Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hizbullah and Sunni-Shia Tension in Lebanon

I have always wondered how relations between the Shia and Sunnis of Lebanon have deteriorated so badly.

Hizbullah is mainly to blame.

In the modern history of Lebanon, the assassination of PM Hariri stands out as the key defining event for the Sunni Lebanese community.

The Lebanese and Syrian security agencies are suspected of collusion in the assassination.
The Hizbullah was part of the security arrangement that included the Syrian and Lebanese security forces.

PM Rafic Hariri was assassinated by a huge bomb after months of being vilified by Syria’s stooges, such as foul-mouthed Suleiman Franjieh and Weam Wahab, having his security detail reduced, and after a taped tacit threat from the Syrian foreign minister Walid Moallem.

PM Hariri was not sectarian or confessional. He was an open- minded modern statesman. However, with his savage killing in Beirut, while a sizeable segment of the Lebanese people across the confessional spectrum rose in protest of this death, the Lebanese Sunnis, given that PM Hariri belonged to their sect, took ownership of his cause and were mobilized into political action by his death. The Sunnis felt that killing the great man was aimed at snuffing what’s left of Lebanese freedom as well as dealing their community a deadly blow.

There were whispers that Hizbullah is involved somehow due to its security ties to the accused Lebanese and Syrian security structures. However, the focus of the outpouring of anger was on the Lebanese and the Syrian security forces. After the Syrians were forced to leave Lebanon, the heads of the Lebanese security agencies were arrested on suspicion of complicity with the murder.

Despite the pro-West 14th of March effort to defuse Shia –Sunni tensions, Hizbullah’s actions kept fanning the flames.

Two main deeds stand out.

First, Hizbullah arranged a massive (Shia) demonstration thanking the Syrian regime suspected of killing the Sunni PM. Hizbullah also gave the “rifle of the resistance” as a gift to the forced-out Syrian intelligence chief who is a prime suspect in the murder.
As a result, Sunni anger and sense of betrayal reach a boiling point. A number of sectarian clashes erupted here and there over the subsequent years.

Lately the tension had stabilized at a tolerable level until lately Hizbullah in spearheading the effort to release the four heads of the security agencies charged with the murder of PM Rafic Hariri again kicked the tension sky high.

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