Lebanon is no stranger to war and damage. The war Israel conducted two years ago caused a huge swathe of destruction and set Lebanon’s development back by decades. After that, the international community moved in to try and create a barrier between Israel and Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon.
However, that hasn’t stopped the latest set of events. CNN is reporting that Hezbollah has essentially launched a coup against the Lebanese government. Hezbollah has been slowly moving to take over Beirut and overthrow the democratically elected, pro-Western Lebanese government.
And they’ve been winning.
The big problem is that the Lebanese army is staying out of the fight. Instead of defending the democratically elected government they have been completely unhelpful. Instead, the army has been negotiating the surrender of various groups of pro-government gunmen.
Hezbollah and other militant forces have shut down two pro-government TV stations and are slowly marching through the city. Without intervention from somewhere, things look grim for Lebanon.
Here’s what CNN has to say
Thursday’s fighting erupted shortly after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the government’s ban on the telecommunications system amounted to “a declaration of open war.”
“We believe the war has started, and we believe that we have the right to defend ourselves,” Nasrallah said. “We will cut the hand that will reach out to the weapons of the resistance, no matter if it comes from the inside or the outside.”
What’s especially worrisome is that there is no way Israel would allow Hezbollah to take control of the country. With Hamas already in power in Gaza, Israel would likely go to war with Lebanon to prevent Hezbollah from taking over. This is not a good thing for middle east stability.
[Update: May 10, 2008]
The BBC is now reporting that the Lebanese Army has finally stepped in to offer a face-saving compromise. Basically, Hezbollah is withdrawing from Beirut in return for essentially going back to the status quo. The fight erupted because the government shut down Hezbollah’s telecom system. So the Army has mandated that they should back away from that and allow the system to go back up.
This compromise allows both parties to back away. The government gets control of the capital again, and Hezbollah goes back to doing whatever it does. But this doesn’t settle the problem permanently!