Rene — Fisk — Hizbollah warn that Lebanon will see more violence

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Robert Fisk: Hizbollah warn that Lebanon will see more violence
The Independent/UK
Published: 25 January 2007
There is worse to come. That is what Lebanon’s opposition, led by the
Hizbollah, said only hours after they lifted their violent day-long
“strike” on Tuesday night and – here is the rub – there are few in
this country who do not believe it.
At least three deaths, 120 wounded and sectarian fighting across
a hundred miles of Lebanon, we are now told, was only a “warning
to the government”. If Christian versus Christian and Sunni versus
Shia Muslim is not enough, then, what will be? And how planned is
the coming tragedy?
Planning is what came to mind yesterday among all those who live
here. How, we are asking ourselves, did those thousands of violent
young men all have near-identical, brand new wooden coshes? How come so
many men emerged on to the Beirut streets in near-identical hoods? How
come the “general strike” called to demand the resignation of the
Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, was switched off in a matter of minutes?
But there were other, far more disturbing elements to Tuesday’s
scandalous day of violence. Two of the old civil-war fault lines –
on the road north of Beirut and in the suburbs of the city – were
reopened. Siniora himself started warning of the dangers of civil
war and the United States – as Hizbollah must
have hoped – came out in support of the government, claiming, quite
falsely, that the violence came from the Hizbollah-led opposition.
It certainly did come from their Amal militia ally but Sunni Muslim
supporters of the government were in gun battles in Tripoli – they
continued yesterday – and the “Lebanese Forces” youths of Samir Geagea,
an ex-militia murderer who supports the government, were engaged in
pitched stoning battles with other Christian Maronites.
Indeed, the inter-Christian war, in retrospect, was probably the
most vicious of the day. Most of the wounded were hurt when Geagea’s
men tried to stop supporters of the Maronite ex-general Michel Aoun
blocking roads outside the capital. Through some odd and tragic
tradition of history, the Christian communities in Lebanon have often
fought cruel battles with each other. Aoun and Geagea’s forces killed
each other at the end of the civil war. Even during the Crusades, the
Christians of Tyre fought each other when Salahedin was at their gates.
Of the various foreign powers taking sides in this frightening battle
for power in Lebanon – and they include Iran and Syria, of course,
as well as the United States – one might well ask if the destruction
of the Christian population of Lebanon was not part of their plan.
And what of the economy? Lebanon nurses a £20bn (repeat: billion)
public debt – one of the reasons why the Shias as well as Aoun’s
Christian movement claim that the government represents a corrupt
clique rather than democratically elected ministers. This, however,
hides at least two salient facts. Most of this monstrous waste was
perpetrated when Lebanon lay under Syria’s hegemony when a Lebanese
academic memorably told me that Lebanese government officials did not
hold PhDs in corruption. “They have professorships in corruption,”
he told me.
And last year’s war with Israel, which began after Hizbollah captured
two Israeli soldiers and killed three others, added billions of losses
to the economy – a figure that will now be increased by the collapse
of further foreign investment generated by Tuesday’s “strike”.
Siniora is supposed to receive more promises of foreign aid in Paris
today. The Americans and Europeans are sure to be generous. But it is
also a fact that hundreds of thousands of Shias, who suffered most at
Israel’s hands, genuinely support the Hizbollah and do indeed demand
the resignation of the government. How can Siniora change their minds?