Dr. Walid Phares
Hezbollah's Coup in Lebanon Targets the Cedars Revolution
January 24, 2011
Last week, Hezbollah overthrew the Lebanese government. The constitutional coup,
which effectively strips Prime Minister Saad Hariri of his powers, was timed
with precision. As soon as news broke that he would meet President Obama in
Washington, the group brought down Lebanon's cabinet. Hariri's father, Prime
Minister Rafiq Hariri, was blown up along with his escort and a number of other
Lebanese politicians almost exactly six years earlier, on February 14, 2005.
Hezbollah's latest political maneuver, along with its strategic re-arming over
the past six years, has dangerous ramifications for Lebanon, and U.S. and
Western interests in the Levant. But perhaps more imminent are the threats
Hezbollah now directs against the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon,
formed to investigate and charge the perpetrators of the country's own
Valentine's Day massacre.
Hours after the government collapsed, Hezbollah ally and former minister of
parliament Wi'am Wahhab told Orange TV—an outlet owned by another Hezbollah
ally, General Michel Aoun—that "we buried the Special Tribunal in 2011. It is a
gang of Zionists which we've stopped." Wahhab also warned any Lebanese official
against cooperating with the U.N. agencies, "or else."
In the wake of the Hariri killing in 2005, tens of thousands of Lebanese
citizens took to the streets to protest what they saw as Syrian- and
Iranian-sponsored terrorism, despite heavy Baathist occupation since 1976 and
the menace of Hezbollah since 1982.
The demonstrations, gathering Christian, Sunni and Druze citizens in addition to
a few anti-Hezbollah Shiites, peaked in what was coined as the Cedar Revolution
on March 14 of that year, which brought 1.5 million protesters into downtown
Beirut, from a total population of only 4 million.
It was the greatest democratic march in the history of the Arab Middle East. As
a result of this street referendum, the United States, France and the United
Nations ordered Syrian troops to withdraw under the terms of U.N. Security
Council Resolution 1559, which Washington had introduced in September 2004 at
the request of Lebanese Diaspora leaders. Assad pulled out his troops quickly in
April, but Hezbollah kept its militia intact.
A "March 14 coalition" of politicians rose to represent the Cedars Revolution
and won the first post-Syrian-withdrawal legislative elections. It collected a
strong majority in the Parliament, but it perpetrated two lethal mistakes. One,
it didn't oust the pro-Syrian president and speaker of the previous assembly as
Tunisian masses did last week with Bin Ali. Thus the pro-Syrian elements
remained in the bureaucracy and the military, slowing the Cedars Revolution.
Two, the naïve March 14 politicians invited Hezbollah—even though as a minority
faction in Parliament—to join the cabinet, before it surrenders its weapons.
Between July 2005 and May 2008, Hezbollah waged an urban terror campaign against
the Cedar Revolution and the government it had formed after winning Lebanon's
legislative elections. The Lebanese were living a Prague Spring-like hiatus
between receding Syrian oppression and the Hezbollah suppression that ultimately
plunged the country back into chaos.
During those years, Hezbollah and its pro-Syrian allies murdered lawmakers,
journalists, activists, Lebanese Army officers and civilians, and in July 2006
started a ruinous war with Israel. Iranian and Syrian masters instructed their
Hezbollah henchmen to take back the country and crush the Cedars Revolution, but
above all, to achieve one goal at any price: keep them out of the investigation
of the Hariri assassination.
The United Nations formed its Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to investigate
Hariri's murder by a Security Council resolution in 2006. After four years, the
STL has pinned the killing on members of Hezbollah and possibly the Syrian
security services. Indicting Hezbollah could lead to international measures and
sanctions against the Iranian-backed network, depriving Tehran of its most
efficient tool of terror, and pressuring its cells from Iraq, Yemen, Egypt and
West Africa all the way to Latin America. As Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) of the House
Intelligence Committee claims, Hezbollah has significant operations as far away
as Mexico, on the U.S. southern border.
By charging Hezbollah, the STL could make it much harder for Iran to keep
Hezbollah in motion. The stakes are high, so for months, Tehran and Damascus
have been planning to take down Lebanon's government.
Commentators on Hezbollah's al-Manar TV and in the pro-Syrian daily al-Akhbar
have often threatened to do away with the Hariri cabinet. The group's leader,
Hassan Nasrallah, has delivered speech after speech threatening terrible
reprisals if the Lebanese government "dares collaborating with the STL."
Hezbollah ultimately made its move at a highly symbolic moment: on the eve of
Hariri's meeting with President Obama to seek Washington's support for justice
in his father's killing. Hezbollah's March 8 coalition resigned from Lebanon's
unity cabinet, depriving it of a majority.
In Lebanon today, a democratic government faces political sabotage and the
threat of worse from Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. he Cedar Revolution, which cost
Rafiq Hariri his life, is under the terrorists' knife. At its discretion,
Hezbollah can kill hundreds of its political opponents, and reignite a
devastating war with Israel.
The United States is obligated to support those brave Lebanese who marched for
democracy, freedom and justice in 2005. This is a test of President Obama's will
to stand by the weak and oppressed in the Middle East and beyond.