It took them a while, but Lebanon’s March 14th coalition has finally gotten around to officially opting out of Najib Miqati’s government. Let no one imagine that this has actually made Miqati’s job any easier: it has been clear for the past several weeks that the major obstacles to this latest round of cabinet formation politics have nothing to do with the challenges that beset Saad al-Hariri’s effort in 2009. This time, it’s all about Michel Aoun and his desire to land the coveted Interior Ministry, which very few politicians — even among his own allies — are particularly jazzed about.
All eyes are on the parliamentary elections of 2013. With electoral issues (from districting to registration to long-awaited reforms like pre-printed ballots) in the hands of the Free Patriotic Movement, Jumblatt would have to worry about his own backyard, Berri would be eyeing Jezzine, and President Sleiman could kiss his chances to bless a successful “independent” Christian slate in the Metn goodbye. It’s not a little deal, hence the political gridlock.
So, now that Hariri and co. are out of a job, whatever do you suppose they plan to do with themselves? Answer: organize a huge rally downtown on March 14th protesting Hezbollah’s arms. On the face of it, it’s not a bad idea; revolution is in the air these days, and the unemployed and disgruntled youth of Lebanon’s cities have no decrepit dictators to rebel against. Sectarianism is too squishy a target, so weapons it is!
Here’s a question, though: which weapons are objectionable? Hariri’s latest speech left me a little confused on this score. On the one hand, he’s anti-weapons, but on the other, he’s pro-resistance. What does that mean? And what is he suggesting Hizbullah should do? Hand over its pistols, bowie knives, and slingshots, but hold on to its 9M133 AT-14 tank killers and C802 anti-ship missiles? Most Lebanese I know who have a problem with the “weapons issue” are not worried about being killed by a Hizbullah fighter firing an AK-47; they’re worried about their house being flattened by an Israeli F-16 retaliating against the Hizbullah fighter with the AK-47.
So let me just say that I’m not on the edge of my seat, awaiting the results of March 14th’s latest publicity gambit, the so-called “referendum on Hezbollah’s weapons”. It seems to me that this is a pretty straightforward issue to campaign on, and yet they always manage to sound like they don’t really know what they are in favor of.
I hope to have an interesting interview with Gary Gambill for y’all, later this week. In the meantime, let’s have some fun with a poll.