Dear [deleted] and friends,
Normally I wouldn’t respond to something like this, but when you wrote that this was “the clearest picture of the situation in Lebanon and the Middle East” that you have seen, I felt it deserved a closer look. Because it is endorsed by a respected emeritus missionary (you!) who spent much of his life in Lebanon, it inherits a gravitas and credibility that, in this case especially, seems grossly misplaced. After a quick read, I was immediately suspicious that it was terribly slanted and because “Lebanon Falls” may now take on a life of its own and get re-circulated by folks who only know that it has your blessing, I ran it by a few folks who follow Lebanese politics closely, who I knew would give me their opinion. Boy, did they ever give me their opinions!
The first reaction came in from Ireland. Thom wrote back almost immediately:
Well, for starters, the “religious liberty trends” section identifies Hizbullah as “jihadist”. Seems to me you can’t have it both ways: the Shi’a aren’t jihadist…period. Salafists are; al-Qa’ida is, Wahhabis (the more extreme among them, anyway) are … My rule of thumb in discerning truth or falsity in any published piece is to grant the author the benefit of a doubt until such time as they invalidate themselves as commentators by (1) uttering an untruth, or (2) making a mistake — such as this one — that is big enough to call into question their intelligence…
Now Thom’s response, as is usual for Thom, wasn’t very diplomatic. His comments were soon followed by the more temperate Jeff’s:
I agree with your central premise — that one should not confuse Hizbullah with other Islamic groups who have declared jihad. However, it does not answer John’s question, which is about the accuracy of the analysis of the Lebanese situation. I believe it is a mistake to say that because of one admittedly boneheaded mistake, you will not even consider the rest of the piece and will simply assume none of it is accurate. Logically, that’s a bit of a stretch. I’d still like to know the answer to John’s question.
About three hours passed before my Norwegian friend Barre weighed in. Barre has been visiting Lebanon annually for the last 13 years and occasionally teaches at AUB and was involved in some of the planning for Beirut’s reconstruction after the civil war ended. I have injected his responses into the original “analysis” below (as did Barre) and have taken the liberty of bl**ping a bit of his courser language. Barre’s is the most point-by-point refutation of this piece and he also recommends this recent report from an AUB student:
And a very interesting report it is. The final response to all this came in about two hours later. Jon wrote:
Jeff and others – As a sober assessment of the article (as opposed to the understandably angry retort of Borre) this is slanted so badly it would take a couple pages to discuss. The evangelical organization that put it out is postulated on biblical prophesy with close links to Hagee, Parsley et al – who in turn have very close links to the Israeli Right. It should be read with this in mind. But no, Lebanon is not “falling”. The new president was strongly agreed upon by all parties in Lebanon, not just the Hizbullah Party. The cabinet does not give the Hizbullah veto. If anything, this is a small shift in the direction of fuller equal representation of all Lebanese, not just of the Christians, who after all represent only 30% of the population. Does this give the other 70% (Muslim and Druze) a dominant role in government? No, though by democratic rights they should have it. The events of the last year are a continuation of reforming the Lebanese political system begun with the Taif Agreement of 1989. Gradually – very gradually – Lebanon is moving away from the sectarian structure that originated institutionally under French pressures in 1861-62 with the establishment of an autonomous province of Mount Lebanon under a permanent Christian governor. It’s been a long time coming! What you see are Lebanese politicians elected under a sectarian system, too many of them struggling to keep their positions while sectarianism dissolves.
Friends, I hope you will consider these different points of view. If you have already forwarded the original report to destinations known or otherwise, in the interest of fairness and charity towards all, I beg you to send these additional comments chasing after. The world is hardly as black-and-white as the 700 Club jingoists and Faux News bobble-heads would have us believe.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:32)
Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 12:50 PM
Subject: Fwd: Lebanon Falls.
This, I think, is the clearest picture of the situation in Lebanon and the Middle East that I have seen. If you have not seen it, I think you will want to read it and perhaps to pursue some of the links. You may want to pass it on to others.
May the Lord bless you and keep you and cause His face to shine upon you and give you His peace.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: WEA Religious Liberty Commission firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, Jun 10, 2008 at 9:20 PM
Subject: Lebanon Falls.
Date: Wednesday 11 June 2008
Subj: Lebanon Falls.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
Iran-sponsored, Shi’ite dominated Hezballah does not want to govern Lebanon. What Hezballah wants — indeed demands — is freedom to ignore UN resolutions and re-build, re-organise and re-arm for war with absolute impunity.
Re-building after the 2006 war is somehow wrong? Thousands of people both in the south of Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut were bombed out of their homes and then overstrewn with undetonated cluster bombs. Since when is cleaning up the mess and rebuilding homes wrong. Maybe leaving it to “the market” to fix is better?
Re-organize and re-arm after a war fought against an invasion of Lebanon which the west has made sure cannot be defended by the Lebanese army is wrong? Allow me to remind that all 2-3 operations outside of Lebanon attributed to Hizbullah after it was organized into a coherent political force and military organization are unproven accusations by the same people who served us things like the mobile weapons of mass destruction trucks at the UN.
South Lebanon was occupied by Israel for 22 years and Hizbullah forced them out. I guess that makes it about as “international” a terrorist group as US “world series” baseball.
In a 6 May cabinet meeting that lasted until 4am the next morning, the government (which is dominated by the Sunni-led March 14 forces) declared that Hezballah’s extensive, completely independent communications network must be integrated with the government’s. Of particular concern to the Telecommunications Minister, Marawn Hamadeh, was an “illegal and unconstitutional” communications and surveillance system that had been installed on Runway 17 of Beirut airport by Wafiq Shuqayr at Hezballah’s request. The cabinet therefore also voted to remove Shaqayr — a Shi’ite with known ties to Hezballah — from his position as chief of airport security.
The demand to close down ther commicatiosn network came not on initiative of the Lebanese cabinet, but from a certain David Welch. I somehow feel that neither CIA nor the Shrub cabinet would feel much elated if the Chinese ambassador were to demand that the closed communications network of the US’s security forces be terminated. They haven’t reacted much to their allies protestations against “extraordinary rendition” flights and secret prisons cease and close.
Hezballah’s response was immediate, swift and devastating. Hezballah blockaded all the roads to the airport, seized Sunni West Beruit and shut down all the Sunni-owned pro-government media. After two days of fighting in Beirut, Hebzallah moved its fight to Druze areas of Mount Lebanon. Eventually, with the state at the brink of civil war, and with their homes under siege, both Hariri (Sunni leader) and Jumblatt (Druze leader) were forced to negotiate on Hezballah’s terms. It was a most impressive blitzkrieg.
Interesting angle. The playboy Harriri and Welch’s marionette, Jumblat, played Cheney’s game too far. AMAL and the Syrian National Socialist Party (SNSP) scared the sh** out of their “Security Plus” ragtag militia, with Hizbullah operatives (their fighting souldiers were kept in the South to take care of the anticipated rearguard attack) following behind handing captured positions over to the Lebanese Army.
The Lebanese Army under the direction of General Suleiman (who was appointed to the post with Syrian approval in 1998 when Syria controlled Lebanon) did not resist Hezballah. Yet this is the same army that doggedly fought and profoundly defeated al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam (Sunni) in north Lebanon over three months in the summer of 2007.
Yes, the very same toothless army that US “aid” after the 2006 war has ensured is under-armed and under-manned. It took half the country’s army 3 months to root a little over 100 armed goons at Nahr-el-Bared.
Once Hezballah had proved its power, it handed its gains to the Lebanese Army. The government revoked its 6 May cabinet decisions and transferred the contentious issues — Hezballah’s communications network and Wafiq Shuqayr’s position as chief of airport security — over to the Army commander General Suleiman who declared both issues null.
Then on 21 May in Qatar (which is according to analyst Barry Rubin “an integral part of the Iran-Syria-Hezballah axis”) the Lebanese government capitulated to Hezballah’s conditions and surrendered its sovereignty. Lebanon has fallen. Hezballah now has veto power over all Lebanese government decisions; their candidate — General Michel Suleiman — has been installed as president; they control one-third of the cabinet; and they have authority to gerrymander and create smaller electorates in order to ensure victory at the next legislative elections. On 22 May the UN endorsed the agreement. Lebanon is now, in the words of Barry Rubin, “part of the Iranian bloc” and Hezballah is free to advance its war agenda unhindered.
The very same Barry Rubin who publishes insightful articles detailing Hizbullah’s printing shops of counterfeit dollars in the Beqaa, bottomless sources of terrorist money in the “dark triangle” of Bolivia-Paraguay-Brazil and other hair-brained schemes. Another of the neo-con soothsayers.
Lebanese “democracy” is based on the demographics of a 1928 census that included second generation expatriate passport holders with slight adjustments in 1934 and after the 1991 Taif Accords which all perpetuate the illusion of 51% Christians who are now at best 15% of the population. The Hizbullah and AMAL parties – yes, they are and have been for many years, bona fide Lebanese politicl parties – represent the biggest single confessional group (the Shia community is about 30%) in a country where parliamentary representations is apportioned along confessional lines.
The second paragraph of the constitution (adopted 1942) stipulates aboplishment of the confessional system. With every single block well armed by their foreign “masters” – where do you think all the US arms have been going since the summer of 2006? – it’s the only viable way of shifting power when no is willing to count heads for fear of loosing their income.
Qatar was simply doing the prudent thing. Protecting their vast investments in real estate made with the aid and abetment of Rafiq el Harriri – who before his assassination was described as a “staunch” opposer of Syria, under whose occupation he ruled as prime minster for a not unconsiderable period of time.
Lebanon’s fall will probably go down as the most geo-strategically significant event of 2008. Yet there was barely a sound. Instead of crashing like a major tsunami-inducing earthquake, the fall of Lebanon was more akin to a small, weak, abandoned man being kicked into quicksand by a pack of bullies. And as darkness envelopes this poor sinking man, his supposed friends, from the comfort and safety of their faraway palaces, praise all parties for avoiding war and making peace.
No thanks to the Lebanese themselves whose interst in politics is exclusively greed.
And so on. The rest really does not make for a very enlightened view in the support interdenominational harmony, although I willingly admit that the fronts have hardened markedly in the 13 years I have been coming here since the civil war. Remarks on the minority communities intransigence and provocations another time. The Harvard graduates’ remarks the other day are still the most insightful as they touch on the heart of the matter – political stupidy, which truly is infinite.
From this point I will limit myself to commenting on the religious liberty implications. However, I will provide a list of what I regard as the best reporting and analysis on the Hezballah blitzkrieg and resultant political situation.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IMPLICATIONS
The fall of Lebanon is the continuation and confluence of two trends that are being monitored by WEA RLC: the Shi’ite ascendancy and the decline of US influence. It has horrendous implications not only for Lebanon but for religious liberty and security in the whole Middle East.
For background see WEA RLC analysis on these two trends:
Religious Liberty Trends 2006-2007
3. RL TREND: SHIITE ASCENDANCY
Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
By Elizabeth Kendal, 5 Feb 2007
Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008
(trend 2: “The New Cold War”)
Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
By Elizabeth Kendal, 15 Feb 2008
While Hezballah does not want to govern Lebanon, it is without a doubt preparing the ground for regime change. It is only a matter of time now before the weak, abandoned and subservient pro-Lebanon, pro-West, “moderate” and Sunni-led government is replaced with one that is pro-Syria, pro-Iran, pro-Hezballah and pro-jihad. In the mean time we will doubtless see many “moderate” Sunnis, Druze and even some Christians behaving as abandoned, subjugated peoples and falling into line behind Hezballah for survival purposes.
As Shi’ite power rises and advances across the region, and as US influence declines, US “allies” in the region — that is the Sunnis (great respecters of power) — are switching sides. The latter portion of the Religious Liberty Trends 2007-2008 posting, under the subheading “A Word on the Middle East”, notes several indicators to this effect. Now further to this, recent reports from Compass Direct (<www.compassdirect.org <http://www.compassdirect.org/> >) reveal a sudden ominous and dramatic rise in religious repression and hostility from the formerly progressive and West-friendly regime in Jordan. Having demonstrated its power so profoundly, Hezballah will not have to work too hard in Lebanon to get the Sunnis to line up behind its anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, pro-Sharia, pro-jihad “Islamic” agenda.
As noted in WEA RLC Religious Liberty Trends postings, both the Shi’ite ascendancy and the decline of US influence do not augur well for the religious liberty and security of Christians in the Middle East. As these two trends converge, each will cause the other to escalate. Over recent decades, US influence in the region (which extends most from America’s economic power) has forced Arab states to constrain Islamic forces. As circumstances change and the constraints disappear and as the repressive and apocalyptic Iranian cleric-led regime assumes the role of regional hegemon, the future for Christians and all non-Muslims in the Middle East is extremely precarious.
“A deadly miscalculation in Lebanon”,
By Sami Moubayed, 14 May 2008
Asia Times Online
Facts (and maps) concerning Hezballah’s communications network:
“Hezbollah’s Communication Network Confirms Its Terror Goals”
By Walid Phares, PhD 21 May 2008
World Defense Review
1) “The Fall of Lebanon”,
By Barry Rubin, 24 May 2008
The Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
In this piece Barry Rubin compares the situation in Lebanon and the wider Middle East in May 2008 to that of Czechoslovakia and central/eastern Europe in October 1938 after “Britain and France effectively turned Czechoslovakia over to Nazi Germany”.
2) “The Nasrallah speech: Hezbollah ruled, the West is fooled”
By Walid Phares, PhD 2 June 2008
World Defense Review
In this piece Walid Phares dissects and analyses Nasrallah’s victory speech.
— Elizabeth Kendal