Lebanon

(Reuters)FACTBOX: Facts about Lebanon’s Hezbollah
(Al Jazeera) Timeline: Crisis in Lebanon

Erin O’Halloran: A Distinctly Lebanese Approach to Power Cuts and Violent Conflict
(INTERN al-Voices) The experience of a long and cruel civil war, followed by seemingly endless instability, has taught the Lebanese to construct their lives with as many escape hatches as possible. When the situation takes a turn for the worse, there is little instinct to work towards a lasting resolution, so much as ‘pull the kids out of school and get on the next plane’. And no one can lay blame – who would want to put their family at unnecessary risk? But Lebanon’s most vulnerable populations have no foreign passports, and no means to afford international travel, or in some cases even internal migrations towards safer regions. These are the people left exposed to the daily risks of material damage to their homes, livelihoods, loved ones and selves imposed by violent conflict. And, exactly as is the case with Lebanon’s electricity crisis, these are the people least capable of having their voices heard – or their interests represented. It’s something to keep in mind as Lebanon’s thermometers (both political and mercury-based) look set to shoot upwards, once again.
20 March
Thousands rally against sectarian leaders
(LATimes) Thousands of Lebanese turned out on Sunday in Beirut to protest the tribal and religious figureheads that embody the country’s entrenched sectarian political system.
Critics say the confessional power-sharing agreement enshrined in the constitution and laws of Lebanon allows a small elite to dominate politics, dividing the spoils of the state among themselves and weakening the government while strengthening the systems of patronage that keep them in power.
Sunday’s protest was the third organized against the sectarian system by a broad coalition of civil society, political and youth organizations. Protesters carried signs and shouted slogans demanding the “overthrow of the regime,” echoing the rallying cry of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings
10 March
An Odd Calm in Beirut
(Foreign Policy) What struck me most about my conversations was the sense of calm, even complacency, in the Lebanese political class about the stability of the political scene and of their relative insulation from the wave of Arab protests. Across political trends, few seemed especially worried that Lebanon would experience any kind of protest wave, or that the forthcoming indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon would lead to any particular turbulence. Indeed, there was little sense that they were especially affected by the Arab revolutions. I can’t quite decide whether to be reassured by this confidence that Lebanon really was different, or worried that it reflects an out-of-touch political elite about to be rudely surprised.
12 January
Hezbollah exit from Lebanon government carefully planned
(Haaretz) The sudden move by the Lebanese militant group is meant to signal to Syria that if it wants to show Washington it can preserve stability in Lebanon, Hezbollah and Iran will have the last word.
Hizbollah move topples Lebanese government
(FT) Lebanon’s national unity government collapses after Hizbollah and its allies resign ahead of expected indictments against members of the Shia party by a UN-backed court
Lebanon: the country in the middle of the Middle East
If the Middle East is a tormented amalgam of religious sects and political factions, then Lebanon is a condensation of the Middle East.
(Telegraph) Divided between Christians, Sunnis and Shia, with an admixture of rarer groupings such as the colourful Druze, its politics rarely transcend identity.
The one thing that can unite the country – for the most part – is opposition to Israel. But since that country has a well-attested determination to defend itself at all costs, that does not make Lebanon any more secure.

2010

14 December
Roger Cohen: U.S. Illusions in Lebanon
(NYT) Once upon a time a U.S. secretary of state spoke of the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” That’s now the most laughed-at phrase in gravity-defying Lebanon, a country with two armies, a “unity” government too divided to meet, a wild real estate boom and a time bomb called the “international tribunal.”
23 November
CBC report points to Hezbollah involvement in Hariri murder
Canadian broadcaster uncovers UN evidence implicating Hezbollah in Hariri assassination
(Haaretz) An investigative report by the Canadian television station CBC has unequivocally concluded that Hezbollah was involved in the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The report also named one of the suspects fingered by the UN commission investigating the murder: Wissam Hassan, today Lebanon’s intelligence chief, who at the time was Hariri’s chief of protocol.
May 11 2008
Fighting spreads east of Beirut
Fighting between rival militias in Lebanon has spread to the mainly Druze mountains just south of Beirut.
Hezbollah and its anti-government allies, using heavy weapons and small arms, attacked areas held by followers of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
May 10
Hezbollah Begins to Withdraw Gunmen in Beirut
(NYT) BEIRUT, Lebanon — Hezbollah and its allies began withdrawing their gunmen here in the capital on Saturday evening, raising hopes for a political settlement after four days of street battles that left at least 29 people dead. The fighting has stoked fears of a broader civil conflict.
(The Independent) Robert Fisk: Hizbollah rules west Beirut in Iran’s proxy war with US
Another American humiliation. The Shia gunmen who drove past my apartment in west Beirut yesterday afternoon were hooting their horns, making V-signs, leaning out of the windows of SUVs with their rifles in the air, proving to the Muslims of the capital that the elected government of Lebanon has lost.
And it has. The national army still patrols the streets, but solely to prevent sectarian killings or massacres. Far from dismantling the pro-Iranian Hizbollah’s secret telecommunications system – and disarming the Hizbollah itself – the cabinet of Fouad Siniora sits in the old Turkish serail in Beirut, denouncing violence with the same authority as the Iraqi government in Baghdad’s green zone.
When Hamas became part of the Palestinian government, the West rejected it. So Hamas took over Gaza. When the Hizbollah became part of the Lebanese government, the Americans rejected it. Now Hizbollah has taken over west Beirut.
… No, this is not a civil war. Nor is it a coup d’etat, though it meets some of the criteria. It is part of the war against America in the Middle East. The Hizbollah “must stop sowing trouble,” the White House said rather meekly. Yes, like the Taliban. And al-Qa’ida. And the Iraqi insurgents. And Hamas. And who else?
May 9
BBC’s Roger Hardy explains Lebanon’s apparently unending political crisis and its global implications.
High stakes of Lebanon crisis
The more immediate causes of Lebanon’s current – and apparently unending – political crisis go back to the war between Israel and the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah in the summer of 2006.

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