Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Lebanese Democracy = Hezbollah?

Oh, dear - it looks like the wave of democracy sweeping Lebanon isn't quite what Paul Wolfowitz envisioned:
BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hundreds of thousands jammed a central Beirut square Tuesday, chanting support for Syria and anti-U.S. slogans in a thundering show of strength by the militant group Hezbollah — a rally that greatly outnumbered recent demonstrations against Syria's presence in Lebanon.
Hezbollah, an anti-Israeli party representing Shiite Muslims, organized the rally as a way of demonstrating that it will remain a powerful force in Lebanon even if Syria leaves. The Lebanese opposition, which opposes Syria's presence, has been trying to persuade Hezbollah to remain neutral in the country's political crisis.

Hezbollah is the best armed and organized faction in Lebanon and enjoys strong support among the country's Shiite community, which at 1.2 million is a third of the population. Respect for it extends beyond the Shiites because of its years of fighting against Israel.
Source: Yahoo! News Thousands Answer Hezbollah Call in Beirut March 8, 2005

Some argue Bush and Wolfowitz intended this result. Alas, I doubt two such strongly pro-Israel guys planned for Hezbollah to gain so strong a voice in Lebanese affairs.

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Juan Cole has more:
The simplistic master narrative constructed by the partisans of President George W. Bush held that the January 30 elections were a huge success, and signalled a turn to democracy in the Middle East. Then the anti-Syrian demonstrations were interpreted as a yearning for democracy inspired by the Iraqi elections.

This interpretation is a gross misunderstanding of the situation in the Middle East. Bush is not pushing with any real force for democratization of Saudi Arabia (an absolute monarchy) or Pakistan (where the elected parliament demands in vain that General Pervez Musharraf take off his uniform if he wants to be president), or Tunisia (where Zayn Ben Ali has just won his 4th unopposed term as president), etc. Democratization is being pushed only for regimes that Bush dislikes, such as Syria or Iran. The gestures that Mubarak of Egypt made (officially recognized parties may put up candidates to run against him, but not popular political forces like the Muslim Brotherhood) are empty.

In fact the (Iraqi) Jan. 30 Iraqi elections were deeply flawed. 42 percent of the electorate did not show up. The elections could only be held by locking down the country for 3 days, forbidding all vehicular traffic to stop car bombings. The electorate had no idea for whom they were voting, since the candidates' names were secret until the last moment. The Sunni Arabs boycotted or were prevented from voting by the ongoing guerrilla war, which started right back up after the ban on traffic lapsed.
Source: Juan Cole's Informed Comment (Emphasis added.)


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