The Mideastwire Blog

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

Thanassis Cambanis on Hizbullah’s fears

Thanassis Cambanis has an Atlantic Monthly piece which raises some of the more familiar points of the last half year. Still, he says:

1) “Hezbollah supporters have been watching the turbulence next door in Syria with apprehension. Rhetorically, the Lebanese Party of God has backed its patron in Damascus, although its embrace has grown tepid of late. But Hezbollah was worried enough to shift its weapons caches from Syria into Lebanon, reportedly, and its emissaries have been working behind the scenes to mend relations with Syria’s opposition. At the core of their worry is a sectarian concern: Syria without Bashar al-Assad might be willing to jettison Hezbollah — after all, Syria is a majority Sunni nation, and Hezbollah is a Shia standard-bearer.”

— To have this particular “reportedly” in the lede of the article severely weakens the rest of the piece since, if Thanassis is referring to “reports” in mainly Saudi-owned, anti-Hizbullah, anti-Syrian media ok… is he referring to Debkkkkka files? Is he referring to “reports” in english language media which are often based themselves on the biased, polemical Saudi owned Arabic media (which sometimes base their original reports on unnamed western “sources” or “circles”)?

Thanassis teaches journalism at Columbia and should know better than to use this “evidence” so prominently in a piece without even questioning it for his readers. All the more so since the conventional wisdom here is that the dramatic transfer of Hizbullah weaponry is largely an info-ops matter rather than grounded in much reality.

I would also like to hear more about the Hizbullah meet ups with Syrian Opposition figures. This bug claim is made then wholly dropped…. Where did it go? What are to make of it then?

2) “”The Islamists who are fighting against Bashar Assad are not going to support us if they take power,” one Hezbollah partisan told me recently in Lebanon. “They might believe in resistance against Israel, but they won’t support our resistance.”

— Thanassis uses the interesting formulation “partisans”…. are these supporters? Are these guys on the street? This, as he knows, is a major problem in the many hizbullah pieces that appear in English and Arabic which love to cite people close to etc etc…. but who are sometimes not anything much to write home about.

The obvious journalistic problem which follows from this is he seems to be trying to make this anonymous “partisan” reflect a kind of official stance…. But his use of the word partisan instead of official or hizbullah member betrays to the more careful reader that this article probably does not have any good official access that might produce interesting analysis etc. His only quote with a Hizbullah official is the media shop head Ibrahim Moussawi who says quite the opposite of what his unnamed “partisan” says at the beginning…. what is the reader to make of this?

“If, or more likely when, Assad’s government finally falls to the uprising that has shaken Syria for more than half a year, its successor will renegotiate Syria’s regional relationships…”

— Not a journalistic problem, but note how Thanassis faithfully reproduces the received teleological wisdom of the inevitable Fall. What I think is important here, though, is how he can ONLY imagine a relatively predictable, almost nice post-Fall scenario where the New Sunni Leaders are reorganizing the chessboard – perhaps as the Libyan TNC is. But Thanassis should also consider a more messy scene, because this is also quite likely: One where the devastation has been severe, and/or the civil/external conflict has been protracted. What would this scene bring for Hizbullah? Be sure that Hizbullah has gamed this out.

“A genuine political contest is underway after long decades of stagnation, one that is likely to diminish the influence of Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, and perhaps even of the current Goliath, Turkey.”

— Probably true, but it is also diminishing the status quo block countries as well…. without acknowledging this, insights like this one above are misleading.


Written by nickbiddlenoe

September 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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