Socialist Worker

Regime in Lebanon looks to US intervention

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2102

The US-backed government in Lebanon is attempting to wriggle out of a deal that ended days of heavy fighting in the country last week.

After Hizbollah and its allies in the opposition routed militias belonging to sectarian and right wing parties, a truce was declared and the government began talks with the opposition in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The ruling coalition, known as March 14, is backed by the US, Saudi Arabia and the European Union.

At the top of the agenda in the talks is the composition of a national unity government and reform of the electoral system – a key demand of the opposition.

The opposition wants the right of veto over any decision that would further US control over the country.

Since it came to power, the current government has been attempting to trigger a sectarian war under the pretext of disarming the resistance.

As part of its strategy the government formed a militia under the guise of private security companies and smuggled arms and men into west Beirut.

This militia, its network of informers and agents, and anti-Shia Muslim gangs, were roundly defeated in two days of fighting.

Under the deal that ended Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, Hizbollah is allowed to retain its weapons as part of a shield against Israeli attacks.

Occupation

The resistance organisation played a crucial role in ending the occupation of south Lebanon and defeating Israel during its war on Lebanon in summer 2006.

The question of arms is off the table at the Doha talks, but the government is attempting to block crucial reforms to the electoral system.

The present system was devised to marginalise mixed urban areas in favour of sectarian warlords and right wing parties.

Lebanon is a patchwork of 19 different religious minorities.

These sects are locked into a system of patronage known as confessionalism that distributes government posts according to religion.

March 14 has refused to budge over these crucial issues. The government, which was abandoned by its supporters during the fighting, is hoping for US military intervention.

There are reports that the top US commander for the Central Command region has set up his headquarters in the US embassy compound north of Beirut. A flotilla of US warships is now patrolling the Lebanese coast.

The possible breakdown of talks in Doha raises fears that George Bush and his Lebanese allies are preparing to drag the country into a renewed spiral of violence.


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International
Tue 20 May 2008, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2102
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