Friday, February 1, 2008

The aftermath of Sunday’s events

Now that the initial shock over Sunday’s events that have killed 9 people and wounded dozens is gone, conclusions are being drawn. Were the riots helpful for Syria and Hezbollah, or was it actually detrimental to their goals? There are as many opinions as the people who read them, so allow me to present you with a summary.

Hezbollah’s first response was to accuse the Lebanese army for killing 9 demonstrators on Sunday (1 died two days later in the hospital). During a meeting between Nasrallah and general Suleiman, the former claimed to have videotapes showing soldiers aiming and shooting directly at the demonstrators.

Too bad Nasrallah doesn’t want to release these tapes because it could clarify the rumors about snipers, namely that the army wasn’t the one shooting, but snipers on the rooftops. These rumors have been collaborated by footage of snipers has been shown on various TV stations. It exonerates the army from killing the demonstrators, who were throwing stones at the army.

After the sniper story was more or less confirmed by these images, the Opposition changed its accusations: the Army was no longer accused of killing demonstrators. Instead, they accuse the army of not preventing the snipers from shooting. I’m not a sniper expert, but it would seem rather difficult to prevent snipers. Anyway, it seems the Army was not the one doing the actual shooting, so that’s one question answered.

This begs the next question: who were these snipers? Given the location of the Shiite demonstration on the border with a Christian suburb, it would seem logical to conclude that it must have been Christians sniping away at the Shiites. However, this has not been confirmed. In fact, it is still unclear from which buildings exactly the sniping took place. Once you know the building, you know the identity of the snipers, or at least their religion.

[People who were in Lebanon in 1974/5 must be having flashbacks: lots of small demonstrations, some fighting, the occasional death and above all snipers to turn people and sects against each other; it all seems eerily like the period prior to the Civil War]

Another question is if the events have benefited Hezbollah and the Aounists. Whereas the first questions were relative clear to answer, this last one depends on your personal beliefs. March 8 would say that the army has been put on a leash because it is now under investigation as to whether soldiers have carried out their duties professionally or not. As long as this investigation lasts, the reasoning goes, the Army will be very carefully to confront demonstrators the next time around.

What’s more, the mere fact of an investigation launched against the army shows that they are not as untouchable as everybody always thought. Even the army can be hold accountable and that is certainly a victory for Hezbollah which wants to minimize the role of the army as it takes away from their role in defending Lebanon against its enemies.

Clearly, March 14 has a different take on things. They feel that Michel Aoun has been put in a difficult spot, now that his Shiite buddies have been attacking Christians in the Ain el Remaneh area. The fact that a gang of Shiites ravaged through a Christian neighborhood made painfully clear that Aoun’s friendship with Hezbollah will not protect his own followers from theirs. Granted, Ain el Remaneh is considered to be a stronghold for the Lebanese Forces, a competing Christian party, but still.

Furthermore, Christians typically side with the Christian army commander, especially when the army is attacked by a group of angry Shiites. The reasons for the demonstrations (electricity cuts and the price of bread) seem unlikely and many Christians would see the riots for what they were: an attack against the army and especially against Suleiman.

Whoever is right, the conclusion must be that a solution is further away than ever. In case Hezbollah is correct, it means they feel more powerful to push through their demands. In case they’re wrong, they would feel to be running out of options to achieve their goals relatively peacefully.

Either way, more violence is to be expected


JoseyWales said...

HA and Aoun have placed themselves above the law and the M14 morons have let them forever.

HA questions/attacks the army and the state while Saniora and Suleiman praise the "resistance".

IOW they're telling HA we won't confront you ever, not even POLITICALLY.