by Mustafa Dhia Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 38, No. 4, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1430)
Tiny Lebanon (population, 4 million) seems to be getting far too much attention from the US on the eve of parliamentary elections scheduled for June 7. There is palpable panic in Washington at the prospects of the Hizbullah-led coalition winning a majority of seats in parliament that would send the US-backed Lebanese puppets into the political wilderness. To show how serious the US takes Lebanon’s elections, US Vice President Joe Biden landed in Beirut on May 22 barely a month after US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton was here. Biden met the Lebanese President Michel Sleiman as well as other political leaders including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Parliamen-tary Speaker Nabih Berri. “The US will evaluate the shape of its assistance program based on the composition of the new government and the policies it is advocating,” Biden said after his meeting with Sleiman. Biden’s visit followed one by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton only a month earlier.
While Biden insisted his trip to Beirut to meet political leaders was not aimed at influencing the outcome of the elections, his statements and the timing of the visit left no doubt what the purpose of the trip was. Few Lebanese believed him when he said, “I did not come here to back any institution or political party.” Biden said the Lebanese people alone “should choose their leaders” and that the “sovereignty of Lebanon cannot be traded away,” even as he made sure people understood whom they should vote for, or more precisely, whom they should not vote for.
Biden said, “Lebanon has suffered terribly from war and we have a real opportunity now ... for peace.” He went on, “I urge those who think about standing with the spoilers of peace not to miss this opportunity to walk away.” He did not have the courage to name the party — US-backed Zionist Israel — that is guilty of waging repeated wars against Lebanon, but urged people to reject the “spoilers of peace”. This was a clear reference to Hizbullah that has insisted on defending Lebanon from the Zionist predators.
His claim that he was not interfering in Lebanese affairs was also a lie. How should one interpret his statement about not “standing with the spoilers of peace” or that the US would “evaluate the shape of its assistance program based on the composition of the new government and the policies it is advocating”? Biden ranks among the most pro-Zionist American politicians; his record speaks for itself. He has publicly admitted that he is a Zionist. His visit to Beirut was intended to blackmail Lebanese politicians and people not to join hands with Hizbullah. Showing courage, President Sleiman is reported to have told Biden, “the Middle East conflict cannot be resolved at the expense of Lebanon.” While talking about peace, Biden conveniently forgot that it was merely three years ago that the Zionists had unleashed a brutal war on Lebanon murdering more than 1,200 people, most of them civilians. The 2006 invasion had the full backing of Washington which blocked a ceasefire resolution in the Security Council in the mistaken belief that Israel would be able to defeat Hizbullah. Instead, the Zionist army got a bloody nose in the 34-day onslaught. When US politicians talk about peace, they mean peace only for Israel, not anyone else because the people of Lebanon have suffered grievously at the hands of the Zionist invaders as well as meddlesome Americans for decades.
The Hizbullah leadership did not take Biden’s visit or his unwarranted interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs lightly. At a rally in Nabatiyah marking the ninth anniversary of Israel’s defeat when the Zionist army was driven out of much of Lebanon in May 2000, they roundly condemned Washington’s meddling in Lebanese affairs and denounced US support for Israel. The rally was held the same day that Biden visited Beirut. “We call on all Lebanese, regardless of their political views, to rise up against such meddling which represents a flagrant violation of Lebanese sovereignty,” Hassan Fadlal-lah, a Hizbullah MP, said. Hizbullah Secretary General Shaikh Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah addressed the rally via video link from south Beirut. He said the visits by Biden and Hillary Clinton a month ago raised “strong suspicion and amounted to a clear and detailed interference in Lebanon’s affairs,” according to a report carried by Agency France Press (AFP).
Parliamentarian Hassan Fadlallah was quoted by the AFP as saying, “It appears that this visit is part of a US bid to supervise the electoral campaign of a Lebanese party which feels threatened politically.” The US has supported the outgoing majority coalition in parliament, headed by the playboy Saad Hariri, son and political heir of slain Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri. He is also closely allied with such other oppressive regimes as those in Egypt and Saudi Arabia that are known for their brutal methods as well as total subservience to the US. Fadlallah said Biden’s trip will “negatively affect those betting once again on US support which, under the arrogant Bush administration, was unable to break the will of the Lebanese.” He also warned that the US was “tracing red lines for the future [Lebanese] government. We will rise up to this,” he insisted.
The US uses a number of tools in its arsenal to frustrate people’s wishes. From outright threats and political blackmail to financial inducements, Biden used all of them during his trip. The US has provided one billion dollars to Lebanon since the Washington-backed Zionist onslaught in 2006. Of this, $410 million is for the military and police. It is interesting to note that during the Zionist attack three years ago, the Lebanese army did not participate in defence of the country. It sat in its barracks even after Israeli planes bombed them killing several soldiers. One wonders what is the army’s role if it cannot defend the country against external aggression?
There are three countries in the world, in addition to the Zionist state that have branded Hizbullah a “terrorist” organization: the US, Britain and Canada. All are staunchly pro-Israel and have become openly anti-Muslim. Hizbullah is a legitimate resistance movement struggling to drive the Zionist occupiers out of their country. The Zionist army continues to occupy Sheba Farms in the south after they were driven out from the rest of the country through a valiant resistance that lasted decades. Israel is in open violation of UN Security Council resolution 425 (passed in March 1978) demanding an unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon. Yet the US and the West in general continue to back it enabling it to defy the Security Council. This outlaw state is backed by imperialist powers to violate others’ sovereignty and territorial integrity yet those that resist such aggression and bullying are branded as terrorists. This, however, may be changing. Since Hizbullah has a strong representation in the Lebanese parliament, European Union (EU) representatives have met Hizbullah officials and have expressed a desire to work with them. Even Britain has broken away from the blanket condemnation of Hizbullah saying it makes a distinction between its political and military wings. These are face-saving tactics since as a resistance movement Hizbullah has every right to defend itself and the Lebanese people. Europeans are beginning to realize that Hizbullah is a political reality and it cannot be wished away.
Had it not been for the confessional nature of Lebanese politics — a legacy bequeathed by the French colonialists before they withdrew — Hizbullah would easily win a free and fair election. Under the colonial imposed system, power is divided equally between Christians and Muslims even though Muslims constitute a clear majority. To reinforce these divisions, the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim. With Hizbullah entering into a political alliance with other groups, the chances of its becoming the dominant coalition in parliament is what has sent American politicians and their Zionist and reactionary Arab allies into panic.
Lebanon’s landscape seems to be changing. On June 8, a new reality may dawn in Lebanon, one that would not be to the liking of the West but that would truly represent the aspirations of the Lebanese people. This is a prospect to be celebrated, not decried or undermined. The US’s tactics also show how hypocritical its claims to supporting democracy or the will of the people are.