Friday, May 9, 2008

Now what?

We found another bullet in our house, in my daughter's room, right over her bed. But the fighting has subsided in Ras Beirut, although we still hear explosions and gunfire. The TV news reports say that the whole of West Beirut has fallen to the Opposition. I say Opposition, not Amal and Hizbullah because apparently, Hamra and the rest of Ras Beirut are in the hands of the SNP (Syrian Nationalist Party, Qawmiyyeh). SNP is a secular party with members from all sects, and, during the 1975-1991 war it was in control of Hamra and Ras Beirut. But I am not 100% sure about this, and I'll confirm later. There are also news that the large contingents of fighters that had joined the ranks of the Future Movement from Akkar and the rest of the North have surrendered. The army is taking control of many "sensitive" areas, but I think this does not mean much as the army is avoiding engaging in confrontation and is only playing the role of the neutral moderator. But then again, this might be what is needed at this stage: a "moderating" army in Beirut.

Now what?

It is too early to say anything, but there is no doubt that, as Nasrallah made it clear yesterday, this is a totally new epoch. I assume Berri will be in charge of negotiations with the loyalists. Whether a compromise that will safeguard "Lebanon" is still possible at this stage is difficult to predict. The Lebanese politicians have a history of wiping the slate clean and starting again as if nothing had happened, with a quick prayer for the unlucky dead. But these are new times, and the situation in Iraq and Palestine is worse than ever, and the Arab countries are themselves divided and aligned with opposite sides. The US has now much more at stake in the region. And there are new players: Iran, Al Qaeda who thrive on instability in Lebanon, and who possess a loaded agenda. On the more local level, what will be the response of the local population to this take over especially that for the past 3 years the Lebanese have been relentlessly hammered with a sectarian discourse? Will they consider this to be an "occupation" and respond to it as in Iraq?

I know I may be sounding over dramatic. Blame it on lack of sleep and being shot at. But I cant help thinking that all bets are off.


Marcy Newman said...

you're not being over dramatic! keep blogging and let us know how you are. your friends are worried! xoxo

Anonymous said...

L7amdellah 3a salemtak Rami!!
Please do take care.
And I don't think your overdramatizing.
Things ARE catastrophic, with no clear horizon.
A reader in bloody Lebanon.

Helena Cobban said...

Rami, thanks so much for your blogging. My recollection re Hamra/ Ras Beirut during the war of the 1970s is there was a big presence of the SSNP, but there was also overall security coordination through the Leb. National Movement between them and the other LNM forces present in & around the neighborhood, especially the PPS (!) and the Murabitoun... And of course Fateh security was also everywhere.

Quite a lot has changed since then, eh?

Stay safe. Thanks for the adorable pic of the kids... Salametkum, kulkum.

T. said...

Rami, I am not in Beirut right now, so perhaps I can afford to be a bit optimistic. But the fight is so uneven that, unless some sort of landing happens on our shores, it should be over soon. A fight lasts when the opposing sides are of similar capacities. I mean, Hizballah is not even physically, militarily on the ground (though the logistics and planning are there to be sure). The opposition is already preparing for a propaganda of the kind "We cleaned the city of illegal weapons and surrendered them to the army".

What impact this episode will have in the long run is a totally different matter. But let's get through this one first.

Thanks for blogging. And stay safe.