Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hezbollah vs the Druze: Rhetoric Swamps Analysis

The rhetoric about Lebanon among observers has been almost more “exciting,” if one can excuse the word, than the actual events, but as for the level of useful information being provided, I have my doubts.

Just for one example:

What happened between Hezbollah and the Druze?

Did Hezbollah attempt to take control of Druze villages? Further, did Hezbollah want to take or retain control? (Maybe yes, maybe no.)

In the end, did they in fact achieve military control of any Druze villages, and, if so, how long did it last?

Did Hezbollah instead want to establish supply routes? Or did Hezbollah just want to make a point about its power?

Did Hezbollah in fact achieve either of these goals?

How is the situation in Druze regions different militarily, logistically (relative to any possible trade goods with Syria Hezbollah may wish to move through Druze territory), politically (e.g., degree of Druze unity) from the situation two weeks ago?

These seem like simple questions, but I don’t see anything remotely like consistent, detailed, believable answers.

One answer:

In the actual fighting, Hizbullah and its militia allies had little difficulty in brushing past the rudimentary defences of the main Sunni areas of West Beirut, but it was a different story in the mountainous Chouf area to the southeast of the capital. There Hizbullah met stiff and effective resistance from Druze fighters of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) of Walid Jumblatt, who had been singled out by Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, as the chief instigator of the government plans to clip the movement's wings. An attempt by Hizbullah to enlist the help of Talal Arslan, the head of the main rival clan among the Druze to that of Mr Jumblatt, backfired, and the Shia fighters met a unified and determined foe during their ill-fated thrust into the Chouf.

The military setback in the Chouf has served notice that Hizbullah has little chance of expanding its area of operations at the expense of other groups. In the weeks leading up to the recent flare-up, there had been controversy over a number of land transactions on the fringes of the Chouf, which had been portrayed by Mr Jumblatt's supporters as a bid by Hizbullah to encroach on Druze territory. It was assumed that Hizbullah's aim through these purchases and its subsequent military moves was to establish a corridor linking its positions along the coast south of Beirut to areas in the Beqaa Valley via the Chouf.

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