Wednesday, July 7, 2010

They are scared of Hezbollah


by Hanin Ghaddar  


United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 was passed to ensure that Lebanon enjoys full sovereignty and control over all its territories. However, the incidents that occurred in South Lebanon earlier in the week have proved that certain parties are set on undermining the resolution's aims.
One day before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued his 13th report on UNSCR 1701, residents in 22 villages in the South took to the streets, blocked roads and attacked UNIFIL troops with stones to protest the increased presence of the UN peacekeepers in the South.

The countries contributing to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon are concerned that their freedom of movement has been compromised. According to Michael Williams, the UN's special coordinator for Lebanon, "UNIFIL's exercise in the area was carried out as part of its normal operations and with full respect of its mandate."

UNSCR 1701 calls on Hezbollah to disarm and authorizes UNIFIL to "take all necessary action in areas of deployment of its forces and as it deems within its capabilities, to ensure that its area of operations is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind, to resist attempts by forceful means to prevent it from discharging its duties under the mandate of the Security Council…"

But as the Lebanese army failed to issue a statement on the incident to clarify the situation, Hezbollah declared its dissatisfaction with UNIFIL. In an interview with As-Safir newspaper on Friday, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem said that "UNIFIL must pay attention to what it does and realize that any excess only serves to cause worry and harm trust between the force and residents," adding that if the government cannot protect border village residents, then they will have to find a way to protect themselves.

His comments came after the head of Hezbollah's Executive Council, Sayyed Hashem Safieddine, said during a commemoration ceremony on Thursday evening that the Resistance and its history cannot be erased by anyone's resolution.

What happened this week is a clear sign that Hezbollah is in total control of the area south of the Litani. The party can boost its weaponry, smuggle arms, carry out maneuvers and interpret 1701 as it wishes, while UNIFIL is attacked and the Lebanese army looks on impotent.

So what would have satisfied Hezbollah? Should UNIFIL send a letter to Hezbollah, instead of the Lebanese army, to inform it of their activities? Hezbollah feels it must be aware of, and approve, any UNIFIL movement, and that it is master of the South and to hell with the UN and UNSCR 1701.

That said, Hezbollah does not want UNIFIL to leave Lebanon; this would expose Lebanon and the South to danger. It does, however want to send a message to the international community that it is in control. And it has worked. UNIFIL halted its maneuvers on Thursday.

Another thing: UNIFIL would be in charge in the occupied Ghajar village in the event of an Israeli withdrawal, and the attack against the UN troops has raised concerns in light of the Israeli cabinet's recent approval of withdrawing from the northern part of the village. There are fears that these attacks are linked to a possible withdrawal from Ghajar. The Resistance's cause would be harmed if it appeared that diplomacy had achieved better results than armed confrontation. Indeed, Hezbollah needs to justify its arms and highlight the need for its presence as a more significant force than UNIFIL.

But that is not it. In the past few weeks, Hezbollah has launched a number of drives indicating that all is not well with the party walls. 

Two weeks ago, Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Nawwaf Moussawi launched a campaign against Lebanese media outlets and other organizations that he said had been funded by the US to undermine Hezbollah's image to the tune of $500 million, adding that other Arabs who are US allies have paid twice as much to the same cause. 

Then Hezbollah MP Kamel al-Rifai promised that the party would soon "confront American defamation campaigns" and prepare a list of individuals, parties and clubs collaborating with the US.

Then there was news of the arrest of an employee from the Alfa mobile telecom company for allegedly spying for Israel, allowing Hezbollah to imply that Israel controls the Lebanese telecom network and is, according to Hezbollah MP Mohammad Raad, capable of "sowing strife." It also means that any future indictments based on cell phone data analysis can be easily dismissed as an Israeli conspiracy.

So UNIFIL and 1701 are not the only targets. All international resolutions, as well as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, are under attack, now and in the future. Some would also link these attacks to the recent Security Council sanctions against Iran. The main peacekeeping troops targeted during these attacks were the French and the Spanish. According to sources in the French Embassy, these attacks were organized by Hezbollah to send a message to European countries in reaction to the sanctions.

The Lebanese government has not reacted in a way to suggest this kind of behavior will not be repeated. Hezbollah proved its strength, and UNIFIL has yielded.

It's not that no one cares. It's just that everyone appears scared of Hezbollah.


Hanin Ghaddar is managing editor of NOW Lebanon

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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