A few things Hanin Ghaddar fudges in her New York Times piece
Hanin Ghaddar has an op-ed here in the New York Times that has a number of misleading grafs which the unsuspecting reader in the US will not know about.
1) She says: Syria, alone, “has, however, succeeded in inciting small outbreaks of violence that have pushed the country to the verge of a breakdown for the past 17 months. Clashes in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between Sunnis and Alawites have intensified in recent days — but this time the Lebanese Army intervened to stop the fighting.”
– Hanin knows very well that there is an important – NON REGIME dynamic ALSO driving forward the violence which is the Saudi-Qatari US backed sunni fighters – the classic “blowblack effect. The events in tripoli are a major part of that obvious story. Even if you want to blame the Syrian regime for having necessitated the jihadists, still, the fact of the matter is that NOW a central driver of instability and violence are the extremists fighting the regime and pouring into the region. She leaves this out of course in order to support the polemic, and her piece suffers in terms of its analytical, rather than merely polemical, import.
2) She then says this: “On Sunday, 18 armed men from a family with links to Hezbollah were arrested by the Lebanese Army. Two trucks and a warehouse full of weaponry were confiscated.”
– Hanin knows very well that ANY darn shiite in Lebanon can be “linked” to Hizbullah somehow, someway and that foreign consumers will buy it. To the unsuspecting NYT reader her mission is accomplished: Evidence of Hizbullah shadow war to heat things up to a “simmer” as she puts it. But she knows better that such sentences actually have little meaning.
3) Hanin then uses the dreaded “arab street.” She knows very well the long, tired legacy of this term, the silly Orientalism attached to its use etc and the analytical poverty of it in serious writing. But Hanin has another problem: I suspect she has been very busy with her work and perhaps – I am only saying perhaps because I did not see Hanin in the last few months – she has not traveled widely in the last year?
She says: “Today, Hezbollah is regarded by the Arab street as an ally of a dictator who is killing his people. Losing regional popularity is one thing, but losing its constituency at home is something Hezbollah cannot tolerate.”
– Talking about a unified Arab Street is bad, but she assumed, in my mind, far too much certainty here. Here in Tunisia, for example, I am constantly surprised by anecdotal encounters with pro-hizbullah sentiment in public opinion. Even if there is, now, the critique of Hizbullah protecting the syria regime, we cannot say with such total certainty that this has definitively transformed into a big and/or lasting popularity hit for hizbullah. I suspect it has NOT – the point is hanin and I CANNOT SAY in good faith. Moreover, the more critical point is, even if Hanin is correct, I would argue that the lost popularity could rather easily be reversed in this next stage given an Israeli attack of some kind or a military engagement with Israel…. So how important is short term, superficial damage NOW?
4) Hanin also sneaks through the unsuspecting reader this backflip of logic:
“While none of Syria’s allies in Lebanon spoke in defense of Mr. Samaha, a reaction came from the street a few days later. A Shiite family whose son was abducted in Syria began a wave of random kidnappings of Syrians; rioters blocked the road to the Beirut airport; dozens of Syrians were abducted, and their shops were vandalized.
– Hanin knows very well that the kidnapping by the Meqdad’s and many others was A DIRECT COUNTER REACTION to the kidnapping of their clan members in Syira! She makes it seem like this was a reaction to Samaha’s arrest and CAUSED by the regime directly! Which we all know is silly and it is even silly on its face in her construction since she acknowledges this in her second sentence.
The central problem comes at the end with her series of assertions based on extremely sparse arguments and little cohesion as a thesis. Indeed, when you finish the piece, it is totally unclear what Hanin’s point is in this article!
It is headlined:
Can Hezbollah Survive the Fall of Assad?
Hanin never answers this question however. She does make the simplistic and incorrect assertion that Hizbullah will back assad to the hilt because of its “supply lines” – which she knows is not even 20% of a very debatable story…. So can it survive the fall? Hanin does NOT say!
But then again, there is an even deeper absence, lurking throughout her piece, that she does not want to delve into for the unknowing NYT reader. She states: “So Hezbollah’s main objective is to avoid a full explosion before the parliamentary elections. After all, an election victory would allow Hezbollah to maintain its political control over Lebanon democratically, without having to resort to arms. Tehran would also prefer to avoid any war that would force Hezbollah to get involved — namely, a war with Israel.”
This is a tangle of major statements strung together incongruously. It is hard to unpack as such, but lets focus on her lack of desire to explain something very simple: why Hanin if you are so certain that Hizbullah’s popularity is in terminal decline EVERYWHERE and especially at home, then why do you end the piece suggesting that the party and its allies could win the next elections and rule “democratically” as SHE puts it. She and M14 may have several comebacks to this question, but she offers none here to the perplexed reader.
And lets not forget her final, sudden shift of logic in the last sentence: Tehran, whose relationship to hizbullah is just left out, unexplained, in the piece, does not want hizbullah to get involved, she suggests, in a CIVIL WAR… but she ends her logic talking about “a war with Israel.” Where does this jump come from? How does she explain it? We were focused throughout on internal conflicts, now Israel is in the mix?
Ironically, the end of her piece also has Iran and Hizbullah looking like anchors of stability – wanting to avoid ALL wars! – rather than eveil actors willing to sacrifice all to total, divine victory – the Now Lebanon ultimate reading of hizbullah’s “real” endgame.
A confusing end, then, and a generally misleading piece throughout in my opinion!