With the upcoming session of Lebanon's National Dialogue talks set to convene on June 8, the nation's political situation is extremely tenuous. On the agenda are key issues, especially the introduction of Lebanon's defense strategy and the related issue of the disarmament of Hizbullah.
Two major events, however, are expected to overshadow the next round of talks: fierce clashes between Hizbullah forces and Israel on May 28 and the growing risk of civil war on the heels of widespread rioting by Hizbullah supporters after a television broadcast mocked the movement's leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
Last month's military clashes on the Lebanese-Israeli border prompted some Lebanese political groups, and especially the anti-Syrian March 14th committee, to highlight the need to disarm Lebanon's Palestinian factions and integrate Hizbullah fighters into Lebanon's national army—in effect, disarming the group.
The question of Hizbullah will likely dominate the resumed talks as criticism of the Shiite movement's military operations continues to grow. The March 14th' committee condemned Israel's attacks in May, yet it also expressed strong criticism of the launching of the rockets from Lebanon by factions in the south as a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty.
Representatives of the group questioned, "Why is it that the Lebanese army cannot establish bases in southern Lebanon, yet organizations such as the Islamic Jihad, PFLP-GC and other militias can do it with Hizbullah's approval?"
One major critic of the current military situation has been Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt, who told the Al-Mostaqbal daily that the border clashes were linked to a recent article in Al Hayat, in which Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Faisal Mokdad blamed Lebanon's PM Fuad Siniora for UN resolutions 1559 and 1680, which call for the withdrawal of, and end to Syrian intervention in Lebanese affairs, the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two and the disarming of factions in Lebanon. Thus, Jumblatt warned of "a new wave of new assassinations in Lebanon".
Jumblatt also questioned Hizbullah's commitment to the restriction of weapons of Palestinian groups to refugee camps, as agreed during previous sessions of the National Dialogue talks.
The MP went on to accuse Hizbullah of misleading Lebanon, pointing out that the group had repeatedly failed to uphold agreements it had committed itself to. Speaking to Al Mustaqbal, he said, "Hizbullah promises are total fabrications," likely referring to the fact that Hizbullah was party to the decision to disarm Palestinian factions outside refugee camps in Lebanon. However, since then, strong evidence has surfaced pointing to Hizbullah's cooperation with PFLP-GC and Fatah Al Intifada. A similar situation arose when Hizbullah agreed to border demarcation with Syria, and later backed down under pressure from Damascus.
On his part, Lebanon's Telecommunication Minister Marwan Hamade told Asharq Al Awsat on June 5 that the government can't accept Hizbullah's role in the south.
"It is impossible that one party is preventing the Lebanese army from entering the south, saying that it will preserve security in the region, while unknown elements infiltrate the area and fire rockets towards Israel," the minister was quoted as saying.
Hamade vowed a better future for residents of the south, saying "the March 14th committee will introduce new proposals to secure southern residents so that such events will not repeat themselves".
The minister also stressed that recent border clashes call for a serious discussion of Lebanon's defense strategy. He maintained that the March 14th committee held a concrete stand on the issue, especially regarding the need to integrate Hizbullah's armed wing into the ranks of Lebanon's regular army.
Recent skirmishes on the Lebanese-Israeli border have once again highlighted the need to deal with the urgent question of disarming Hizbullah and Palestinian factions. It is clear that currently, the Lebanese government has little say regarding security of the south; conditions in the region are dictated by Hizbullah's needs rather than those of Lebanon, a situation that a sovereign government cannot accept.
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