Michael Totten

Lebanon’s Third Civil War

by Michael J. Totten
The third civil war has begun in Lebanon.
The first war was a short one. Sunni Arab Nationalists in thrall to Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser wanted to attach Lebanon to the United Arab Republic — a brief union of Egypt and Syria. An even larger bloc of Maronite Christians resisted. A nation cannot hold itself together when a large percentage of its population — roughly a third — wish to be annexed by foreign powers.
The second war was a long one. This time, Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization formed a state-within-a-state in West Beirut and South Lebanon and used it as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against Israel. Again, Lebanon’s Christians resisted, as did Lebanon’s Shias. The second civil war was actually a series of wars that were merely triggered by that first fatal schism.
The third civil war resembles both the first and the second. With Iranian money and weapons, Hezbollah has built its own state-within-a-state in South Lebanon and South Beirut which is used as a base to wage war against Israel. Hezbollah also wishes to violently yank Lebanon from its current pro-Western alignment into the Syrian-Iranian axis. Roughly one-fourth of the population supports this agenda. No country on earth can withstand that kind of geopolitical tectonic pressure. For more than a year members of Hezbollah have tried unsuccessfully to topple the elected government with a minimal use of force, but their patience is at an end and they have turned to war.
My old liberal Sunni neighborhood of Hamra near the American University of Beirut — the best in the Middle East — is now occupied by the private army of a foreign police state. Masked gunmen take up positions in a neighborhood of five star hotels, restaurants, and cafes (including a Starbucks) where students like to hang out while reading books by authors like Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. They burned down Prime Minister Fouad Seniora’s Future Movement headquarters building. They stormed the offices of TV and radio stations and threatened to dynamite the buildings if the reporters refused to stop broadcasting. They seized the property of Saad Hariri — son of the assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri — and they control all the exits. Member of Parliament Ammar Houry’s house is now occupied. Al Arabiya says they attacked the Ottoman-era Grand Serail, the current prime minister’s office.
Hezbollah used automatic weapons, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and sniper rifles to seize all, if not most, of West Beirut. The only weapons its gunmen haven’t deployed are its Katyusha rockets, which are useless in urban warfare, and car bombs, which aren’t.
“Read the rest in Commentary Magazine”:http://www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs/index.php/totten/5371.