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Friday, December 8, 2006

Lebanon on the Brink of Civil War (6): Beirut, December 10 at 3 PM: A Mass Rally

Special Dispatch-Lebanon
December 8, 2006
No. 1385

Lebanon on the Brink of Civil War (6): Beirut, December 10 at 3 PM - A Mass
Rally for a "Second Phase" and "Escalation of Actions to Topple the

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .


In recent days, Lebanese opposition leaders have been calling for an
escalation in the current protest, and for a move to "the second phase" of
actions to topple the Lebanese government headed by Prime Minister Fuad
Al-Siniora. The sit-down demonstration in the heart of Beirut, which was
declared by Hizbullah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on November 30, 2006,
is continuing.

The past few days have seen rioting and clashes between supporters of the
opposition and supporters of the March 14 Forces. On December 3, a young
Shi'ite man was killed in an exchange of gunfire between supporters of the two
camps. The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is known to be close to Hizbullah,
called him "the first shahid [martyr] of the National Unity Intifada.'" The
Syrian government daily Al-Thawra has begun using the term "intifada" for the
Beirut demonstration.

On December 6, 2006, the Lebanese National Opposition issued a communiqué
calling for participation in a mass rally on Sunday, December 10, at 3 PM. The
communiqué read: "The leadership of the national opposition is calling on its
supporters... to prepare for new forms and ways of protest and nonviolent
expression. We call on you to participate in a large popular rally in the
heart of Beirut, at Al-Shuhada Square and Riyadh Al-Sulh Square, next Sunday
at 3 PM. May this day be an historic and decisive day, a day on which the deaf
ears and the blind eyes are opened and the legitimate demands answered..." (1)

Opposition sources announced that the opposition would wait until the weekend,
and if there was no breakthrough via negotiations, it would escalate the
pressure and use additional means to achieve its aims.(2) The Christian
general Michel Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement which is part of the
Lebanese opposition, threatened to notch up the protest: "If the prime
minister and the camp he heads insists on sole control of the regime, we will
escalate the popular pressure, paralyze the government, and bring it to a
state of deep unconsciousness..." (3)

The call to escalate the protest followed reports about the failure of an
initiative proposed by the Lebanese opposition, that was sanctioned by
Hizbullah Secretary-General Nasrallah.(4)

In addition, last week Arab leaders expressed apprehensions about the
situation in Lebanon, which they felt was deteriorating to the point of civil
war. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that "the demonstrations are
extremist and likely to lead to the destruction of Lebanon." Saudi Arabia, on
its part, called to "keep large-scale civil war away from Lebanon" and to
return to dialogue. Leaders from the Lebanese opposition received messages
that "Saudi Arabia sees the toppling of the government through street
demonstrations as a 'red line' and something that it cannot agree to."
Further, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa visited Lebanon in an
attempt to mediate and to try to bring about a solution to the crisis, but to
no avail. (5)

The following are excerpts from the media about the crisis:

Iranian Reactions

*Revolutionary Guards Paper: Nasrallah Will Triumph and Will Honor the Islamic
World With Another Victory

An article published in the Iranian paper Sobh-e Sadeq, the mouthpiece of
Iran's Supreme leader Khamenei which is distributed to Iran's Revolutionary
Guards Corps and security apparatuses, stated: "Today the American, French,
Saudi, and even Israeli officials have close and solid relations with Lebanese
PM [Fuad Al-Siniora], and by means of these relations they veto most decisions
taken by [Lebanese] President [Emile Lahoud]... Nevertheless, it is reasonable
to assume that Hizbullah's success in holding early elections or changing the
composition of the political [structure] of the Lebanese government will
mean... the defeat of Western policy and the Zionist regime in Lebanon... In
other words, the composition of the national unity government in Lebanon will
be part of the political achievements of a victory by the [Islamic] resistance
[i.e. Hizbullah] over the Zionist regime - [that is], a step towards the
elimination of the West's plans to stop Hizbullah via the [U.N.] Security
Council, and the creation of a symmetrical equation in the government
echelons in Lebanon...

"Nevertheless, Hizbullah and the groups that are its partners in the alliance
have various options [for gaining] control of this government, or to bring
about a change in it. The minimal [option] among these was boycotting the
government that is playing the role of the enemy camp in Lebanon. Undoubtedly,
in the coming days or weeks, Lebanon can expect changes that are broader and
more serious. The victor in this arena will be the player who knows the value
of opportunity, and will, with policy and reliance on the infinite divine
power, rejoice and honor the Islamic world with another victory. Do not doubt
that this winning player will be none other than Hassan Nasrallah." (6)

Reactions by Hizbullah and the Lebanese Opposition

*Hizbullah and the Lebanese Opposition: The "Militias of the Regime" and the
Al-Mustaqbal Faction Murdered the Young Shi'ite

Following the December 3 death of a young Shi'ite man in clashes between
Hizbullah activists and supporters of the March 14 Forces, the National
Lebanese Opposition issued a communiqué blaming the "militias of the
[Lebanese] regime" for his murder. The communiqué accused "the armed groups
belonging to the militias of the regime and the ruling faction," saying that
their aim was to "spark civil war and anarchy." It continued, "The forces of
the Lebanese National Opposition... undertake a commitment to the Lebanese
people to continue with their national stand, and will see that loyalty to the
blood of the martyr will be manifested in a continuation of the actions and of
the popular mass presence in Al-Shuhada Square and Riyahd Al-Sulh Square..."

Also, on December 4, 2006, the Hizbullah television station Al-Manar claimed
that "elements in the armed militia of Al-Mustaqbal faction had murdered the
young Ahmad Mahmoud, who was participating in the sit-down demonstration in
the heart of Beirut, and wounded a number of others..." (8)

*Hizbullah: Al-Mustaqbal is Distributing Weapons to Civilians

Muhammad Ra'd, chairman of the Hizbullah faction in the Lebanese parliament,
called a Lebanese security apparatus a "militia." He said: "The Al-Mustaqal
faction is distributing private weapons to some civilians who seek vengeance."
He said that "the militia of the '[intelligence] department' [of the Lebanese
internal security forces] was giving instructions to this faction." (9)

*Daily Lebanese Paper Close to Hizbullah: The Fate of the Government Has Been

In an editorial, Ibrahim Al-Amin, editor of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar which
is close to Hizbullah, wrote: "As far as [the opposition supporters] in the
streets are concerned, the discussion on the fate of the [Al-Siniora]
government is a matter that [has already been] decreed... The defense of this
government [will be] very difficult, even if it obtains Arab or international
help. This government's best possible situation will be no better than that of
Mahmoud Abbas's rule in Palestine, or that of the Al-Maliki government in

"The opposition forces are continuing to discuss their work plan [which
includes] increasing the number of participants in the sit-down strike;
diverse participation of [elements] from all regions and from all institutions
[in Lebanon]; and setting a plan for the second phase in a form that will
assure an increase in the scope of participation, in both the number [of
participants] and in the regions [where the actions take place]. This [will
also] take into account the possibility that the crisis will continue for at
least two months... Despite the messages of intimidation that have been
received about the possibility of dangerous complications, with aspects of
civil conflict [i.e. messages from Egypt and Saudi Arabia warning against
exacerbation of the conflict], the opposition forces see no escape from
continuing with the actions until logical conclusions are reached..." (10)

*Opposition Forces: Accept Now - In the Next Phase, We Won't Even Agree to
Sharing Power

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar quoted opposition sources as saying that "they
had not taken to the streets in order to return empty-handed. Thus, they will
remain there until the end of the term of President Emile Lahoud, if the
ruling majority does not obey the will of the people and agree to partnership
with the others in a national unity government..."(11) The paper also quoted
sources in the opposition leadership, who stressed that "the opposition is now
in the first stage, in which it agrees to partnership in decision[-making]
together with the ruling faction. But after [this] period, it won't even agree
to share power... (12)

*Hassan Nassrallah: "Last Call to Create a National Unity Government Before
the Demands Change"

In a December 7, 2006 speech, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nassrallah
said: "We in the opposition are insisting on our demand and on our goal, which
is the establishment of a real national government - because rule by a single
group has always led Lebanon to an impasse. Lebanon cannot exist except
through agreement and cooperation... We want a national unity government whose
decisions are Lebanese and whose will is Lebanese, [since only] such [a
government] will guarantee the security, stability and unity of Lebanon... We
are opposed to any foreign patronage, whether by an enemy, friend or
brother... I say on behalf of Hizbullah: We are in favor of securing one-third
[of the government seats] for any Lebanese opposition, since we believe in
partnership and cooperation, and do not believe in division. We feel no
apprehension [about this], because we have no international or regional
obligations which we want to pass by means of a majority [vote]."(13)

Reactions by the March 14 Forces

*The Coup Aims to Subject Lebanon to the Iran-Syria Alliance

In a communiqué, the March 14 Forces claimed that what was taking place in
Lebanon today was the implementation of an order from Damascus: "Lebanon is
undergoing today a highly dangerous phase, that began with the implementation
of an operational order to carry out a coup... The aim of this coup is to
destroy [Lebanon's] national independence and to subject Lebanon to the
Iran-Syria alliance...

"The March 14 Forces announce their determination to resist this coup, and to
defend Lebanon.. and call to all for cohesion and unity in the face of this
Syrian attack - the zero hour of which was set by [Syrian President] Bashar
Al-Assad on August 15 [2006]... (14) The March 14 Forces emphasize to the
Lebanese that the [Syrian] regime of hegemony and control will not return, and
that the Lebanese government is standing fast, and is staying, and will
continue [to rule] with the force of legitimacy, constitution, the confidence
of the people, the support of the Arab brethren, and the help of the entire
international community." (15)

Lebanese Communications Minister Marwan Hamada said that the December 1
demonstration by supporters of Hizbullah and of the Lebanese opposition was
"an Iranian Shi'ite demonstration." He said: "This is a demonstration by the
ayatollahs and the officers of the Syrian intelligence apparatus in

*Al-Mustaqbal: Hizbullah "Is the Only Lebanese Element With a Militia"

In response to Al-Manar's blaming the "Al-Mustaqbal militia" for the December
3 death of the young Shi'ite, Al-Mustaqbal issued a communiqué claiming that
only one element in Lebanon had a militia: "The Al-Mustaqbal faction
emphasizes that... it has no armed organization... Everyone in Lebanon and in
the Arab and Islamic world knows which is the only Lebanese element with a
militia; which is the only element with an armed organization; which is the
only element whose leaders take pride in having weapons - headed by '20,000
missiles'; which is the only Lebanese element whose entire funding and
weaponry come from abroad; and also which is the only element that has
security areas and prevents the legal state apparatuses from entering them..."

*Hariri: The Crisis is the Result of a Plan by Syria Under Iranian Protection

In an interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Mustaqbal chairman Sa'd Al-Hariri
warned of civil war in Lebanon, and said that the current crisis was the
result of a plan by Syria, under Iranian protection: "What is happening now is
a genuine coup scheme against Lebanese legitimacy... The clock cannot be
turned back, [and we will not agree] to a plan that seeks to bring about the
re-infiltration [of Lebanon] by the Syrian intelligence [apparatus] and its
satellites. The essence of the crisis that Lebanon is now undergoing [lies] in
the existence of a Syrian plan that receives protection from Iran, and aims to
again take over Lebanese legitimacy. The operational orders were issued at the
end of Israel's war on Lebanon. Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said
unequivocally on August 15 [2006] that what was needed was to change the
political equation in Lebanon and to topple the government of Fuad
Al-Siniora..." (18)

Syrian Reactions

Along with an explicit Syrian statement by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister
Faisal Al-Miqdad, on Syria's support for Hizbullah and its partners in the
Lebanese opposition, the Syrian government press has published numerous
articles expressing support for the demand by Hizbullah and the Lebanese
opposition to topple the Al-Siniora government. 19The articles assured the
Lebanese people that it was not standing alone in its battle to accomplish
this, and that ultimately it was the people that would decide the current
crisis - as had happened in Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and many other countries.

*"The Lebanese People is Not Alone in the Battle"

An article in the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra stated: "Events in history
have proven that the one who relies on his people will undoubtedly triumph,
even if it takes time.... It has all gone too far, and so the people in
Lebanon will emerge with a roar, a shout, and a challenge - and this time for
the sake of Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty, independence, and Arabism, for the
sake of its national unity, and against the Zionist and American invaders and
against their internal agents [i.e. the March 14 Forces]... The Lebanese
people, headed by its honorable national forces, understands that it does not
[stand] alone in its battle. The supporters aiding it are deployed across the
entire nation, and it will find a [strong] echo amongst all free men and men
of honor in the world." (20)

*Insistence on Ruling Against the Will of the People Is Unacceptable

In an editorial, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra wrote: "What is
happening now in Lebanon is the rectification of a mistake... Insistence on
remaining [in power] while millions want it to leave is unacceptable!... No
one can reject the principle of a national unity government, and participation
in Lebanese decision-making. Perhaps calling for help and begging for support
from the U.S., the U.K, and other countries is only an expression of the
crisis in this faction [i.e. the March 14 Forces]. The regime's buttressing
itself with external elements because of [its] weakness in the domestic arena
is the best possible recipe for toppling the government!"(21)

*The People Will Decide, As Happened in Iran and in Other Countries

Muhammad Kheir Al-Jamali, columnist for the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra,
wrote: "The Al-Siniora government has still not grasped two basic facts in the
developments in Lebanon's situation - or does not want to be convinced of
them... The first [fact] is that arrogant insistence on holding power alone
[is useless] - and is [also] against the will of the people, which is being
manifested today by the Intifada in the streets and squares of Beirut... The
second fact is the mistaken reliance on the support of external intervention

"Whatever the arrogant stubbornness of the Al-Siniora government... the
deciding say in the political struggle going on in the Lebanese arena will be
the people, which will decide to topple the government of corruption and
embassies that holds the regime all by itself. This is because there is no
going back from the decision of the people. Anyone who does not understand
this fact must look at the history of the revolutions of the peoples, [such as
the revolution] in Iran, and also what is taking place today in Iraq,
Palestine, Latin America, South Africa, and many other countries."(22)

(1) Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon, , December 6,
(2) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 6, 2006.
(3) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 7, 2006.
(4) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 7, 2006; Al-Nahar (Lebanon), December 7,
2006; Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 7, 2006; website of the Islamic
resistance in Lebanon, , December 7,
2006. The initiative's main thrust was a call to return to negotiations
regarding the opposition's demand for a third of the seats in the cabinet. An
opposition representative presented the initiative to PM Fuad Al-Siniora;
Al-Siniora presented a counter-initiative, under which the opposition would
have one less minister than it was demanding. The opposition representative
responded that "Al-Siniora's initiative could be discussed" and promised to
examine it with his opposition partners. Unexpectedly, a few hours after the
meeting, the opposition announced that the regime was "still insisting on its
positions" and had rejected the opposition's initiative. A representative of
the Lebanese government hinted that political elements might have
influenced the opposition to change its mind about Al-Siniora's offer.
(5) Al-Intiqad (Lebanon), December 3, 2005; Al-Nahar (Lebanon), December 7,
(6) Sobh-e Sadeq (Iran), November 29, 2006.
(7) Al-Intiqad (Lebanon), December 4, 2006.
(8) Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon,,
December 7, 2006. , December 4,
(9) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 5, 2006.
(10) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
(11) In September 2004, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term was extended by
three years to November 2007, by the Lebanese parliament and under pressure of
the Syrian regime.
(12) Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 4, 2006.
(13) Website of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon,
(14) In a speech on August 15, 2006, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad harshly
attacked the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Al-Siniora as well as
the March 14 Forces, and threatened that their "failure is imminent."
(15) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
(16) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 3, 2006.
(17) Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), December 5, 2006.
(18) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 6, 2006.
(19) Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Al-Miqdad stressed the importance
of "respecting the choices of the Lebanese people [including the demand] to
establish a national unity government - as manifested by the mass
demonstrations in Beirut..." Al-Thawra (Syria), December 3, 2006.
(20) Al-Thawra (Syria), December 5, 2006.
(21) Al-Thawra (Syria), December 3, 2006.
(22) Al-Thawra (Syria), December 4, 2006.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit
organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.
Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are
available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with
proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

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