Descending on Beirut: Iran/Hezbollah/Syria Protestors Unite Under Lebanese Flag

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Dec 01, 2006 3:16 PM

 

The capital's crawling with them, and they're asking for democratically elected Prime Minister Siniora's resignation, according to much of the press.

But this sounds a bit more sinister than asking for resignation, especially considering that anti-Syrian leaders in Lebanon have been expiring, Sonny-Corleone-style for several years now:

A SEA of protesters swamped Beirut overnight in a mass outpouring led by the Shiite group Hezbollah which then set up camp around the premier's office to call for his Western-backed government to resign.

Brandishing Lebanese flags and white banners reading "We want a clean government" and "National unity", the crowd gathered around Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's heavily barricaded offices in central Beirut and dug in for a long haul.

After darkness fell, protesters blocked access roads to Mr Siniora's office where he was holed up inside. They put up tents on at least three main roads leading to the government building.

"We are inside, a group of ministers and the prime minister," a government official said. He declined to say which ministers were there and did not give any further details except to say their families were not with them.

Gateway Pundit has lots of great pics, and says this is a case of nerves:

But in reality, it is only because the Lebanese government is making Syria nervous. The Syrians are afraid the Hariri assassination investigation is getting too close to home and they were never happy about being asked to leave their proxy state.

Hezbollah must have gotten a message from their P.R. department or something, because there are very few examples of the noble, yellow, Hezbollah Banner of the Machine Gun in these pictures. Bingo:

The decision not to have other speakers was motivated by the organizers' desire not to have excessive representation for Hizbullah in the event. Accordingly, the protesters were asked to wave flags of Lebanon only. Nevertheless, a Hizbullah flag or shirt could occasionally be spotted on the crowded streets.

Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun was the only speaker at the rally, but I'm guessing Christian involvement in the rally was somewhat limited in general after last week's murder of prominent Christian Cabinet member, Pierre Gemayel. Bingo:

Hundreds of thousands of Shias from the south have flooded two squares in downtown Beirut. According to LBC, the Christian participation is weak, with even lesser participation by Beirut Sunnis...

The Maronite Patriarch, Nasrallah Sfeir, yesterday addressed a group of widows and relatives of assassinated March 14 leaders, saying protests such as the one planned by Hizbullah never solved anything in Lebanon, "a country of 18 sects" that have to "live side by side". Following Sfeir's speech, Pierre Gemayel's mother told the assembled that "Any Christian who demonstrates on Friday will be digging Lebanon's grave".

Abu Kais, at Michael Totten's place, is reporting from Lebanon, I believe. Read the whole thing.

From Aoun's speech:

"If only him and his ministers were here with us instead of hiding behind the security forces. If Siniora thinks the people are with him, he shouldn't have sent the army to defend him. However, he does not respect the people's wish."

"We are not shamed of our national slogans. It's true, we are extremists. We are extremists toward safeguarding our sovereignty and the aspiration for free will. We want to be friends with everyone, in the East and West, as long as they respect our free will," Aoun stated.

Yeah, I wonder why he's not anxious to come out and play.

So, where are all the people coming from?

The borders aren’t sealed, notes Phares, so Assad’s taking advantage by busing in Syrians to join the protests. In fact, according to anti-Syrian leader Walid Jumblatt, some Lebanese army units had to be redeployed to Beirut from southern Lebanon to keep the peace. Which means for the time being, no one’s minding the fort in some areas of Hezbollah’s stomping grounds.

Not that they ever really were.

Via Allah, Rick Moran looks at Nasrallah's next move:

Parliament has been effectively prorogued which means that if Hizbullah is going to bring down the government, more drastic action will be necessary.

For the March 14th Forces, it is now a matter of survival. Nasrallah has placed himself out on a limb from which he cannot easily crawl back. If he and his bully boys leave the streets without bringing down the government, it would be a huge blow to his prestige and set back his cause months, perhaps forever. This is why I believe it is likely that, in the end, Nasrallah will be forced to resort to the gun in order to get his way.

His patrone in Damascus may be able to engineer an “incident” that would justify Hizbullah’s coup – at least in the eyes of the Shias. At that point, the two sides would begin tearing at each other.

Most analysts expect Hizbullah to win something of a quick victory given the fact that they are better armed than any potential coalition of adversaries and better trained than the Lebanese army (who would probably sit out a civil war anyway). But what Nasrallah would then do with the smoking ruins of the tiny country remains to be seen. Once ignited, a civil war has a nasty habit of simmering for years. And any effort he would make to establish an Islamic theocracy like the one in Iran would be met with stiff opposition from this, the most secular and westernized of Arab states.

Michelle has a list of Lebanese bloggers to watch.