Update. The Hizbullah militia has laid siege to the government building, trapping the prime minister and cabinet ministers inside. Roadblocks were set up by Hizbullah members in what can only be described as coup d’etat.
The Lebanese army had to call Nabih Berri, and the Saudi King had to intervene through his ambassador, to “partially” remove the siege. Hizbullah “tents” are still on the roads, isolating the government building.
The Saudi king phoned the cabinet and spoke to all ministers one by one, affirming his support. The only countries NOT supporting this government are Syria and Iran.
Other than this, all the stories are the same thus far. Skip ’em and read Walid Phares’s excellent primer at the Counterterrorism Blog instead.
The political objectives of the “offensive” is to paralyze the Fuad Seniora Government from performing the following tasks: One, is to block the passing of the international tribunal (in the Hariri assassination) law in the Lebanese Parliament in the next two weeks. The Syrian-Iaranian strategy is to block the meetings of the Lebanese cabinet and the Lebanese legislative assembly for as long as needed to crumble this bill. Two, is to force the Seniora cabinet to resign or to accept the inclusion of pro-Syrian ministers so that any decision to disarm HizbAllah would be killed inside the Government. Three, is to crumble the UNSCR 1559 and the relations between Lebanon and the United Nations in general and the US and France in particular. In short a return of the Syrian-Iranian domination in Lebanon.
He forgot four: “The plan is to paralyze life in the country until the government resigns. Finance minister Jihad Azour has warned that the country stands to lose $70 million per day.”
The borders aren’t sealed, notes Phares, so Assad’s taking advantage by busing in Syrians to join the protests. In fact, according to anti-Syrian leader Walid Jumblatt, some Lebanese army units had to be redeployed to Beirut from southern Lebanon to keep the peace. Which means for the time being, no one’s minding the fort in some areas of Hezbollah’s stomping grounds.
Not that they ever really were.
Phares also describes Hezbollah’s media tactics, which call for painting the democratically-elected government as a western puppet and the pro-Syrian Shiite minority as the true Lebanese patriots. According to CNN, “Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian groups — including the Shiite group Amal — had called on participants to wave Lebanese flags instead of Hezbollah flags, in a sign that they represent Lebanon itself. In previous Hezbollah rallies, many waved Hezbollah flags instead.” In fact, they’ve taken to describing Siniora’s cabinet as “the Feltman government,” a reference to U.S. ambassador Jeffrey Feltman that’s perfectly seasoned with a whiff of anti-semitic paranoia.
It’s not just Hezbollah that’s casting aspersions on the legitimacy of the government, either. Hitchens:
The Lebanese Cabinet may have bravely voted last week, in spite of a campaign of blackmail by Syria’s death squads and religious proxies, to establish a tribunal to investigate the murder of Rafik Hariri, but in Washington, the talk is of getting on better terms with the people who, on all the available evidence, blew up his car. You may have noticed the new habit in the media of referring to the government of Lebanon as “American-backed” or “Western-backed.” This is as if to imply that it is not an expression of Lebanon’s remaining autonomy. But it is also cruelly ironic: Where exactly is this “backing”?
Hezbollah’s deputy says they won’t clear out until the government falls, which, as Moran explains, means Nasrallah’s prestige depends now on them staying put. And that means the only way out, probably, is escalation.
I leave you with an … interesting photo.
Updates will posted here as circumstances warrant.