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Hezbollah--Weber's Stepchild

With the appointment of Sunni businessman Najib Mikati as prime minister of Lebanon, Hezbollah may have achieved its critical goals: it has a "friendly" government in Lebanon, of which is also a part, which will leave its state-within-a-state alone.


I do not expect that Hezbollah, under the leadership of the very pragmatic Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah, will try to "take over" Lebanon or create some sort of Iranian-style Islamic Republic. Lebanon is too diverse and the Shi'a, although a plurality, cannot impose their will over the other Muslims, Christians and Druze.


But what Hezbollah can and will do is to ensure that its areas of the country that it controls are left undisturbed, that it continues to be recognized as a legitimate armed fighting force in addition to the Lebanese army (therefore avoiding calls for its disarmament), and it will have the ability to ensure that the Lebanese government cannot take steps to undermine its position.


I call Hezbollah a "stepchild" of Weber because its goal is not to create a separate Shia state in Lebanon, but to "share" the prerogatives--notably the state's monopoly on violence--that Weber identified as the characteristics that define a state. Hezbollah will be both in government and apart from it.


And it will also be interesting to see how this precedent may echo in Iraq. Will Hezbollah's success be emulated by Moqtada al-Sadr?


This also creates complications for U.S. policy, which has been to strengthen the capacities of the Lebanese government and security services. On the one hand, any weakening of the Lebanese state strengthens Hezbollah, which grew up and thrived amidst the ruins of Lebanon; on the other hand, there is no way to strengthen Lebanon without benefiting Hezbollah, since, by virtue of its participation in government, it has its hand in everything Lebanon does.


Israel must also worry about the Gaza-Hamas precedent repeating itself on its northern border. Hostile enclaves in Gaza and Lebanon more than balance out any gains from the "cold peace" Israel enjoys with Egypt and Jordan.


Of course, the new cabinet could collapse. Nasrallah might overreach. But Mikati's appointment, if it holds, could represent the end of U.S. hopes for the Cedar Revolution--and certainly acts as a counterweight to the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia.

 
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