November 2, 2006 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 299

Lebanon Faces Political Crisis in Aftermath of War: Tensions Escalate Between ‘March 14 Forces’ and Hizbullah, Pro-Syrian Camp

November 2, 2006 | By H. Avraham*
Syria, Lebanon | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 299


In the aftermath of the July-August 2006 war, political tension between Hizbullah and the "March 14 Forces" [1] is increasing - to the point that street clashes may break out by November 13.

Once the war ended, Hizbullah, together with other pro-Syria elements in Lebanon such as General Michel Aoun, launched a scathing campaign against the current Lebanese government under Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora, and particularly against the majority in the Lebanese parliament, that is, the March 14 Forces.

On October 31, 2006, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah threatened to take to the streets and topple the Lebanese government. He stated that Hizbullah could instigate civil disobedience and bring about the fall of the government "by tomorrow morning." He issued an ultimatum, saying that Hizbullah's demand to establish a national unity government must be accepted by November 13, 2006. Hizbullah spokesman Hussein Rahallikewisesaid that the Al-Siniora government would fall within a few weeks, while General Aoun accused it of corruption and of conspiring against Lebanon.

The March 14 Forces, for their part, stepped up their accusations against Hizbullah, saying that the latter would use its weapons against elements within Lebanon, that it would try to spark civil war, that it was acting as a "state within a state," and that it was harming Lebanon's sovereignty and following orders from Syria and Iran.

It should be noted that even during the war, Sa'd Al-Hariri, who heads Al-Mustaqbal, the largest faction in the Lebanese parliament, and who is the son of assassinated former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri, had declared, "There must be an accounting with Hizbullah." Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir criticized Hizbullah's continued possession of weapons. [2]

Hizbullah and the Pro-Syrian Camp Threaten to Topple the Lebanese Government

On October 31, 2006, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah threatened that if the March 14 Forces rejected the demand by Hizbullah and its political allies for a national unity government, these political forces would take to the streets and bring about the fall of the government. These threats by Nasrallah are the culmination of an ongoing campaign against the March 14 Forces and Al-Siniora's government that began at the end of the recent war. Throughout this period, senior Hizbullah officials and members of Lebanon's pro-Syrian camp have threatened to topple the government, and have accused the March 14 Forces of treason and of being enemies of the [Islamic] nation, of Arabism, and of Islam.

The following are some of the statements:

*A Call to Topple the Al-Siniora Government

In an October 31, 2006 interview with Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah issued an ultimatum, saying that the March 14 Forces must agree to the establishment of a national unity government by November 13, 2006: "We think that the natural solution for this problem is a national unity government. In suggesting a national unity government, we are not trying to settle scores with anyone... We are now calling for unity and accord, not for score-settling and vengefulness... We are suggesting a national unity government in a positive spirit. The other group [i.e. the March 14 Forces] has two options: The first is to sacrifice Lebanon and to involve it in the regional tensions just so they can [continue to] rule on their own. The second option is to seize this golden opportunity for we Lebanese to cooperate and save our country...

"In the consultation, [3] we may agree on a national unity government with a new composition, a new prime minister, and new policy guidelines. In that case, the present government will resign and will be replaced by a national unity government, which will receive a vote of confidence from the parliament and will run the country. Alternatively, the present government can stay, but in an adjusted and expanded [format], in which case there will be no need for new policy guidelines... or for a vote of confidence... We hope that such a consultation will indeed be held... We regard it as a golden opportunity that must not be missed...

"If the consultation does not lead to [the establishment of] a national unity government, the political forces will have no choice but to take to the streets, and they will do so. In that case, the goal will no longer be [the establishment of] a national unity government, but rather early parliamentary elections. If the forces currently in power [i.e. the March 14 Forces] do not agree to [hold] early elections, we will work to topple the government and establish an interim government, and then we will call for early parliamentary elections..."

"Our ultimatum expires on Monday, [November 13, 2006,] one week after the consultation begins [on November 6]. If 'the February 14 Forces' [4] decide to boycott or sabotage the consultation, we will [no longer] hold back. We will hold a quick consultation and determine the time, the place, and the necessary strategies for popular [action]." [5]

Nasrallah also declared: "We can go to the streets tomorrow morning [and demonstrate] in front of the Prime Minister's residence and the parliament. We can instigate civil disobedience, topple the government, and [bring about] early elections. But we are not [threatening to do] this, so don't [try to] scare us with [talk of] civil strife [between Sunnis and Shi'ites] or civil war, since neither of these is a possibility." [6]

Earlier, in his speech at the August 22, 2006 "Divine Victory" rally organized by Hizbullah, Nasrallah said: "...The group ruling today in Lebanon cannot continue [to maintain] the regime and to act in light of these challenges. The natural solution is to put together a national unity government... In all honesty, the current government is incapable of defending Lebanon, of rehabilitating Lebanon, or of uniting Lebanon..." [7]

General Michel Aoun, who heads the Change and Reform faction in the Lebanese parliament and who is also a leader of the opposition to the Al-Siniora government, also called for establishing a national unity government. [8] In February 2006, Aoun, who had been a prominent opponent of Syria's presence in Lebanon, signed a document of understandings with Hizbullah, and since then has been the organization's political ally. [9]

As soon as the war was over, Aoun joined the attack on the Al-Siniora government, calling for a change in government in Lebanon. At a press conference that he had called, Aoun attacked the government and called it "a corrupt, unstable, and indecisive government, and during the war it was hesitant and conspired with the international resolution [against Lebanon]." According to Aoun, "the scorn and the hostile tone [of the March 14 Forces] regarding the disarmament [of Hizbullah] have made it clear that they had prepared a different solution - and that was the solution of the war... With national unity, we put an end to the Lebanon that was crumbling into ethnic groups. This was when it was expected that we would be against Hizbullah, and that each ethnic group would stand against the other, as if Hizbullah were not Lebanese... They must not blame Hizbullah [for the war]..." [10]

In an interview with Al-Arabiyya TV, Aoun accused the March 14 Forces of acting "as if the state were its own personal property and as if Hizbullah were a private company." He added: "All these things require us to change the government." [11]

Hizbullah spokesman Hussein Rahal told the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "Hizbullah has many options for dealing with the March 14 [Forces'] refusal to meet the demand to establish a national unity government." He clarified that he was referring to options that were "political, judicial, and popular, by peaceful means defined in the constitution," and said that the government would not last much longer and that its fall "will be a matter of weeks." Rahal stressed that Hizbullah would not back down from its demand for "a national unity government that would defend the state from custodianship and rehabilitate [the state]." [12]

*"We Will Take to the Streets"; "We Will Topple the Government by Popular Revolution"

Lebanese figures belonging to the pro-Syrian camp threatened that if the March 14 Forces did not agree to accept the proposal of a national unity government, they would take to the streets to topple the Al-Siniora government. Nasser Qandil, former Lebanese MP close to the Syrian regime, said: "If the option of a national unity government is lost, then what awaits us is a popular revolution that will leave no trace."

Former Lebanese MP belonging to the pro-Syrian camp Zaher Al-Khatib announced, "There is a willingness [to establish] popular activities in the streets to topple the government." [13] He said: "We will meet you in the street to topple the government." [14]

Lebanese Energy and Water Minister Muhammad Fanesh, who is from the Hizbullah faction, said: "Hizbullah's decision to leave the government is dependent on the position of the other group [the March 14 Forces] regarding the demand [to establish] a national unity government. The one who does not meet this demand is the one who will drag the state into an atmosphere of tension." [15]

*March 14 Forces are Traitors and Enemies of the [Islamic] nation, Arabism and Islam

Statements by senior Hizbullah officials and articles in Lebanon's pro-Syria papers accused the March 14 Forces of treason and of being enemies of the [Islamic] nation, of Arabism, and of Islam.

As soon as the war ended, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah launched an unprecedented verbal attack on the March 14 Forces, accusing them of stabbing Hizbullah in the back during the war: "...From the first day of the war, July 12, [2006,] a large part of the March 14 Forces and their media acted as if there were no war against Lebanon, and as if the situation were not dire... From the first day of the war - when the [Israeli] planes were bombing us and 40,000 Israeli soldiers were trying to invade the South [of Lebanon] and when [against them] the best of Lebanon's young men performed a miracle and created a legend - there were, in the internal arena, those who brandished political, media, and psychological knives, and every possible thing that would stab you in the back.

"We were silent in light of all this, and we did not respond throughout the war - not even a single word... Had we wanted to give our people and our popular bases an opportunity to express their opinion, their rage, and their anger at what they were hearing in some of the media belonging to the March 14 Forces and from some people [belonging] to these forces, there would have been civil war in Lebanon... At a time when we were fighting the enemy of the Arabs and the Muslims and the enemy of all the Lebanese... we were patient regarding many stabs and injuries [coming from] the internal arena and appearing openly..." [16]

Lebanese MP for Hizbullah 'Ali 'Amar accused the March 14 Forces of being accomplices to the shedding of Lebanese blood during the war: "The time has come for us to talk, now that the [true] face [of the March 14] Forces has been exposed. Did you know that during the aggression [i.e. the war]... they identified with it, and agreed with it, in all its details, from small to large, from the beginning of the aggression to its end? Some of them even expected, in the first days of the aggression, [that Israel] would put an end to Hizbullah - to which there will [never] be an end unless there is an end to the New Testament and to the Koran...

"People [of Lebanon], the time has come for you to know the accomplice in the blood[shed], in your expulsion [from your homes], and in the abandonment of your politics, independence, and freedom. Isn't it enough for you [that they] stole the regime, and the money of the people and of the state, and that they have, for the past year and a half, been inciting against [Hizbullah] and planning to eliminate it via solidarity with the American and the Israeli?"

To the March 14 Forces, 'Amar said: "If you are betting that Resolution No. 1701 will be interpreted as you want it to be, adding to it tasks that it does not set out... and taking it out of its context in order to harm the weapons of the resistance [Hizbullah], then I swear... that the weapons of the resistance will remain, remain, remain. If you want to negotiate with someone about these weapons, in the language of dialogue or in the language of resistance, I will tell you with whom you will negotiate. You can negotiate only with the shoes [of those killed] at Qana."

Amar demanded a national unity government that would include elements supporting Hizbullah, and added: "This government, that has overstepped in its trespassing, must go, because [we do not trust it enough] to place the fate of the homeland in its hands." [17]

The Lebanese pro-Syrian daily Al-Akhbar, whose editor, Ibrahim Al-Amin, is close to Hizbullah, published an article by Muhammad Tay, lecturer in constitutional law at the Lebanese University. In the article, Tay called the March 14 Forces "enemies of the [Islamic] nation and of the region": "A group in Lebanon is demanding that we relinquish the main foundations of [our] steadfastness in the face of the enemy... There is no realistic reason for the demand to surrender, except for [their] fear of victory, not of defeat... In their attempt to obstruct the path of [those] who brought victory [i.e. Hizbullah], they are setting themselves in the rank of the enemies. They are the enemies of the [Islamic] nation and of the region, and they are the enemies of the individual, of the history, and of the geography of the region..." [18]

Charles Ayyoub, editor of the Lebanese pro-Syrian daily Al-Diyar , published a scathing article in which he responded to Sa'd Al-Hariri's September 26 accusations that Hizbullah and the pro-Syrian camp aimed to topple the Lebanese government, thus putting Syrian President Al-Assad's words into action. In his article, Ayyoub wrote: [19] "...The clear words of Sa'd Al-Hariri attest that the Al-Mustaqbal faction has left the fold of Arabism and of Islam, and has decided to go to the bosom of Zionism. Sa'd Al-Hariri has no longer any connection to Arabism, to Islam, and to the struggle against the Israeli aggression. Sa'd Al-Hariri is preparing Beirut for [Israeli PM Ehud] Olmert to come to it, after Sharon [entered it]... Moreover, Sa'd Al-Hariri has decided to fall into the arms of Zionism, and to submit to the world Zionist resolution, whose aim is to place Lebanon under the aegis of Israel...

"It is impossible for the current government to continue, and it is inconceivable for anyone to remain in this Zionist government that Sa'd Al-Hariri is leading to the bosom of Zionism. [This] government must not continue for even one more day. In the very near future, anyone who remains in this government will be an accomplice of Zionism... It is essential for everyone to think about the necessity of changing the government, or of not remaining in it. The Lebanese government has become a totally Olmert government..." [20]

March 14 Forces Speak Out Against Hizbullah's Weapons

As soon as the war ended, the leaders of the March 14 Forces stepped up their criticism of Hizbullah. The harshest statements came from Sa'd Al-Hariri and the Al-Mustaqbal faction; from Lebanese MP and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who heads the National Democratic Gathering; from the chairman of the executive branch of the Christian party Lebanese Forces Samir Geagea; and from the Council of Maronite Bishops in Lebanon. In articles in the Lebanese papers, the March 14 Forces expressed fear that the situation would worsen, to the point of civil war.

The following are some of the statements:

*Hizbullah is Planning a Political Coup and the Establishment of an Islamic Republic

The March 14 Forces claimed that Hizbullah is planning to overthrow the government by threatening to use its weapons. They also said that Hizbullah's first aim is to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon, like that of Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini in Iran.

An editorial in the paper of the Al-Mustaqbal faction, Al-Mustaqbal, stated: "Up until now, Hizbullah has said that its weapons were not aimed at the internal arena, and that it could not possibly aim them at the internal arena... It is true that Hizbullah has not used its weapons in the internal arena so far - but it is [also] true that it has had no need to do so. This is because an armed element known by all to be armed doesn't usually [need to] use its weapons, because the people fear it...

"[But] there is no doubt that these weapons have always been contradictory to democratic activity, in both the Shi'ite [context] and in the overall Lebanese [context]... Therefore, there is a Lebanese fear that, by the name 'national unity government,' [Hizbullah actually means] a scheme for a political coup in the internal arena... The change in government [proposed by Hizbullah] is aimed at preventing discussion [on its weapons].

"It is feared that [Hizbullah] will threaten [to use] these weapons, or that the people [in Lebanon] will [always] remember that these weapons exist, [and will fear them] even if they are not used in revolutionary activity... Hizbullah [and General Michel] Aoun must remember that the Taif Agreement states that there are to be no weapons except [those] of the state... Things need to be told like they really are!" [21]

Lebanese MP Mustafa 'Aloush, from the Al-Mustaqbal faction, said that Hizbullah's first aspiration was to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon, and that it held arbitrary control over the fate of the country: "It appears that [Hizbullah's] regional alliance with Iran, and the matter of the international court that is pressuring Syria, has led Hizbullah... to arbitrary control of the fate of Lebanon." 'Aloush added: "Hizbullah is a militia with political goals, and first among these goals is the establishment of an Islamic republic in Lebanon, according to the path of the Imam Khomeini." [22]

*Hizbullah is Acting Under the Aegis of Syria and Iran

On different occasions, the leaders of the March 14 Forces claimed that Hizbullah's policy in Lebanon was actually the execution of orders emanating from Syria and Iran, and that Hizbullah was acting to serve these countries' interests. In a September 26, 2006 speech at an iftar, the nightly breaking of the Ramadan fast, Sa'd Al-Hariri attacked Hizbullah and claimed that its demand for a national unity government was putting into practice the words of an August 15, 2006 speech by Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad attacking Arab leaders and the March 14 Forces.

Al-Hariri said: "Unfortunately, some of what we have heard recently [from Hizbullah] is, in the eyes of many Lebanese, a local, and unacceptable, translation of Bashar Al-Assad's speech... These [statements by Hizbullah] are grave, not only because they are imported from Damascus, but because they are absolutely contradictory to the [meaning] of national unity and of Lebanon's interest." Later in his speech, Al-Hariri said: "[The issue of Hizbullah's] weapons has already been raised at the discussion table, and it must remain there..." [23]

In an interview, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who led those demanding that Hizbullah be disarmed, told the Orbit satellite TV channel: "Hizbullah is a Lebanese organization, but its funding and arms are Syrian-Iranian. Therefore, how can Hizbullah integrate into the state?! It obeys the one who gives it funds and arms... In the South now [there is a situation of] a state [Lebanon], and within it there exists a state [Hizbullah] that is not integrated into it... I ask, how long will my state continue to be [dependent] on an axis of external [elements]?..."

Jumblatt condemned the Syrians: "...It is no accident that the moment the Israeli cannon fell silent and Resolution 1701 was passed, the intensive attack on the [Lebanese] government and its leader Al-Siniora commenced... and the Syrian debate [on the Lebanese government also] suddenly began - the aim of which is to throw out the [current] government. [If this is successful] this will lead to the current majority [in parliament], which consists of Al-Siniora, Al-Hariri, and the March 14 [Forces], losing control of the government. Then, elements loyal to the Syrian regime will return [to the government], with the aim of disrupting the [establishment] of the international court [that will try the defendants in the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafiq Al-Hariri]..." [24]

*Hizbullah is Sabotaging the Sovereignty of the Lebanese State

All the leaders of the March 14 Forces accused Hizbullah of sabotaging the sovereignty of Lebanon, of acting as a "state within a state" and of making decisions that should be made by the Lebanese state. Three weeks after the end of the war, on September 7, 2006, the March 14 Forces held a conference; in its summary statement, it said: "The first condition [for the establishment of] a state... and for its ability to carry out its national missions, is that it will have exclusive control of national security, and that it [and it alone], with no guardian or partner, will be responsible for standing against anyone violating its sovereignty, whether by occupying the land, by attacking borders, or by interfering in Lebanon's internal affairs. It is the sovereign state, and none other, that is responsible for defending its citizens... It is the sovereign state that, via its legal institutions, will be responsible for setting out the policy of the state, and it will not consent to interference by external [elements] in its internal affairs or to a limitation of its authority [by elements] in the internal arena..."

In the statement, the March 14 Forces also called for "implementing the international resolutions concerning Lebanon's situation, particularly [U.N. Security Council] Resolution 1701 that states what will be done about Hizbullah's weapons. Likewise, [we call for implementing] the resolutions that preceded this one - those concerning the state's control over all its lands by deploying its legitimate forces, and those concerning the investigation of the assassinations, assassination attempts, and bombings [in Lebanon]..." It also called "to put an end to the duplication of weapons [in Lebanon] and to stress that the Lebanese army and its authorized security institutions were the sole defenders of Lebanon..." [25]

At a conference of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, chairman of the party's executive body, gave a lengthy speech harshly critical of Hizbullah, which, he said, was, by its actions, preventing a strong and sovereign Lebanese state from existing: "There were those [i.e. Hizbullah Secretary-General Nasrallah in his September 22, 2006 speech at the "Divine Victory" rally organized by Hizbullah] who called for the building of a strong, egalitarian, capable, independent, and pure state - while their deeds and actions interfered with the existence of the state. How can a state exist when there is a small state within it [i.e. Hizbullah]? How can a strong state exist when every day weapons and ammunition are smuggled into it, despite its objections? How can a state be treated with respect when a group [within it] forces a strategy and agenda upon it, and decides its goals, priorities, and modus operandi for it, without the state having a right to discuss [them]? Then they come and warn us that if these goals are not met, there will be [here] a helpless, cowardly, and failed state... This is not the logic of state-building - rather, it is the logic of interference with state-building...

"[Hizbullah] says... that when a [strong] state has been built, we will find a solution to the weapons. And we say to them: When we find a solution to the weapons, we will be able to establish a proper state. They say: Your [gamble] to put an end to the resistance by force is a failed one. And we say [to them]: [Your] gamble to possess weapons by force is a mistaken one... They say: No army will force us to give up our weapons. And we say [to them] that no weapons will force us to accept the [current] reality... Actually, it was our option and our plan that [eventually] triumphed, because from the beginning we were the ones who demanded that the Lebanese army, with the help of international forces, [would be deployed] in south [Lebanon], [while Hizbullah] opposed it. At the same time, we do not feel [that] victory [has been achieved] because the majority of the Lebanese people does not [feel that it has] - but rather feels that a great catastrophe has struck us, and that our present and our future are a feather blown about in the wind..."

With respect to the demand, by Hizbullah and its political allies, to establish a national unity government, Geagea said: "Those who want a national unity government must agree first and foremost to the existence of a single government, not [several] governments. Those who want a national unity government cannot boast of their friendship with Syria, because Syria is not interested in Lebanon having either a government or national unity. Those who want a national unity government must not violate national unity on a daily basis by unilateral actions..." [26]

*Hizbullah's Weapons - A Threat; They Must Be Disarmed

Most of the March 14 Forces leaders expressed fears that Hizbullah would use its weapons against elements within Lebanon. A member of the National Democratic Gathering, Antoine Andres, said in response to accusations by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah that the March 14 Forces had stabbed Hizbullah in the back: "...Nasrallah cannot expropriate the decision from the Lebanese majority just because he represents the majority of the Shiite community..." He continued, "We see [Nasrallah's] speech as incitement, accusations of treason [against us], and a call to sectarian war. The question is, what will come next? Will [Hizbullah's] weapons be aimed at the internal arena...?" [27]

A communiqué released by the March 14 Forces about three weeks after the end of the war said: "The war proved the correctness of the March 14 Forces' position that weapons not [under the oversight of] the Lebanese state are not a deterrent force against the Israeli aggression, and will thus not prevent Israel from carrying out its aggression against Lebanon. The 'balance of terror' theory used [by Hizbullah] as a pretext for continuing to possess its weapons has [thus] collapsed. These weapons did not constitute a defense of the lives, cities, and property of the citizens..." [28]

The annual communiqué of the Council of Maronite Bishops also blamed Hizbullah for the recent Hizbullah-Israel war: "In Lebanon, there are 18 ethnic communities, and each has rights and obligations identical to those of the others, as set out in the Lebanese constitution... But in practice, we see that some groups are taking decision-making into their own hands, thus bringing the state to a situation it does not want. Here lies the great catastrophe...

"Examples of this are many, and they have recurred at least four times in the past 50 years... Recently, one Lebanese group [i.e. Hizbullah] continued to possess weapons after most of southern [Lebanon] was liberated in 2000 - in contradiction to the articles of the Taif Agreement that was signed in 1989. [This group] became a religious, military, and political organization, [and as a result] the war broke out on July 12, 2006...

"In all these instances, [and as a result] of the grave events that stemmed from them... the homeland paid the price of the community or group of Lebanese that took decision-making into its own hands - whether [that price was] in the security, prosperity, or tranquility of the people..." [29]

*H. Avraham is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.

[1] The "March 14 Forces" is the nickname for the political union of several parties and factions in Lebanon that is led by Al-Mustaqbal faction leader Sa'd Al-Hariri, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, and Samir Geagea, chairman of the executive branch of the Lebanese Forces. They got this nickname following a March 14, 2005 rally marking 30 days since the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri; during the rally there were calls for Lebanese independence and freedom, severe criticism of the Syrian presence in Lebanon, and even calls for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1206, "Iran and the Recent Escalation on Israel's Borders (3): Reactions in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria," July 14, 2006, Iran and the Recent Escalation on Israel's Borders (3): Reactions in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria ; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1208, "Iran and the Recent Escalation on Israel's Borders (5): Reactions in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria," July 18, 2006, Iran and the Recent Escalation on Israel's Borders (5): Reactions in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria .

[3] In light of the mounting tension in Lebanon between Hizbullah and the March 14 Forces, and following threats by Hizbullah and by the pro-Syrian camp to take to the streets and topple the government, Parliament Speaker Nabih Beri called, on October 25, for a consultation conference involving all parties and political forces in Lebanon, at which two issues would be discussed: the establishment of a national unity government as demanded by Hizbullah and its political allies, and the passing of a new parliamentary elections law. Beri initially suggested that a two-week conference would take place between October 30, 2006 and November 13, 2006, but later announced that the conference would start one week later, on November 6, 2006, in order to allow several March 14 members to return from abroad. Hizbullah responded that since March 14 had wasted a week of consultation, the conference would be only one week long."

[4] "February 14" is a derogatory name applied by Hizbullah to the March 14 Forces.

[5] Islamic Resistance in Lebanon website, October 31, 2006.

[6] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), November 1, 2006.

[7] Al-Intiqad (Lebanon), September 22, 2006.

[8] According to General Michel Aoun, the current parliament was elected according to the Elections Law dating from the time of the Syrian presence in Lebanon. For this reason, he says, the current parliament and government do not represent the majority of the Lebanese people - particularly not the majority of Christians - and thus he is demanding new parliamentary elections based on a new election law.

[9] On September 6, 2006, General Aoun's party and Hizbullah signed a joint document of understandings; the document included 10 sections stressing, inter alia, undertaking comprehensive administrative reform in Lebanon, fighting corruption, clarifying the fate of Lebanese who disappeared during the Lebanese civil war, condemning the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri and other murders, carrying out reforms in the Lebanese security apparatuses, improving Lebanese-Syrian relations, and so on. The importance of this document lay in the fact that Aoun, who was in the past an extremely prominent opponent of Syria's presence in Lebanon and also one of those demanding that Hizbullah be disarmed, has now become Hizbullah's political ally. In the document of understandings that he signed with Hizbullah, it is very clear that each side made significant concessions. For example, Hizbullah, which had called South Lebanon army personnel "traitors," agreed that the document of understandings would include a section calling for Lebanese living in Israel to return to Lebanon. Aoun, on his part, agreed that it would include a section stating that the defense of Lebanon is a "national duty" and that "possessing weapons is not an aim but the sacred and dignified means of any group whose land is occupied." The section justifies the continued possession of weapons by Hizbullah "as long as Israel is occupying the Shab'a Farms, as long as there are Lebanese prisoners in Israeli prisons, and as long as Israel threatens Lebanon..."

[10] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 7, 2006.

[11] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 17, 2006.

[12] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 6, 2006.

[13] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), October 23, 2006.

[14] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 23, 2006.

[15] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), October 22, 2006.

[16] Al-Intiqad (Lebanon), September 13, 2006.

[17] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 12, 2006.

[18] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 25, 2006.

[19] .

[20] Al-Diyar (Lebanon), September 27, 2006.

[21] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 1, 2006.

[22] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 17, 2006. The Jordanian-American reformist Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi also warned, in two articles published in August 2006, of Hizbullah's intent to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon like the Shiite Islamic Republic in Iran. In an August 17 article he wrote: "The fear is not of the victory of Hizbullah as a resistance [movement] against Israel, but of Hizbullah's ideological victory in the Arab world... The risk to freedom and democracy lies in an ideological Hizbullah victory, not a military victory.... Hizbullah armed itself well, with its allies' help, becoming the largest popular military force in the region - and [preparing for] the actualization of the next step, which was the establishment of the wilayat al-faqih in Lebanon and outside it, after the model of the Iranian regime of mullahs that exists today in Tehran..." ( In a second article, published August 24, 2006, Al-Nabulsi quoted from a book by Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Na'im Qasim to prove his claim that Hizbullah intended to establish an Islamic republic in Lebanon, and stated: "When Hizbullah declared war on Israel by abducting two soldiers without consulting the Lebanese government... there was a tempest in Lebanon... But this was a tempest of those who had not read the abovementioned book by Na'im Qasim, and did not know that the motive behind the decision to go to war was that Hassan Nasrallah is the jurisprudent [who rules] in Lebanon, and the decision to wage jihad is connected only to him..." ( ).

[23] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 27, 2006.

[24] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 11, 2006.

[25] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 8, 2006.

[26] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 25, 2006.

[27] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 14, 2006.

[28] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 8, 2006.

[29] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), September 7, 2006.

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