June 15, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2385

Anti-Hizbullah Shi'ite Lebanese Movement: Hizbullah Is Sabotaging Lebanese Elections

June 15, 2009
Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 2385

As Lebanon's June 7, 2009 parliamentary elections become imminent, activists from the Shi'ite anti-Hizbullah movement 'Lebanese Identity Union' [1] are reporting increasing violent interference with their activities by Hizbullah and Amal activists.

The Lebanese Identity Union was founded in 2007 by Ahmad Al-As'ad, the son of former Lebanese parliamentary speaker Kamal Al-As'ad, with the aim of "rejecting dictatorship and rule by a single party [i.e. Hizbullah], [because] what is needed is democracy and [the freedom] to criticize mistakes without being accused of collaborating [with Israel]." [2]

Al-As'ad's criticism of Hizbullah and Amal, especially Hizbullah, focused on political and theological issues. With regard to the political aspect, Al-As'ad stated that while Hizbullah emphasized ethnic Shi'ism, his movement prioritized national Lebanese goals; he also criticized Hizbullah's subjugation to Iran. [3] With regard to the struggle against Israel, Al-As'ad noted that the Lebanese Identity Union and Hizbullah and Amal were not in conflict over who the enemy is, but only over how the struggle against it is to be waged. He said that the preferred method of struggle was not military, but economic, cultural, and ideological, and that for this reason there was a need to build a Lebanese state that had the exclusive right to decide on matters of war and peace (and does not allow various movements to make such decisions, as Hizbullah did in the 2006 war with Israel). [4]

With regard to the theological aspect, Al-As'ad harshly criticized the particular Shi'ite perception of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran's Islamic Revolution, represented in Lebanon by Hizbullah; Al-As'ad calls this perception a distortion of the Shi'a. He is especially opposed to the concept of velayat-e faqih, or "rule of the jurisprudent," which he calls "something the Iranian regime invented so as to strengthen its political rule." According to Al-As'ad, the picture of a Hizbullah-supporting Shi'ite majority in Lebanon is very distant from reality, since Hizbullah represents a specific group within the Shi'ite community that advocates a Khomeini-style Shi'ite perception. Al-As'ad claims that Lebanon's Shi'ites support Hizbullah due to circumstances and pressure, and that therefore there is a need to draw up an alternative plan that will allow the country's Shi'ite majority to express its true views. [5]

The following is a review of the situation:

Al-As'ad: Hizbullah Isn't Interested In Democratic Elections

The Lebanese Identity Union is investing most of its pre-election efforts in the south of the country, an area with a high Shi'ite concentration known to be a bulwark of support for Hizbullah and Amal. In April 2009, the movement reported an increase in the number and severity of attacks against its activists in this region. For example, it reported on a pre-planned attack using sticks, stones, and firearms against Al-As'ad's convoy as it travelled in the Marjayoun-Hatzbani district. [6] It also reported that some members' cars were torched, [7] and some activists were abducted. [8] A movement member reported that Hizbullah activists had threatened him, saying that the Syrian intelligence apparatus would show him no mercy if he voted for a Lebanese Identity Union candidate. [9]

In its announcements concerning these incidents, the Lebanese Identity Union pointed an accusing finger directly at Hizbullah and Amal, for inciting to violence and for perpetrating acts of violence. For example, at a press conference Al-As'ad summed up the violent incidents against activists from his movement, and noted that all of the incidents had occurred in Al-Dhahiya, Beirut, adding, "we all know who the active force there is, and who controls security there, and who forces its laws on the area - Hizbullah, of course." Al-As'ad called on Hizbullah to issue a fatwa condemning the perpetrators of the operations, and also to stop accusing his movement's members of treason and of collaborating with Israel. [10]

Senior officials in the Lebanese Identity Union claim that these operations prove that Hizbullah does not want truly democratic elections to take place, and that it aims to slant the election results. At a press conference two days after the attack on his convoy in South Lebanon, Al-As'ad said: "The statements of [some] senior [Lebanese] officials - namely that it is possible to hold elections in a democratic atmosphere - are meaningless, at least for the regions under Hizbullah's rule... What happened proves to anyone who is still optimistic, or deluding himself, that statements about holding elections - I [am not even] saying democratic elections, but [even] quasi-democratic elections - are like throwing sand in [people's] eyes... Hizbullah wants the elections in regions with a Shi'ite majority to be according to the Iranian or Syrian model. That is, it wants elections that are elections in name only, lacking the conditions required for normal elections...

"It is clear that Hizbullah fears the results of [democratic] elections, and that it is therefore taking these steps in order to frighten the people and to make them stay home on June 7 and not go to the polls to vote for my movement..." [11]

The Lebanese Identity Union: The Country Is Showing Helplessness in the Face of Hizbullah

The Lebanese Identity Union accused the Lebanese government and security apparatuses of doing nothing to prevent Hizbullah from attacking its members - and even of collaborating with it. Al-As'ad claimed: "Most senior officials in the country are not doing the minimum required of them to assure the Lebanese citizen of his minimal rights, so that he will be able to express his opinion... It is proven that most of them are taking orders from Hizbullah..." [12]

Movement secretary 'Ali 'Eid said, "In South Lebanon, neither the army nor the security forces clash with Hizbullah and Amal. They mostly [stand by and] watch what is happening." [13]

Al-As'ad even claimed that Lebanon's prosecutor-general is loyal not to the state but to "the political element that put him in this position [i.e. Hizbullah]," and that for this reason he won't touch lawsuits filed by the Lebanese Identity Union against anyone who attacked its members. [14]

The Effect of the Hizbullah Pressures on the Movement

Despite the Lebanese Identity Union's declarations that the violence against it will not deter it and that it is determined to run in the elections, it seems that the pressure on it is having an effect. Movement representatives in Bint Jbeil district announced that they were quitting and transferring their support to Hizbullah and Amal. In their announcement, they stated, "Once we realized the danger in the platform of the movement and the danger [represented] by its leader [Al-As'ad], and his connection to interests and aims that are not linked to the stability of the country... we reached the conclusion that this movement's aims are not national. Therefore we announce our resignation from the movement... and that we are turning to the path of resistance [i.e. Hizbullah] and the path of development and liberation [the name of Amal's faction in parliament]." [15]


[1] Known as the Lebanese Option Gathering.

[2] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), July 14, 2007.

[3], April 30, 2009. In this context, it should be noted that one of the claims directed at Al-As'ad from his opponents is that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are funding his activity. See Al-Akhbar, (Lebanon), October 23, 2008.

[4], May 3, 2009.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 5, 2009.

[6], May 3, 2009

[7], February 23, 2009.

[8] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), May 27, 2009.

[9], April 10, 2009.

[10] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 28, 2009.

[11] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), May 5, 2009.

[12] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), May 5, 2009.

[13] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 28, 2009.

[14], May 26, 2009.

[15] Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, May 18, 2009. The movement also announced that it was dropping out of the running in the Baalbek Al-Harmal district with the explanation that it did not want to harm the chances of another Shi'ite list that opposed Hizbullah., May 26, 2009.

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