Friday, November 10, 2006

Coming soon, the new civil war

Are we moving towards a new Lebanese civil war?


We are already in the midst of a wider conflict within “Greater Syria”, to borrow a National Socialist term. The extent of it depends not on the United States and "how far the US will go", but on Iran and how it interprets/misinterpret the UK diplomat's visit to Damascus, and the results of the latest US elections.

1- The visit is either it a last chance effort, or a case of the Europeans are really "blinking first", in typical 9/10 fashion. My money is on the latter, but we'll soon see effects in Lebanon.

2- The Republican electoral rout, in a region ruled by autocrats, may be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness; over here, a ruling party never loses elections.

If, through the national dialogue, they "add" Aoun's ministers to the Lebanese Cabinet, then I may mean that the Europeans indeed "blinked" and compromised with Syria in the hope of separating it from Iran. Not that I oppose Aoun’s inclusion in the cabinet; I feel that it would have had to happen earlier, and no matter the risk of civil war, I still believe that Hezb should have been left out.

I am not sure how this situation will remain sustainable, seeing how much cash Syria gets from Iran; the only way to make up for the shortfall would be to let Syria back in control of Lebanon's juicy morsels. We could also see our "leaders" selling out more of us to the Syrians, in order to cover their hide and get back in the graces of Damascus.

The Fox in the Henhouse

Otherwise, if it was a "last chance" effort, the ball would really be in Iran's court. Hezb, their fox in the henhouse, is getting increasingly nervous and restive.

We would have to expect at least some continuation of the low-level disturbance and economic morass, at worst "going to the streets". In the latter case, Hezb and Iran options are limited; they have lost much during the last war, and while they have enough to start a war, they cannot achieve a rapid enough victory.

Limits, Limits

Limits, Limits

On purely military terms, Hezb is now geographically and economically "limited". Geographically. They have tried a repeat during their demos before the July War, and it showcased their limitations; they attacked both Moslem and Christian neighbourhoods. They only succeeded in proving that they had no sense of humour.

If Hezb moves against Christians, all Christians will side against them, and a quickly form a new alliance with the Druze. The Sunnis will remain on the sidelines, except by providing funding and localized support, and the war will be confined to Lebanon.

If they move against Sunnis, then all Sunnis will side against them, but the Christians will remain on the sidelines at first, divided between Aoun/Frangieh and Geagea/Gemayel. This will not last long; this type of Sunni-Shiite conflict can easily spread to Syria, where the Alawite regime will find itself in a tough spot because of its Shiite bend.

Actually the civil war may have already started, but in cloak and dagger mode.

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