12.11.2006

Beirut and Iranian Gangs

When some theocratic totalitarian Iranian tyrant promises the "Islamic" Middle East (according to his perception of Islam) against the new Middle East of freedom, democracy and human dignity believe him and take it seriously and do not forget to tell Mr. Baker so. Actually, our suffer from totalitarianism is complemented with our suffer from stupid, ignorant and irresponsible people should they become in charge. Those had neither believed nor taken Hitler seriously in the past and everyone knows what the consequences were.

The Iranian armed gang of Hizbullah is armless occupying the downtown Beirut in an attempt to attack Lebanese freedom, democracy and independence achieved by the Cedar Revolution's long and expensive struggle, and the foremost of all to preclude the international tribunal.

My say is that abandoning Beirut is a betrayal of freedom and civilization by the free world. We should always be aware that – as PM Blair says – IT IS NOT A CLASH BETWEEN CIVILISATIONS, BUT A CLASH ABOUT CIVILISATION.

See my previous comment: Lebanon's Independence and Democracy.

Here is a report about the latest Beirut and Lebanon events followed by the BBC's quick guide on Hezbollah:

Hizbullah Chants Replace Christmas Carols on Beirut's Dismayed Sunday

Nararnet
10 Dec 06

Beirut looked more like an army barracks on Sunday with military vehicles manning crossroads, hours before a Hizbullah-led mass rally to escalate the 10-day protest aimed at toppling the majority government.The ringing of church bells echoed across the deserted Hamra commercial thoroughfare in Beirut's western sector, in contrast with the lively and busy Christmas atmosphere that usually prevails over the multi-sect neighborhood in December.

In Beirut's plush city center, Christmas carols - usually played by the plush stores and restaurants- were absent. Instead, giant loudspeakers blare endless chants declaring support for Hizbullah and leaders of the March eight-Free Patriotic Movement alliance that has been trying, in vein, to topple Prime Minister Fouad Saniora's majority government since it staged a sit-in on Dec. 1.

In predominantly Shiite sectors of south and east Lebanon, traditional Hizbullah strongholds, thousands of anti-government protestors gathered at village squares, waiting for busses and vans that would drive them to downtown Beirut to take part in the mass rally scheduled to start at 3 pm local time.

In north Lebanon's predominantly Sunni town of Tripoli a counter rally was also scheduled for 3 pm to declare support for the Saniora government that enjoys the backing of most Arab and western states, with the exception of Syria and Iran that back Hizbullah and its allies.

By police count, one person has been killed and 22 people were wounded in violence related to the ongoing crisis that is threatening to rekindle civil strife in Lebanon.

The escalation of protests by anti-government factions is apparently aimed at beefing up the sit in that has failed to force Saniora to resign.

Local newspapers predicted that anti-government factions might try to expand the scope of their protest by blocking main highways linking Beirut with the rest of Lebanon, or staging further sit-ins at the capital's air and sea ports, which would be a major test to the army's ability to prevent the escalation of tension and spread of violence.

Meanwhile, the leading newspaper An Nahar reported that Hizbullah bought thousands of army and police uniforms from a local company trading with such items in south Lebanon.

The respected newspaper did not elaborate on its short report, which sparked concern in security circles that Hizbullah's trained and tested fighters might use the uniforms as a disguise to attack the heavily-guarded government offices, which Saniora and his ministers have been using as residence, across the street from the angry protestors taking part in the city center sit-in.

A ranking security official told Naharnet that a shipment of uniforms similar to what is used by the Lebanese army and police force has been "imported by a local merchant from India and was recently sold to a local faction."

This, the official explained, is "a very, very serious matter. It reminds us of the mysterious kidnapping in the 1980s of four professors from the U.S.-affiliated Beirut University College (BUC) which was carried out by armed elements wearing police uniforms and driving police vehicles."

A pro-Iranian faction had claimed responsibility for kidnapping the BUC professors.

The security official warned that if the army and police uniforms were used by "irregular factions, this would further escalate the ongoing confrontation and would lead us to facing a real threat of terrorism."

The development came one day after a U. S. official said the situation could worsen significantly if Hizbullah tried to impose its will on the other parties.

"If any one group, particularly with support from the outside and with the threat of violence, attempts to force its will on others, we think the situation will get significantly worse," James Jeffrey, principal deputy assistant secretary of state, told reporters in Kuwait, referring to Hizbullah.

"We think that will be a tragedy not only for Lebanese, but for the (Middle East) region," he added.

Saniora has pledged that the Tehran and Damascus-backed attempted "coup" by Hizbullah will fail, and leaders of the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority have repeatedly urged a return to talks.

Hizbullah and its allies say the Saniora government does not represent the Lebanese people after six pro-Damascus ministers submitted their resignations last month.

The protesters want to replace the current cabinet, which was formed in 2005 after anti-Syrian MPs won a majority in parliament, with a new "National Unity" administration that would enable them to veto decisions.

"At the mass protest on Sunday we will show that those who are betting on our surrender are having an illusion," said Hizbullah leader sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised address Thursday.

Saniora, said this week a solution must be found by "sitting together, away from tension and confessional incitement."

The March 14 coalition, which backs the government, has accused its opponents of seeking to block a cabinet decision ratifying an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 murder of former premier Rafik Hariri, widely blamed on Syria.

FPM leader Michel Aoun has warned that his camp would escalate its street protests and "paralyze the government" if the Saniora government failed to accept demands for a national unity cabinet.

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Quick guide: Hezbollah

BBC News

Hezbollah - or the Party of God - is a powerful political and military organisation of Shia Muslims in Lebanon.

Who are they?

The group was formed - with financial backing from Iran - in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

It has become the most powerful military force in Lebanon, but also has 23 of the 128 seats in parliament, with two seats in the Lebanese cabinet.

The group's military wing, the Islamic Resistance, is believed to have 500-600 full time, highly trained and motivated fighters.

Some estimates put the number as high as 1,200, with the ability to call on several thousand less experienced "reserves".

During the 2006 conflict in Lebanon, Hezbollah showed that they are armed with rockets that can reach deep into northern Israel.

What do they want?

Hezbollah was formed primarily to offer military resistance to the Israeli occupation.

Initially, it proposed an Iranian-style Islamic state, although this was later abandoned in favour of a more inclusive approach.

The group calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. It regards the whole of Palestine as occupied Muslim land and it argues that Israel has no right to exist.

It also demands the release of prisoners from Lebanon who are being held in Israeli jails.

Who supports them?

The Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 won Hezbollah the respect of many Lebanese.

It has built broad support by providing social services and health care. The group also has an influential TV station, al-Manar.

Hezbollah is believed to receive military training, weapons and explosives, as well as diplomatic and financial support, from Iran. Syria provides diplomatic, political, and logistical support.

Who doesn't?

The US and Israel view Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Its members were involved in kidnapping westerners and in attacks on foreign troops who were based in Lebanon during the civil war.

The UK says the military wing of Hezbollah is a terrorist group, but not the political side of the organisation.

UN Security Council resolutions call for armed militia groups like Hezbollah to disarm.

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