in a difficult situation: refuse to participate and be dubbed an enemy by Hezbollah, or stand on the tarmac to celebrate the freedom of a man who bashed in a 4-year-old girl's head with his rifle butt.

"You don't want to know how hard this is for us," said one government political figure. "There was national pride when the resistance freed the south (from Israeli occupation); even if you opposed Hezbollah and supported Israel, you felt some pride to see Lebanon liberated. But over this? One thousand people, hundreds of children, died (in the 2006 war) to free this monster none of us even know? Hezbollah freed him to show they could. And now they will make us 'celebrate' their victory because they know they can."

Hezbollah, through its political arm, and Lebanon's pro-western elected government have reached an uneasy détente after Hezbollah-led forces routed activists loyal to the government and Sunni leader Saad Hariri in May. The ease with which Hezbollah and its more secular allies in the Amal Movement defeated Sunni and Druze supporters of the government stunned the nation and left most pro-western political figures terrified in the realization that Hezbollah can remove them from power by force at any time. "So why not try and get along with them?" the political figure added. "It's not like we have a choice."

The choice is obvious: division into your constituent parts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 5, 2008 7:35 AM
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