Crossfire War – Rapid Fire News=Tehran – Beirut – Damascus WATCH – West Asia – North – Northeast Africa Theatre: Pro-Government Forces in Lebanon Collapse – Hezbollah in Control of West Beirut – Working With Lebanon Army – Pm Siniora Reported Will Resign Friday; Tehran – Riyadh – Tripoli – Khartoum – Ankara – El Arish – Ramallah – Gaza – Damascus – Beirut/Paris – Rome – Jerusalem – Cairo – Amman – London – Washington
Night Watch: WEST BEIRUT – “We entered Karakol Druse. There is no Jumblatt and no Hariri here. We entered the neighborhood. They threw away their weapons and ran.” Those are quotes from Hezbollah fighters on the weak opposition they encountered from pro-government militias as they and the Shia militia Amal have taken over all of West Beirut which was the center of the Sunni Muslim community one of the government’s main bases of support. Hezbollah is based mainly in Beirut’s south and south suburbs. There has been virtually no fighting in Christian east Beirut. Haaretz/News Agencies report both major pro-government leaders, Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt are besieged in their residences as a rocket propelled grenade hit the fence of Hariri’s residence in West Beirut’s Koreitem district. He has appeared on TV in an appeal for Hezbollah to pull its fighters back to save the nation from hell. [HAARETZ]
Karakol – In an interview with Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin Druze leader Walid Jumblatt admitted he underestimated Hezbollah’s strength, “I did not anticipate such a strong response from Hezbollah but…yes…the group is much stronger than other armed militias.” That should not have been surprising since Hezbollah has been seriously trained by Tehran since 1982 with the intention of having them become one of the more powerful presences in the country and a virtual extension of Iran’s military. Jumblatt then added ominously, “If you want to know what the next move for Hezbollah will be, ask Ahmadinejad (Iran’s President). This situation goes beyond Lebanese borders.” [ALJAZEERA]
A pro-government leader, Amin Gemayel, head of the Maronite Catholic Phalange party (Al Kataeb) may have had the best description of what has just taken place by stating Hezbollah has staged a coup. Frankly I have to admit since the opposition has been so weak a civil war has been avoided. The Phalange party are the organization that probably has the closest relations with France but another Christian leader, Michel Aoun, whose position is more nationalistic and supports Hezbollah has commented, “The derailed carriage is now back on track. We hope from this point that things will fall back into the normal course of events.” At one time France had the support of almost the entire Christian community in Lebanon but Paris has begun to lose that support by insisting Lebanon owes France an enormous debt from Lebanon’s fifteen year civil war 1975-90, a war the French helped begin through the Phalange Party militia. I suspect Tehran has informed Lebanese officials that under Iran the debt will be written off.
Northeast Beirut – Aoun has openly called for Prime Minister Fuad Siniora to resign and according to PressTV Lebanese media sources have informed them Siniora will step down Friday night and assign the army to take responsibility for his cabinet until a transitional government is formed. The Prime Minister has been confined to his office in the downtown government building that has not been attacked. What has been especially significant is the way Hezbollah has been working in tandem with the army. As soon as Hezbollah took over a neighborhood they turned it over to the army which is led by General Michel Suleiman noted for having close ties to Damascus. One of the militias close to Syria, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) have also been seen fighting alongside Hezbollah. [PRESSTV]
This victory means Hezbollah, and the opposition coalition it has been leading for more than a year, are now in a position to have more representation in the cabinet and may even call for new elections for a more representative government. That government will probably contain Christian nationalists in prominent positions with Hezbollah perhaps as head of the Foreign Ministry. If the West had any intention of intervening in support of Siniora that opportunity has been swept away. What the West is now confronted with is another Islamic government controlled by the Islamic Axis of Iran-Syria and with the complete cooperation of Lebanon’s military. Not only does this strengthen Hezbollah’s position against Israel but also against the 13,000 European troops in Lebanon’s south. I expect Tehran will now have Hamas begin more attacks on Gaza crossing points controlled by Israel forcing Jerusalem to strike back with Hezbollah, in support of Palestinians, attacking from Lebanon. Despite Hezbollah’s latest victory Tehran still wants a larger regional war revolving around Israel which Iran will use to inspire more Islamic radicalism that will now be directed at Egypt President Hosni Mubarak, one of the last Muslim heads of state with close relations to the West.