Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Lebanese "defense strategy" talks center on Hezbollah

Today, various Lebanese groups are meeting to discuss "defense strategy" - and there is great disagreement over what that means:
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea said that the mere fact that dialogue will resume is a "positive sign."
"The mere fact that the key parties are meeting even if they don't reach quick results is also a good sign," Geagea said in remarks published Monday by the daily An-Nahar.

Politicians from rival parties are due to meet Tuesday for a new session on defense strategy under President Michel Suleiman at Baabda Palace.

National dialogue was launched in March 2006, before the devastating summer war between Hizbullah and Israel, to determine the fate of the weapons held by the group.

But it has been delayed several times because of the country's successive political crises.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government has failed to resolve the thorny issue of Hizbullah arms since its formation in November, when it defeated the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition.

Hizbullah has refused to disarm since the end of the 1975-1990 Civil War and insists that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon against Israeli aggression.

He noted that the "only" item which remains for discussion on the dialogue table was Hizbullah weapons.

"So, there is no room for argument," Geagea said. "The topic has already been determined and Hizbullah arms fall under the defense strategy."

"We look at the matter from this angle," he added.
Hezbollah and its allies disagree:
While the majority March 14 alliance holds on to defense strategy as a single item for discussion, the Hizbullah-led opposition argues the possibility of raising additional issues on the agenda, including the "economic-water security."

The major controversy, however, revolves around Hizbullah arms.

While Hizbullah insists that the group's weapons are not up for discussion at the table, March 14 demand that Hizbullah arms be debated.
Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem on Monday noted that "there is no discussion topic at the dialogue table dubbed 'weapons,' because those weapons are the outcome of the defense strategy and not its source."
"Furthermore, there is no attempt at the dialogue table to undermine the strength of Lebanon, but to discuss the defense strategy," Qassem added at a ceremony to commemorate the birth of Prophet Mohammed in Beirut Southern Suburbs.

Qassem said that "Lebanon's strength" may require coordination and means "to enhance the capabilities of the Mujahedeen of the resistance and the army … to reach a real defense capacity that frightens Israel and obliges it to know its limits."
Asharq al-Awsat quotes the Lebanese Defense Forces as saying that they will resist Israel if attacked, and that Hezbollah's weapons are illegal.

UPDATE: As I was writing this, two hours into the meeting, the meeting was adjourned until April 15th. One can take a good guess as to what happened.