The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

QN on the government stalemate: Syria protests are the problem?

QNabki (Who I had thought was a women named – pronounced – Queefa who i thought he was….. so I introduced him to a group of students as Queefa Nabki, thinking that the woman named Queefa was in fact a man named Queefa…. a bit embarrassing for a guy actually named Elias) Says this:

“…The question is: why would Syria have an interest in preventing the formation of a government by its own allies in Beirut? The past four months have made Hizbullah, Amal, and the FPM look completely hapless. The only conceivable reason for putting the brakes on would be to spare a “Hizbullah-led” government from being painted as an accomplice to Syria’s crackdown on its protesters. Let’s imagine that Miqati succeeds in forming the government tomorrow, and let’s also imagine that the protests in Syria escalate over the next several weeks to the point where the regime has to launch a major security operation, killing hundreds more people and sending thousands of refugees (including many opposition activists) streaming across the border. If a March 8 government in Lebanon denies asylum to the Syrian opposition (which is a safe bet), Hizbullah and its allies would become easy targets for March 14th’s media outlets. Saad Hariri and co. would not miss a chance to paint the Lebanese government as an extension of the Assad regime, and this could easily galvanize enormous protests in Lebanon in support of the Syrian people. That would be a publicity nightmare for Damascus and its Lebanese allies, all of whom came out in strong support of the populist movements in Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain.  So perhaps the current state of affairs does indeed have foreign fingerprints all over it. If the cabinet is formed the day after Bashar al-Assad declares victory over the Syrian opposition, we may know for sure…”

— Especially now, when so much is uncertain and open to chance etc, one needs to be careful, I think, with phrases like “The only conceivable reason”... Indeed, I would argue that the government is in fact largely hostage to the effort by the FPM to finally emasculate this president and remove his threat to the FPM once and for all. Now is the moment and this moment may not come again. In contrast, it seems to me that Hizbullah GENUINELY is trying really hard to get out of the embarrassment of NOT having been able to form a government. They very much WANT, it sounds to me, to get a government in place – and their rhetoric and apparent negotiating actions seem to match this.

— This alone should complicate Qifa Nabki’s assertion. But more than this, I think it is just as reasonable to argue the opposite of what he writes above: Hizbullah hates chaos almost as much as it hates Zionism. As things are set for a likely prolonged period of unrest in Syria I would argue that Hizbullah has MORE of a reason to get together a relatively stable government that can deal with the unfolding situation (even though this brings multiple risks of course).

Indeed, without that government, and their preponderance in it, the scenarios going forward are potentially even more destabilizing and open for the party and for Lebanon. As but one example, in the absence of a government, the security-military response to northern border issues will be more open to contingency, mis-calculation, meddling all of which might even at some point prompt a Syrian military intervention or at least a much more dangerous rhetoric all around (and words have consequences). Better to have a government and LAF that can be viewed as an ally and effective by Damascus in stunting this argument and the problems that a reintroduction of syrian forces into lebanon would bring (within M8 as well!). QN writes about a refugee crisis – but this might not be as much of a threat to hizbullah as he assumes. Indeed, better to have a government that can deal clearly with this issue than leaving the field open to chaos and more disasters. A large influx of refugees still could be dealt with in what would seem like a humane way by a Hizbullah-led government without creating major problems with Damascus or among Lebanese (especially by allowing for targeted police operations against those “suspected” of substantial anti regime activities and providing for the bulk of the others…. NOTE: not that this is in any way the moral, right thing to do in my mind!).

Which is to say that Hizbullah as the main shaker in a government has multiple means to escape and better manage being an “accomplice” to an escalating crackdown and humanitarian situation – if fact, in contrast to QN’s argument, it is reasonable to argue that Hizbullah actually finds fewer bad outcomes from finally succeeding in such an effort.


Written by nickbiddlenoe

May 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Posted in ANALYSIS

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