The Mideastwire Blog

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

Mustapha and Young’s Missing Piece for a Grand Bargain

Mustapha at Beirut Spring quotes from Michael Young on a critical issue: A grand bargain for the shiites in Lebanon. The central problem since Young has come around (quite late) to this idea is that he and Mustapha leave out the critical leg for this approach to work – which I discussed in a 2008 white paper here – A Lebanon credibly able to defend itself… its WHOLE SELF.

As we know from wikileaks, M14 leaders and others are very happy to leave large swathes of the country unprotected. Given this and the successive wars in Lebanon, a grand bargain can ONLY gain critical mass to corner Hizbullah/convince Lebanese if there is a strong national army.

This is where Young is completely mute – his blind spot if you will … because he knows that the bargain by M14 with the US in 2005-2006 could never DELIVER THIS CRUCIAL ASPECT….Nor can it know, given (mainly, but not wholly) the Israeli veto.

M14 begged the US to see the light, many others (myself included) also appealed to Bush and Obama folks that there was a non violent path to dealing with hizbullah…. but the defense of lebanon was crucial in this regard.

It never worked, and Young does not want to touch the issue when he quite sensibly raises (again, very late in the game) the idea of a grand bargain.

Here is what Mustapha wrote:

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From an editorial in Now Lebanon:

The national defense strategy is a chimera, a function that allows the Party of God to maintain its weapons while appearing to side with reason and debate. Does he honestly believe that Hezbollah would put its weapons at the disposal of the state when they are the very stick that allows it to beat the state whenever it feels like it?

I made that same argument before, but I think this conventional wisdom is worth revisiting in the wake of what’s happening in Syria and Iran nowadays: What if the national dialogue was Hezbollah’s chance to disarm without losing face?

Maybe this sounds too optimistic and more like a stretch of imagination. But let’s assume a regional war against Iran and an implosion of the Syrian regime take place in the coming years. With its two military crutches broken, wouldn’t Hezbollah prefer to transition into the role of normal Lebanese party that advocates a different kind of resistance –namely moral and economic– against Israel?

It would be a mistake to humiliate a weakened Hezbollah considering the place it has in the hearts of many in the Lebanese Shiaa community and considering the danger it could pose if it found itself cornered. A grand Lebanese bargain, as Michael Young had suggested in a previous National column, could be the wise course of action to take:

an increasingly insecure Hizbollah is also potentially a dangerous one. Now is the time for the party’s Lebanese rivals to consider innovative ideas for integrating Shiites into the political system. One such idea is to offer a swap – Hizbollah’s weapons in exchange for more political power for the Shiites – in the framework of a broader reform effort.

For reasons of self-interest, if not compassion, the rest of the Lebanese would do well to give Hezbollah a ladder to climb down on. The national dialogue would be the perfect theater to stage such an honorable exit

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Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 25, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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