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Critics of the agreement that ended the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon last summer pointed out that Hezbollah appeared free to re-arm itself without much interference. The UNIFIL forces that were supposed to keep the peace wound up explicitly stating that disarming Hezbollah fell outside of their mission, and that responsibility lay with the Lebanese Army. At the time, that force made it clear that they would not start a civil war by stripping Hassan Nasrallah and his organization of its arms, but would instead concentrate on moving back into the sub-Litani region with as little conflict as possible.
That appears to have changed, possibly spurred by Nasrallah's attempts to bring down Fuad Siniora's government. The Lebanese authorities have seized a shipment of weapons meant for Hezbollah, and they do not intend on giving it back to them:
The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has said a lorry intercepted by the authorities was transporting weapons for its fighters.
Hezbollah has demanded the return of the lorry and the arms.
Lebanese government officials said that a vehicle had been stopped in Beirut after travelling from the Bekaa Valley, in the east of the country.
They said the lorry had been taken away for further examination and are refusing to return it.
This comes amid tumult and portents of a new civil war. Nasrallah has demanded a new Cabinet and veto powers for Hezbollah over any government action, a demand that Siniora has rejected. The impasse resulted in massive demonstrations that attempted to shut down Beirut, which started to turn into a riot. Nasrallah ended it to avoid an all-out war that he cannot win, at least not at this time.
Seizing and holding the weapons appears to be Siniora's answer to Nasrallah. He will instead redirect the arms to the Lebanese Army, underresourced in comparison to Hezbollah anyway, using the recent border skirmish with Israel as an excuse. Siniora knows that Hezbollah's arms could soon be turned against the government, and he'd be a fool to release them to Nasrallah now.
This will undoubtedly raise the stakes for Lebanon. However, any state worthy of that status has to control the military forces within its own borders, or it will eventually fall. The problem in Lebanon is that no one faction is strong enough to take control, and the only manner in which to govern is to find coalitions among enough of the groups to hold power. While Siniora allows Nasrallah to go unchallenged, Hezbollah gains political strength by attracting more of the factions to their banner. Siniora appears ready to show some exercise of strength to counter that, and perhaps that may reduce the aura of inevitability that surrounds Nasrallah and Hezbollah.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Siniora Standing Up To Hezbollah? from Bill's Bites
Siniora Standing Up To Hezbollah? Ed Morrissey Critics of the agreement that ended the Israeli campaign against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon last summer pointed out that Hezbollah appeared free to re-arm itself without much interference. The UNIFIL fo... [Read More]
Tracked on February 9, 2007 2:43 PM
» Bill's Nibbles-- 2007.02.09 from Old War Dogs
Some Bill's Bites posts, some things I excerpted and linked but I'm sending you to the original post. I may rearrange the order of the items within this post as I add new things that I think belong above the [Read More]
Tracked on February 9, 2007 2:45 PM
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