February 18, 2010


Hezbollah Tries to Break Out of Militant Mold (AP, 2/18/10)

[D]espite the tough talk, Hezbollah seems more concerned these days with its position at home, trying to show it can work with Lebanon's many other factions, some of which oppose any military entanglement with Israel. That means moderating its actions and playing within the system.

The shift was forced by the seismic events that had shaken Lebanon over the past few years, analysts say. In particular, Hezbollah's 2006 war with Israel and 2008 sectarian clashes with political rivals raised criticism among some Lebanese that the movement was dragging the country into violent conflicts. Moreover, Hezbollah now has a place in a fragile national unity government, putting further pressure on it to stay in line.

Notably, Hezbollah has not carried out a single rocket attack into Israel since the 2006 war. It has also yet to avenge the assassination of its top military commander, Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed in a 2008 car bombing in Damascus that was widely blamed on Israel. Nasrallah on Tuesday repeated pledges that revenge would eventually come.

Hezbollah "is emphasizing that it also has other roles to play besides the resistance," said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, an analyst specializing in Hezbollah. The group is trying to highlight its "nationalist dimension" as opposed to its strictly Islamic or Arab identity.

A key step was Nasrallah's announcement in November of the group's platform, only the second since Hezbollah was founded in 1982 following Israel's invasion.

The new language was strikingly conciliatory. While the group's first platform, released in 1985, called for establishing an Islamic republic in Lebanon, the new manifesto does not mention an Islamic state and underscores the importance of coexistence among Lebanon's 18 religious sects.

It also speaks of a "consensual democracy" and says it seeks a "sovereign, free and independent" Lebanon with a strong state that preserves public liberties.

"Welcome to the Lebanese political club," the publisher of one leading Lebanese newspaper joked to Nasrallah when he presented the 30-page platform at a packed Nov. 30 news conference.

Hard to see how they don't eventually get supplanted within the Shi'a soouth if they're serious about a state of Lebanon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 18, 2010 6:33 AM
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