Some of Lebanon’s power shifts

Now if you come to think about it, what happened in Lebanon in the last few years is a classical example of shifts in power poles. One need to look at changes happening at the level of organizations and institutions (of the state and related) that deal with security issues, especially if one wants to understand the political deadlock which we are slowly sinking in.

The main argument I wish to make is that, at the local level, Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon has provoked two main events: First, it has rushed Hizbullah to get out of its self-made ‘safe-zone’ and confront specific political choices it had to make at some point. This is prevalent in the fact that every institution in the party is trying to adjust to the new reality, and this can be seen clearly through its media organs, the new meanings used in speeches (borrowing from ‘Lebanese’ ideological material such as cedar, mountains etc.), and especially through the practices of the organization (denouncing more forcefully other Lebanese player for example), in the run up to the dialogue sessions, to its demands to have a share in existential national decision.

The second event is the frontal assault waged against Hizbullah, forcefully followed by the 14th of March heterogeneous political alliance. Of course both events are closely linked.

The security void has triggered many tentative seizing of coercive means. The Lebanese army stayed closely allied with the president keeping a close coordination with Hizbullah, one of the reasons why 14th of Marchers want the president down. Alternatively, some groups tried to seize other security-sensitive state institutions like the police forces or internal security forces (Hariri and the Amn el dakhili), while others, lacking easy access to the state have resorted to militia strengthening (Geagea and the LF, and probably the SSNP and various other smaller organizations).

Assassination rationales can be inscribed in the same context. Beyond their symbolic motives and repercussions in constraining elites to make specific political choices, and shifting public opinion in specific directions, the very strategic choice of assassinating would not have been that attractive prior to Syrian withdrawals because of the different security settings that prevailed.

The most important thing of it all is that Hizbullah has changed its political priorities for the second time (first time would be in 1992 by entering lebanese political life). How this will evolve is still a mystery. It will depend mostly on the regional brokered deals and how much Hizbullah will accept specific compromises. They seem to be ready to accept anything as long as their weapons are not dismantled under the Pax (well not pax if we look at Iraq…) Americana umbrella. This could have regressive repercussions on the capability of Hizbullah to contribute to a change in the Lebanese political system. Especially that in a sense, they may be the only group politically (practically) that can trigger long lasting change.

Why not the Christians? The way Christians are trying to squeeze themselves inside the new security formulas shows their profound weakness in being able to push for any substantial change. Divided between relying on Americans and alliances with Sunni and Druze oligarchs on the one hand, or strengthening the security system already put in place by the Lahoud-Hizbullah-Syria alliance, Christians are the most vulnerable target of all sects, and this is why it may be too soon to speak of a serious questioning of the confessional system. In both cases, Christians are very depended on other power brokers. In the first case, they want to go for ‘the whole nine yards’ a tradition set forth by their Phalangist and other isolationist antecedents. In the second, they accept neighboring political realities and want to work with it and have an already set institutional security structure to start from. In sum, Christian politics is still framed in the same security equations since Syria entered Lebanon in 1976. It is these security equations that first divided (to name but a few) the Qataeb (Phalangists), then the LF, and lately the various Christian groups picking and choosing from earlier political formations.

Is it also clear why political assassinations targeted Christians?

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