THE LEVANT NEWS – By Dr. Haytham Mouzahem — First published in www.worldsecuritynetwork.com on 11-Feb-2005 —
Following the issuance of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, the future of Hizbullah in Lebanon is in jeopardy because the resolution called for the disarmament of the militias in Lebanon, in an indirect signal to Hizbullah. The United States considered Hizbullah as a terrorist group and asked Lebanon to freeze its assets.
Before discussing the future of the Hizbullah as a guerilla militia and a socio-political party, as well as its political and intellectual discourse, it is necessary to provide a background on the movement’s religious and political attitude towards Israel, the Middle East crisis and the United States.
Hizbullah’s attitude towards Israel
Hizbullah’s longstanding ideological position in respect to Israel clarifies some what its continued interest in Palestine. In February 1985 the organization issued an “Open Letter” which declared:
“This aggressive Zionist entity is illegitimate in its initiation and formation, and is founded on usurped land at the expense of an Islamic people …. It is compulsory to fight Israel so as to retrieve these stolen lands and restore the rights of the people, and eliminate its existence.”
The movement refused to recognize any peace agreement or negotiated truce with Israel, and it specifically rejected the Oslo peace agreements between the Palestinians and Israel describing it as “a treason against the blood of the Muslim Palestinians and the holy cause of Palestine”.
This attitude, that was borrowed from the Arab and Palestinian national discourse, was tinged with Islamic flavor through its strong linkage with the Islamic doctrine declared by Ayatollah Khomeini, who was seen by Hizbullah as their religious guide and the spiritual leader (Valey e-faqih).
According to the “Open Letter”, Hizbullah rejected all international resolutions that recognized Israel, such as the armistice between Lebanon and Israel that was signed in 1949, as well as the UN resolutions 425 and 426, since these resolutions recognized the state of Israel and sought to prevent any further military resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Furthermore, Hizbullah condemned the activities of the United Nations force in Southern Lebanon (UNIFIL) , saying that this international force was “colluding and unacceptable” and that it would be treated as an “invading Zionist force,” since its mission required not only the implementation of 425 but also the preservation of the northern border of Israel through the enforcement of the 1949 armistice.
However, Hizbullah has restricted its guerrilla militia against the Israeli occupation during the period (1982-2000) within the Lebanese territories.
The development of Hizbullah’s approach to the resolution 425
Hizbullah’s attitude towards the UN Security Council 425 can be divided into two main phases:
In reviewing the Hizbullah position on Resolution 425, we see that the movement’s attitude underwent a major change, marking two distinct ideological phases. Prior to the Taif Agreement (1989) which put end to the civil war in Lebanon, Hizbullah condemned the 425 emphatically. This attitude seems to have prevailed from approximately 1982 until 1990. Following the implementation of the Taif agreement which dissolved all militias (except the resistance groups), Hizbullah moved into a second ideological phase, characterized by its acceptance of the contents of Resolution 425. This period lasted from 1990 until 2000. This ideological change may have been in response to political changes that were taking place in Lebanon and internationally, rather than any substantive shift in its position regarding Israel. The years 1990 – 2000 were years of astounding political change, the ramifications of these changes extending far beyond the conflict in the Middle East, nevertheless significantly altering the character of the ongoing Arab – Israeli conflict.
At the beginning of this period the world witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dominance of the United States, as a sole superpower in the New World Order, and unconditional supporter of Israel. There was also the US-led war against Iraq, which destroyed many of the traditional Arab alliances. The year 1991 ushered in the launching of the Madrid Conference in which Syria and Lebanon entered into negotiations with Israel.
The Hizbullah leadership, understanding the significance of the international and regional political changes, began to review its political discourse and accommodate itself to be a long-term player, regardless of the outcome of the peace settlements between Israel and Lebanon/ Syria. The movement took on an attitude of realpolitik and began to leverage its influence, continuing to grow as a socio-religious movement, and gaining representation in the Lebanese parliament in 1992.
In 1993, Hizbullah accepted the “July Understanding” with Israel that limited its military operations against the Israeli occupation in Lebanon and stopped launching its Katuasha rockets on the Israeli north, while Israel agreed to end its attacks on Lebanese civilians. Israel violated the “July Understanding” by initiating the “Grapes of Wrath” military campaign in April 1996, through which it sought to destroy the infrastructure of the “Islamic resistance”, Hizbullah’s military wing. Israel failed to accomplish this goal and was compelled to accept the “April Understanding” of 1996 through indirect negotiations between Lebanon/Syria and Israel with the mediation of the U.S. Secretary of State, Warren Christopher.
The “April Understanding” reiterated the core principles of the “July Understanding” and created a monitoring committee to oversee compliance with the terms of the agreement. Hizbullah accepted the terms with reservations, most specifically declining to recognize Israel and its borders, and opting instead for recognition of its “de facto” situation by agreeing not to attack the northern borders despite the “illegitimacy of Israel”. In so doing, Hizbullah accepted the military balance equation that governs the conflict, under the pretext that its compromises were dictated by necessity and mounting international pressure.
Hizbullah’s victory in May 2000
This strategy worked surprisingly well for the Islamic party, opening the door for dramatic and effective Hizbullah counterattacks that resulted in an Israeli unilateral withdrawal from the occupied south of Lebanon in May 2000. The movement considers Israel’s unconditional implementation of Resolution 425, outside of any auxiliary peace treaty or security arrangement, as a resounding success and realization of its aims, and a victory for its political and military options.
Following the Israeli pullout, Hizbullah deployed its fighters into the previously occupied south prior to the deployment of the UNIFIL, creating a new situation on the border with Israel, the so-called “the Blue Line”.
The Islamic movement has proven its ability to adjust to the realities on the ground, showing it has the capacity to be a potent and permanent player. If we juxtapose Hizbullah’s realpolitik and its pure ideology concerning Israel and the international resolutions related to the armistice with it, its it is easy to notice the shift in its approach of managing the conflict with Israel in respect to the regional military balance rules.
This realpolitik and flexibility could be justified by the Shi’a flexible jurisprudence, allowing Hizbullah’s leadership to set up its priorities without creating ideological disparities within the movement. At this moment it seems that its priority was to preserve and protect the group leadership and cadres, as well as Lebanese civilians, in a purely defensive rather than offensive posture.
Hence, Hizbullah abides implicitly by the “1949 armistice agreement but has continued its military guerilla against Israel in Shebaa Farms, a Lebanese area on the slopes of the Golan occupied by Israel in 1967, due to the continuous Israeli occupation of this area, and maintained its resistance militia along the border in order to force Israel to withdraw from this area, and to gained the release of the Lebanese captured in Israel in an exchange with an Israeli colonel and three soldiers bodies, captured by Hizbullah’s guerilla.
This dominant framework is supported by both Lebanese and Syrian governments as well as Iran, despite the Israeli menaces, and the U.S. and U.N. objections claiming these attacks would threaten the stability and quietude on the Lebanese-Israeli borders, and could promote a new war which could transcend the Lebanese area.
Despite Hizbullah rejecting Israel legitimacy on any piece of the historical Palestine land, based on its Islamic ideology, its Secretary General, Hassan Nasrallah had emphasized in April 2000 that his party will be bound on what the Lebanese government decides, whether the Israeli withdrawal is to the international border or not.
I believe that this statement is directed to the Lebanese public that Hizbullah will not exceed the demands of the Lebanese government concerning its total sovereignty on both land and water, the release of Lebanese detainees in Israel, compensation for the casualties caused by Israeli aggressions, and maintaining the Palestinian refugees (who reside in Lebanon) rights of return to their homeland.
Thus, it was very remarkable that the electoral program of Hizbullah in the summer of 2000 has requested only the sovereignty over Lebanese land and water, particularly the liberation of Shebaa Farms, yet the program didn’t mention the liberation of Palestine as one of its agenda priorities.
Although, the organization could not be indifferent towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For that reason, the “Islamic Resistance” had seized the opportunity of the Palestinian “Al-aqsa Intifada” to re-launch its operations in Shebaa Farms from October 7, 2000 and to support the Palestinians in their struggle against the Israeli occupation. But the party did not attack any military position or civilians in North Israel since the withdrawal except to retaliate any Israeli violation to the Lebanese sovereignty. It seems that a kind of understanding has developed between the two parties to focus their military operations in Shebaa Farms area.
Hizbullah and the Palestinian Cause
Despite mounting domestic and international pressure, Hizbullah rejects the idea that the movement is deprived of its cause and commitment, and that the party is searching for a raison d’etre to justify preserving its arms along the borders with Israel, and it refuses to be denied a role in the Arab-Israeli conflict. After the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, Hizbullah has been accused for using the Sheeba farms, and the support of the Palestinian intifada as excuses for remaining as an armed resistance in south Lebanon.
Nawaf Musawi, in charge of Hizbullah’s international relations, denied these allegations and said in a special interview: ”If there is someone who wants to see the end of an armed presence of Hizbullah, then let him solve these two cases and we will give up our arms. If someone considers these issues an excuse, let them regain the Shebaa farms and solve the Palestinian tragedy .. and then we’ll give up our arms. Hizbullah’s raison d’etre is founded by the logic of necessity, since there are issues and anguish that required the establishment of this organization which reacted to Zionist aggression. None of our people like conflict for the sake of conflict”, stressed Musawi.
According to Musawi, Hizbullah’s arms proved a deterrent to Israel, and by referring to the last year’s stand off between Israel over the waters of the Wazzani River, he argued that, “Everybody admits that had it not been for Hizbullah’s capability in retaliating (against Israel) Lebanon would not have been able to provide water for its thirsty villages”.
Yet, neither the liberation of the Shebaa Farms or the successful conclusion of a prisoner exchange would resolve Lebanon from the regional equation, according to Musawi. Around 300 000 Palestinian refugees are present in Lebanon, he argued, and “it is their right to return as well as the Lebanese right to make the human claim of their right to return”. Thus, inherent in such worldly demands also Lebanon’s commitment the Arab cause in general and Hizbullah’s determination to maintain Lebanon’s close alliance with Syria. As long as the Arab-Israeli conflict remains, he noted, Lebanon is not able to stay out of it, and as a part of the Lebanese people, Hizbullah is dedicated to strengthen Lebanon’s role in this conflict”.
With respect to such larger commitments, Hizbullah should not be described as a Syrian pawn, but rather as an ally to Syria. It is not bad at all to say that we take the side of Syria to help her liberate her land, Musawi maintained. In his view, “US policy continued to cover up for Israeli violations of international law, and presently US uses Israeli assaults to pressure Syria in cooperating with the US in Iraq. So why should not there be an alliance with Syria and Lebanon”, he questioned? “In Lebanon, when we were fighting for liberating our land, we benefited from the political and moral support, and the logistics, from Syria. Thus there is a moral, human, and patriotic duty for us to side with the Syrians to liberate their land”. He continued: “So when we talk about the future we have to look at the links between Lebanon and the Arab-Israeli conflict. And when we arrive to an ideal situation, which is the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict, then we will face a new situation and a new cause that requires new ways to proceed”.
Mussawi explains his movement’s pro-Syrian demonstration on March 8, 2005 as an expression of thank to Syrian and its president for its help to Lebanon as well as for its support to Hizbullah’s resistance. He said that the Syrian president Bashar Asad refused to disarm Hizbullah’s resistance for the sake of the United States and Israel and the international pressures were just a punishment for this attitude.
Neither did he see Hizbullah’s call for “destroying Israel” as a reason for labeling his movement terrorist or for the Israelis to reject a peace settlement. I believe this expression is misunderstood, he said. The destruction of Israel does not mean “ethnical cleansing” or “religious war”. It rather indicates “that there is a bizarre situation which originates in the expulsion of the Palestinian people and the establishment of a racist state. Destroying Israel implies the elimination of a racist system founded upon Zionism and not the ethnical cleansing of Jews. This is similar to what happened in South Africa where the elimination of a racist system did not involve the killing or expelling of whites. So why not eliminating a racially defined state in Palestine?”.
The official organisational structure of Hizbullah
Hizbullah’s Future as a full political party
What would be the Hizbullah’s future if it will be disarmed and becomes a full political party ?
It is difficult to explore Hizbullah’s future, after its transformation from a military resistance into a full socio-political party in the Lebanese arena, without elaborating on its relations with the Lebanese government, Syria and Iran.
There is also a need to understand Hizbullah’s Political/intellectual program in Lebanon and the region, as well as, the study of its ability to adapt to a potential settlement with Israel, i.e. its disarmament and its transformation into a full political and civil organization.
Before analyzing the political/intellectual program of Hizbullah, it is necessary to mention that the movement’s relation with the Lebanese regime has witnessed distinctive developments. In the 1980s, the Islamic Movement rejected the legitimacy of the regime, which has been dominated by Christian Maronites, and showed its complete hostility to their hegemony over the Muslims and oppression of the miserable Shiites.
After the Taif agreement (1989), the compromise which ended the civil war (1975-1990) by abolishing the Maronite hegemony and giving the
Muslims a quasi-equal share in the power, Hizbullah started to accommodate with the de facto regime and it recognized it although it opposed some of the Taif principles. Then, the party participated in the Lebanese parliament during the 1992, 1996 and 2000 sessions, despite its opposition to and tense relations with Rafic Hariri’s governments during the years (1990-1998), due to political and economic policies that increased the corruption and the debt of Lebanon.
The political/intellectual discourse of Hizbullah
In its first chart, “The open Letter”, Hizbullah called upon in its political/ intellectual discourse with two main aims:
- Adoption of Islam as a comprehensive life system.
Fighting against corruption and tyranny in the world, particularly the Israeli usurpation of Arab lands and the American and Western hegemony over the Arab and Islamic world.
Obviously, the first aim included the call for the establishment of an Islamic regime applying the Islamic law (Shariaa). Hizbullah announced that it will not force people in Lebanon to adapt such an Islamic approach without concealing its desire that an Islamic regime could be chosen by the majority of Lebanese people via a democratic process.
Furthermore, the movement waived its call for an “Islamic Republic” in Lebanon, substituting it with a call for and end to “political sectarianism”, being an emblem advanced by most Lebanese leftist and nationalist parties.
Since Hizbullah conceives the impossibility of establishing an “Islamic Republic” in Lebanon, at least in the near future, it appears its main goal today is for reform of the Lebanese regime. They prefer to alter it by making it more just and more equitable through the abolition of political sectarianism and the achievement of equal development in all provinces of Lebanon.
Thus far, Hizbullah has made the abolition of political sectarianism its core objective among other political and socio-economic goals, including social and economic justice, equity and development, support of the oppressed and deprived, and opposition to governmental and administrative corruption and unjust economic policies. But the movement’s seriousness in their endeavor to achieve such altruistic aims, faced some deviation when it showed inclination towards compromise with the governments during the period (1992- 2000). Hizbullah participated in three sessions of legislative elections (1992, 1996, 2000) in alliance with some feudalist and corrupted forces under the pretext of protecting the resistance due to regional and national necessities. But these pragmatic alliances have hurt the organization credibility in claiming it is a party of “change and reform”.
Hence, the party augmented its quota in the Lebanese parliament from eight seats with two allies in 1996 parliamentary elections, to nine seats with three allies in 2000 session.
Thus, the political/ideological program of Hizbullah as a change party has not crystallized yet due to its focus on the resistance role coupled with serious compromises on domestic reforms. Furthermore there is no substantial distinction between the movement and the other National and leftist parties in Lebanon in terms of domestic affairs despite the movement’s Islamic background.
Furthermore, the movement has noticed early its absence in playing a major role in the domestic politics as an opposition or a reformist party. Ibrahim Al-amin A-sayyed, in charge of Hizbollah’s Political Council, talked in 2003 about the imperative of battling corruption in Lebanon in order to obstruct a corrupted milieu that could enable foreign intrusion. Nawaf Musawi asserted that “Hizbollah didn’t stop to speak of the importance of reforming the administration in Lebanon which is not separated from political reforms because the administrative and financial corruption rests on political corruption. In 1996, Hizbollah was engaged in attempts to change the political performances that were supposed to constrain the administrative and financial malfeasance via new balances in the parliament. Reforms are not likely to occur through street movements or from above, but rather by changing the balances between the parliament and the administration in charge and with the voices of the street. This triangle can produce changes that lead to reforms. But considerations with the struggle against the Israeli occupation form themselves priorities in the necessity of battling corruption. There is no question that Hizbullah’s silence about the corruption and the socio-economic crisis in Lebanon has lost it some of its popularity and credibility. But the movement was still not able to challenge Syria’s allies in Lebanon that were involved in corruption policies because it focuses on the conflict with Israel and needs the Syrian political cover. Hizbullah officials said that the party tried since several years ago to convince Syria that they should stop the corruption in Lebanon and do some reforms and take care of the socio-economic situation because Lebanon’s collapse would damage Syria also and would be a passport for the US and Israeli intervention.
Hizbullah’s relations with Lebanese and Syrian regimes
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is Secretary General of Hizbullah
Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is Secretary General of Hizbullah
Currently there is a strong alliance between Hizbullah and the Lebanese government led by the Lebanese pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud. This relation is strongly connected to the alliance between Hizbullah/Iran and Syria against Israel, and due to the pioneering role of Hizbullah in resisting the Israeli occupation. Lahoud has received the organization’s leader Hassan Nasrallah at its palace and awarded him a Medal of Honor as a national hero in June 2000. He was the first Lebanese president who met the Secretary General of Hizbullah.
Also, the Syrian president Bashar Assad has received hundreds of Hizbullah’s leaders and Cadres during the funeral of his father, the president Hafez Assad, in Cardaha town in June 2000. The party rally in Syria was very significant due to the Syrian regime’s conservatism towards the Islamists due to its conflict with the Muslim Brotherhoods.
Hence, the future positive or negative developments of these relations depend on that alliance’s continuation on one hand, and on the development of the military conflict with Israel or the peace settlement prospects on the other.
Meanwhile, the alliance between Hizbullah and Syria is expected to continue after a potential Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and even in case of a potential peace settlement with Israel, because the party needs a regional ally to preserve its regional role. Also, Syria wants to preserve its major allies in Lebanon to guarantee its influence and interests.
Hizbullah Relations with Iran
Undoubtedly, even after its transformation into a full political party, Hizbullah will continue to maintain its relation with Iran while conforming to the Lebanese law. This can be done through two mechanisms: The first lies in the religious/intellectual and jurisprudential linkage with the “Jurist Ruler” (Valey e-faqih), i.e. the leader of the Islamic republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This linkage, restricted to religious and cultural limitations, will be permissible unless it violates the Lebanese law.
As for the second linkage, the political connection with the Iranian government, Hizbullah has emphasized its independent political decisions are not subject to any Iranian political commands. Since 1997, The reformist policy of Iran under president Mohammed Khatami, motivated Hizhullah to adopt a similar approach of an ”open door policy” and improve its relationships with both Arab and western countries. The Iranian policy of “détente” with the international society accelerated the Lebanonization of Hizbullah.
I believe that this orientation will continue in the future through the reduction of Iran’s financial support or maybe its complete suspension. This could grant the party complete independence in decision making as currently claimed by its leaders. Hence, the dissociation of Hizbullah from Iran will be a slow gradual process that will be subject to regional political developments, especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, this does not amount to complete dissolution of the relationship since there are religious, jurisprudence and financial connections (such as the Islamic Al-khums and Zakat) as well as the Iranian financial support to some charitable Lebanese foundations.
U.S. approach towards Hizbullah
U.S. policy towards Hizbullah is based on its accusations to the movement regarding its accused role in the kidnappings American citizens, plane hijackings and bombings of a U.S. marine barracks and the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in the 1980s. The party denied any role in those attacks and activities. The movement is not seen as a terrorist organization by Lebanon and the Arabs countries, but as a national resistance whose guerrilla militia forced Israel to end a 22 year occupation of the Southern Lebanon.
The disagreement between Washington and Beirut/ Damascus over the definition of Hizbullah reflects the difference between Arabs and the U.S. over the distinction between the resistance organizations against the Israeli occupation of Arab lands (in Lebanon , Syria and Palestine), and the terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda headed by Osama Bin Laden.
The late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri stated in 2001 that his government would stand by the group that made the Israelis leave Lebanese soil and played a prominent role in Lebanese political life. President Emile Lahoud added in a separate declaration: “We are not about to change this policy under any circumstances because it is based on national convictions”.
Syrian foreign minister Farouk Charaa criticized the American decision to put Hizbullah and the Palestinian militant groups on a par with Bin Laden’s group. “It is shame for any country in the world to see with its own eyes what Israel is doing and accuse those Palestinians or Lebanese who defend their land of terrorism”, Charaa said at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Damascus in November 2001.
Hizbullah stated that the US allegations are due to its continuous guerilla attacks against the Israeli army in Shebaa Farms, and because it supports the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Israeli occupation. Hizbullah officials said they will not change their attitude. “The U.S. lists don’t bother us in the slightest. When America accuses Hizbullah, we take it as proof of the credibility of our goals” in a signal to the popularity of the anti-America in the Arab and Muslim countries.
Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda: friends or foes?
The final report of the Sept. 11 Commission in the US argued that Al-Qaeda had ties with Iran and Hizbullah, but noted that “the relationship between Al-Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shiite divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations”. But the report found “no evidence that Iran or Hizbullah was aware of the planning for what later became the Sept.11 attack”.
It is true that Sunni-Shiite differences are in no way obstacles to cooperation between Islamist groups such as the Shiite Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamist movements such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad. But the
Sept. 11 Commission did not observe that Al-Qaeda was a very different Sunni group than the Palestinian ones; it is an extremist Wahhabi movement that considers Shiites as nonbelievers, referring to them as rafidha, or those who reject mainstream Islam.
In 1998, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which was harboring Al-Qaeda and its leadership, committed atrocities against Afghan Shiite Hazaras in Mazar al-Sharif, killing thousands, as well as eight Iranian diplomats. The crimes very nearly led to a war between Iran and Afghanistan, and helped explain Iranian support for the northern Afghani groups in their battle against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda – and later (circumspectly) for the US invasion that led to the Taliban’s overthrow.
The relation between the Iraq’s Baath regime, Iran’s main enemy that launched an eight year war against the Islamic Republic, and Al-Qaeda began in 1998, when Saddam Hussein allowed the group to establish training camps in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was reportedly the broker of this connection. The Baathi/ Qaeda alliance may have resurfaced after the US invasion through the unexpected cooperation between the two parties in killing Iraqi policemen and civilians and Shiite leaders in holy shrines in Najaf and Karbala, as well as the Qazimiyyeh Mosque in Baghdad.
Heavy weaponry of Hizbullah
Heavy weaponry of Hizbullah
That strongly implied both a deep hatred from the Qaeda/Baathi alliance for the Shiites and a desire to prevent them of playing any major role in post-war Iraq.
Wahhabis consider the Shiites unbelievers (kuffar) and “polytheists” (mushrekin) because of their veneration of the Prophet Mohammad and the Imams. Since the late 18th century, the Wahhabis launched three military campaigns to conquer Shiite regions in Arabia, leading to the destruction of their mosques and shrines. In 1803 and 1806, the Wahhabis entered Iraq and sacked the tombs of Imam Hussein in Karbala, an act of immense desecration. In 1927, senior Saudi religious scholars issued fatwas condemning the Shiites, which were reasserted as late as the 1990s.
Given all this, Hizbullah cannot be indifferent toward the terrorist and sectarian attacks against their Iraqi brethren and their shrines. The party’s secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, condemned these killings and warned Al-Qaeda fighters last March that such behavior would damage the Palestinian cause because it would lead to Sunni-Shiite sectarian strife, an apparent goal of Zarqawi and his ally Osama bin Laden.
In an interview in June 2004, Nasrallah expressed strong fears and concerns about the so-called “resistance” in Iraq, and strongly condemned its methods, for example the use of car bombings. As he put it, they are “willing to kill 90 Iraqi civilians in order to kill one US soldier”. Nasrallah asserted, “the Wahhabi network is very active in Iraq, and it has a strong sectarian agenda”. He said he believed that ”Saddam’s Baathists and even Wahhabis are willing to negotiate with the Americans in order to prevent a rise in Shiite power”. He worried that this Wahhabi network “will strike at Shiite targets in the Arab world, outside Iraq, very soon”.
Also, Hizbullah has condemned attacks targeting civilians by Al-Qaeda and its allies. Nawaf Musawi, who is in charge of Hizbullah’s international relations department, said in a special interview with the author in the Fall of 2003 following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, was “this is (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon’s lucky day”, because “Sharon would be able to kill the Palestinian people under the pretext of ‘fighting terrorism”. He added: “I believe that those kinds of condemnable terrorist operations have done great damage to the struggling Palestinian people”.
I believe there are several barriers hindering the cooperation between Hizbullah and the Wahhabis. Religious and historical divisions play a major role in this, but are not the only factors. Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda have very different political priorities, strategies and agendas. Whatever the Sept. 11 Commission said, all the signs show that Al-Qaeda and Hizbullah are foes rather than friends.
Israel, the US and other Western countries focus on Hizbullah’s status as a problem in Lebanon and the region, because of its support to the Palestinian Intifada, forgetting that the movement is a result of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in 1982. Exaggerating Hizbullah’s crisis, they ignore the important Lebanese issues which are still related to the conflict with Israel such as the future of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and their right of return, and the occupation of Shebaa Farms, and the dependence of the Syrian and Lebanese tracks in the conflict with Israel, as well as Hizbullah’s weapon as a deterrent against any Israeli aggression. We should not neglect the consequences of separating Lebanon from Syria’s conflict with Israel, through disarming Hizbullah and deploying the Lebanese army along the borders with Israel, which can threat the stability and peace in Lebanon on one hand, and avoiding the necessity to pressure Israel to reach comprehensive and just peace settlements with Syria and Lebanon and Palestinians on the other hand.
Hizbullah’s resistance in South Lebanon is a part of the regional equation and it helps balancing the lack of the equilibrium in the regional conflict and that is the raison d’etre for the behalf of Lebanon and Syria and Palestinians, as a deterrent force against Israeli threats and aggressions, in addition to its current role through its guerilla in Shebaa Farms in reminding the Israeli, as well as the international society, that this land and the Golan Heights are still occupied and should get liberated.
Yes, Hizbullah’s disarmament and its guerilla in Shebaa Farms could be a Lebanese domestic problem because they might damage the Lebanese interests in terms of unexpected heavy Israeli retaliation. But that should not be an excuse for any foreign intervention in the Lebanese internal affairs, and should be solved within a Lebanese process.
The United States and the European Union, as well as Russia and the United Nations, understand that they could pressure Syria to implement the first part of the Resolution 1559 which calls upon Syria for a total withdrawal from Lebanon, but they could not use the same process and means to disarm Hizbullah according to the 1559, since it is the largest party in Lebanon and has a lot of popularity due to its pioneering role in liberating South Lebanon, and to its social activities. The American administration should send a clear and direct message to Hizbullah that it will remove it from its black list of terrorist organizations, if the group will become a full political party.
The disarmament of Hizbullah is not a priority for the Lebanese people as well as for the international society, yet it is Israel’s. I believe the Lebanese can reach a consensus, within the new parliament and government after the upcoming elections in May , to find a solution for Hizbullah’s militia and arms, as transforming it to a part of the Lebanese forces or keep the status-quo until the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Undoubtedly, a total peace agreement between Lebanon/Syria and Israel calling for the deployment of the Lebanese army on the border would be the only way for the disarmament of Hizbullah. Today, Hizbullah is in an unprecedented state of conformation with the Lebanese and Syrian government positions. As long as Israel continues to occupy Lebanese and Syrian lands, the three parties are in agreement about depriving Israel of any security arrangements related to the suspension of Hizbullah military action, before a comprehensive and just peace can occur.
Since the Lebanese state in its democratic/sectarian admitted the existence of Hizbullah as a political Islamic movement in the Lebanese parliament, local municipalities and civil institution, I thinkLebanon would be able to accept the continuation of the party’s political role, given the end of its military role once the Israeli occupation ends and perhaps after resolving peace agreements between Lebanon/Syria and Israel. . In a country claiming democracy and freedom, Hizbullah would keep its place in the political arena.
Dr. Haytham Mouzahem is a Lebanese analyst and researcher who specializes in Islamic and Middle East affairs. He is the executive editor in chief of The Levant News website (www.the-levant.com) and the head of Beirut Center For Middle East Studies(www.beirutme.com).