March 31, 2009 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 437

The Lebanon Crisis (2): Hizbullah's Victory and its Regional Implications

March 31, 2009 | By Yigal Carmon and B. Chernitsky*
Lebanon | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 437


The immediate surrender of the Lebanese government and the March 14 Forces to Hizbullah's demands, after they were taken by surprise by the force and determination of Hizbullah's and Amal's violent actions, has not alleviated the Lebanon crisis. On the contrary: The Hizbullah and Amal victory, which Iran is presenting as its own victory over the U.S. in the region, [1] will step up pressure for regime change in Lebanon. Such a change, when it comes, will have a critical impact on the security of the Arab regimes allied with the U.S. and on the security of Israel, which will then face Iranian forces on its northern border as well as the possibility of a unified front stretching from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, all the way to the Mediterranean.

Hizbullah and Amal, which are continuing their violent attacks against the militias of Sa'd Al-Hariri and Walid Jumblatt in northern Lebanon and in the Lebanon Mountains while maintaining their control over most of Beirut, are focusing their political pressure on the Lebanese government in order to force it to resign. A former environment minister affiliated with the opposition, Wiyam Wahhab, called on the Lebanese Army to seize the government building, the Saraya, from Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora, whom he accused of rebelling against the constitution. [2] The Druze head of the opposition-affiliated Lebanese Democratic Party called on Jumblatt's supporters to immediately surrender their weapons to the Lebanese Army in order to prevent renewed hostilities in the Lebanon Mountains. [3]

In an interview with the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Jumblatt said that Hizbullah and Iran had triumphed in the Beirut operation, and that "Hizbullah had made its move as soon as it detected a weakness in the U.S. position in the Middle East, thereby effecting a drastic change in the power balance in Lebanon." He continued, "Now we are waiting for Hizbullah, Iran, and Syria to determine the rules of the game." [4]

On May 12, 2008, an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers convened in Cairo. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem did not attend, in line with a Syria-Qatar agreement to prevent Arab intervention against Hizbullah by terming events in Lebanon a "domestic issue" in which the Arab League should not interfere. At the meeting, Saudi Arabia and Egypt intended to condemn Hizbullah and to initiate the establishment of an inter-Arab force to be deployed in Lebanon. However, their plans were thwarted by Syria and Qatar.

An Arab source told the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that a Syrian representative had bullied the countries supporting this initiative, saying: "Do you think your planes will be [allowed to] land in Beirut if you condemn Hizbullah?" [5] Instead, the Arab ministers decided to establish an inter-Arab committee, headed by Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister, to hold talks with all sides in Lebanon. The fact that Qatar, which is an integral part of the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis, was appointed to head this committee attests to the helplessness of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and points to increased inter-Arab pressure on the Lebanese government and the March 14 Forces.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have continued their media attacks on Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran. Following are excerpts from these attacks:

Criticism by Saudi Government Officials

During the Arab foreign ministers' meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Sa'ud Al-Faisal compared Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah to former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, saying that "they both had agreed to invade Beirut." He added: "The legitimate government in Lebanon is facing a large-scale war, [and] we cannot stand idly by." He also said that "Iran has undertaken to run that war" and that "Hizbullah intended to forcibly [transform] Lebanon into a state with a 'rule of the jurisprudent.'" He further stated: "We must do everything in our power to end this war and to save Lebanon, even if this would involve forming an Arab force to rapidly deploy throughout Lebanon, to restore its security and defend the current legitimate government." [6]

Saudi MPs likewise harshly criticized Hizbullah, accusing Nasrallah of attempting to drag Lebanon towards civil war, in accordance with Iran's agenda. MP Sa'ud Al-Shammari warned about the consequences of "Iranian expansion in Arab countries, which are evident in Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon." Another MP, Dr. Khalil Al-Khalil, said, "60 years after the Palestinian Nakba, we are now faced with another Nakba, in Beirut." [7]

Criticism in the Saudi Press

Editor of the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Tariq Al-Homayed wrote that as soon as Hizbullah turned its guns on Lebanon, the myth of Hizbullah came to an end. He added that when Hizbullah declared war on the Lebanese government, Nasrallah's true nature was revealed, and when he captured Beirut, it became clear that all Hizbullah's talk about "resistance" was nothing but crude lies and a cover-up. Al-Homayed further stated that the current situation in Lebanon proved that the disarming of Hizbullah was inevitable, as was the imposition of strict government rule across the country, to replace the rule of Hizbullah, Iran, and Syria. [8]

In another op-ed, Al-Homayed condemned Hizbullah and Amal, arguing that their actions were motivated by foreign interests. He referred to photos released by several news agencies showing Amal and Hizbullah fighters trampling and setting fire to posters of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri and putting up posters of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in their stead. He said that these photos should be a warning to everyone in the Arab world who has not yet woken up to reality - since they symbolize the characteristics of an Iranian state, the representatives of which are toiling to sow them throughout the Arab world. [9]

In yet another op-ed, following the Arab foreign ministers' meeting, [10] Al-Homayed severely criticized what he called "the cowardly Arabs," i.e. the Arab countries which could not decide where to stand in the clash between the axis of the radical countries and the bloc of moderate countries. He wrote: "How long will these countries fear?... Now that Beirut has fallen into the hands of Iran, and Fuad Al-Siniora's government is under siege... the Arabs have no choice but to confront Iran... because [they had better know] that that which they fear today will happen tomorrow. Iran's [influence] is spreading throughout all the Arab countries, and it is imperative that the Arabs stand fast against the collapse of the Arab states and uphold them from being torn apart from within..."

Senior Al-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Mamoun Fandy dubbed Beirut "Gaza No. 2" and asked: "Shall we wait for a third Arab city to turn into 'Gaza No. 3' - whether in Bahrain, Jordan or Egypt? If Iran traps another Arab country, this could very well precipitate the collapse of the entire Arab system. 'Gaza No. 3' will be the point where the scale tips, when we will be drawn not into a local but into a regional civil war, [i.e.] a war between Sunnis and Shi'ites..." [11]

In his column in the London daily Al-Hayat, Jamil Al-Dhiyabi claimed that there was no difference between the actions of the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s and those of Hizbullah in Lebanon today. He wrote: "Hizbullah's fig leaf fell when Nasrallah's intentions and the Iranian agenda were exposed. Syria is laughing and showing its white teeth, because it has gained a new partner - Qatar. It declares that what is currently going on in Lebanon is a domestic issue, while Hizbullah is flying its banners and putting up posters on roofs and in [government] institutions... The time is ripe to think up a way to disarm Hizbullah, in accordance with U.N. resolutions No. 1559 and 1701 - especially since Hizbullah has aimed its weapons at Lebanon and organized a coup against its government and its people...

"The actions of Nasrallah's militias will transform Lebanon into another Iraq. Security and stability will vanish from the streets of Beirut, and the gates will open for the allies of Al-Qaeda, Fath Al-Islam, and so on to become more powerful... Lebanon urgently needs an Arab or an international defense force... to restore the rule to the government so as to enable it to withstand Syria and Iran." [12]

Criticism in the Egyptian Government Press

The Egyptian government dailies were also harshly critical of Hizbullah. For example, in an article in Al-Gumhouriyya, the paper's editor and MP Muhammad Ali Ibrahim attacked Nasrallah, against the backdrop of Hizbullah's takeover of Lebanon. [13] Ibrahim wrote that Nasrallah was a new example of "Islamic fascism"... whose other representatives are Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al in Gaza and Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mahdi 'Akef in Egypt, and added that this fascism's main aims were to institute the political agenda of its funders, to topple the "secular" states, and to establish an Islamic Caliphate, even over the dead bodies of the citizens of Lebanon, Egypt, or any other "secular" state.

In another op-ed, [14] Ibrahim wrote that Hizbullah was no longer legitimate, and no longer had a right to exist. He stated that Hizbullah had enjoyed legitimacy in the past due to its resistance to Israel, but that its historic role had played out with the surrender of the Israeli occupation and its forcing of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. From that moment, Ibrahim wrote, it would have been appropriate for the militias to become a political party - but instead Hizbullah became a state within a state and an ally of Syria and Iran against Lebanon's interests. Ibrahim added that at the same time, Hassan Nasrallah had lost his legitimacy, and that by 2006, the hero of 2000 had become less heroic, and by 2008 he had become a murderer. [15]

*Y. Carmon is President of MEMRI; B. Chernitsky is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] Iranian Ambassador to Syria Ahmad Moussavi, who is also advisor to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that the U.S. had finally realized that "their own and Israel's plots in the Middle East are facing a succession of humiliating setbacks" (IRNA, Iran, May 13, 2005). For Iran's position in the crisis, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1924, "Iranian Papers on the Events in Lebanon: 'In the Power Struggle in the Middle East, There Are Only Two Sides - Iran and the U.S.'; As a Result Of Hizbullah's Victory, 'The U.S.'s Influence in the [Middle East] Region Will Stop, and the Regimes Identified With It Will Be Replaced'," May 12, 2008. Iranian Papers on the Events in Lebanon: "In the Power Struggle in the Middle East, There Are Only Two Sides - Iran and the U.S."; As a Result Of Hizbullah's Victory, "The U.S.'s Influence in the [Middle East] Region Will Stop, and the Regimes Identified With It Will Be Replaced".

[2] Al-Manar TV (Lebanon), May 12, 2008. See MEMRI TV Clip No. 1765, May 13, 2008, Similarly, Radhwan Al-Sayyed, political advisor to Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora, harshly criticized the Lebanese Army, saying: "Since the [Lebanese Army] issued an announcement stating that it feared division if the street fighting were to continue, I said to myself: [How come] the commander of the army fears to confront these gunmen[?]... But the worry that encompassed me over the army's negative neutrality... was replaced by a mighty rage when I heard that the army had accompanied the gunmen of Hizbullah and the Amal movement and the Syrian National Party in conquests and attacks... The army handed the buildings and facilities they were protecting over to its armed companions from Hizbullah." Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, May 12, 2008.

[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 13, 2008.

[4] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), May 13, 2008.

[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 13, 2008.

[6] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), May 12, 2008.

[7] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 12, 2008.

[8] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 9, 2008.

[9] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 11, 2008.

[10] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 12, 2008.

[11] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 12, 2008.

[12] Al-Hayat (London), May 12, 2008.

[13] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), May 11, 2008.

[14] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), May 13, 2008.

[15] In contrast to these articles, which attacked Hizbullah harshly, Al-Azhar's position was the weakest. Senior Al-Azhar officials merely called on the adversarial sides in Lebanon to stop the fighting, because, they said, it was leading to anarchy and civil war. Al-Azhar Sheikh Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi called on the Lebanese to stop the internal struggles, because they helped only the enemies of the Shi'ite Muslim nation. Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Egypt, May 11, 2008.

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