Share on Facebook

Friday, June 1, 2007

Lebanon: Hezbollah decries UN Tribunal

"The subject of history is the life of peoples. To catch and pin down in words- that is, to describe directly the life, not only of humanity but even of a single people, appears to be impossible."
-Tolstoy, epilogue, War and Peace.


BULLETIN: In dissenting from a UN resolution to set up a tribunal to try suspects in the death of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Russia, as well as Lebanon's Hezbollah continue a historic pattern of protesting western and international intrusion into Lebanon.

IN THE NEWS TODAY. The Shia Party Hezbollah, which controls Lebanon's parliamentary opposition, decries a UN resolution to set up a tribunal to bring the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harriri to justice. Claiming that the tribunal is a violation of Lebanese Sovereignty, Hezbollah says it also flies in the face of th UN's own principles. Yesterday, with the United States and France leading the vote in favour and Russia and China and three other members casting the losing votes, the Russian foreign ministry also complained that an international tribunal would constitute a violation of Lebanese sovereignty. At the same time, a Russian diplomat criticized the decision against a background of increased US arms sales to Lebanon. Meanwhile, Russian President Putin has accused the United States of trying to start a new Cold War.

Syria ,which controlled Lebanon for fifteen years after its intervention in the Lebanese Civil War, withdrew in the wake of Hariri’s murder, in 2005, under international pressure. Strongly suspected in Hariri's death, Syria has been trying to reassert its power there. Russia, meanwhile, along with Hezbollah, has tended to back Syria.

LOOKING BACK France, Britain and the United States together, have in some measure extended what began as France and Britain's role in Lebanon two centuries ago. In the eighteenth century, European powers began to vie for influence in the Middle East. The ostensible cause was protection of the Holy Places and Christian minorities in the Holy Land and in Lebanon, a role which the Ottoman sultan awarded to France. In the 19th century, however, the Sultan reassigned protection of the Christians to Russia. Fance’s Napoleon III retaliated with a show of force against the Sultan. France soon got British backing since neither wanted Russian interference with European trade in the Middle East and India. When the Sultan began to acquiesce to French pressure, Russia responded by occupying neighbouring Ottoman territories- sparking the Crimean War in which France and Britain fought Russia in defense of Ottoman Turkey. .

FROM PAST INTO PRESENT: Since the eighteenth century, Russia and the West have maintained competing interests in Lebanon and Syria, whether religious, economic, strategic or ideological. After the Revolution of 1917, Russia began to reinterpret what it had seen as its religious duties in the Middle East as ideological duties. Instead of backing Christian Orthdoxyy, it backed Arab socialist movements. After world War Two, the Soviet Union backed Arab Socialism in Egypt and in Syria aganst what it saw as Israeli and American imperialist aggression. The US had also sought to protect Middle Eastern Christianity, but after 1948, it gradually sought to protect the new state of of Israel as well as maitain access to Arab oil. In the Lebanese civil war, Russia backed Syria as well as the secular and socialist Palestinian Liberation organization and its left wing Druze and Shia allies against the US-backed Christian and Sunni government in Beirut. In 1983, the Shia group Hezbollah, in loose alliance with Syrian andRussian interests, helped to drive the the US and France military presence from Lebanon.

In the wake of the Cold War, Russia’s concerns are territorial rather than ideological. Resentful of western encroachment on its Eurpean borders by NATO, it has also become wary of US and European inroads into the Middle East, including Lebanon.

MAKE A DONATION: History is the thing we most frequently forget when trying to find our way out of the world’s troubles. If this blog was of use to you, a donation would help to provide wider and more frequent coverage. If you choose to send a donation, make a cheque or money order payable to:

Hugh Graham

456 College St., #305,

Toronto M6G 3A4

Ontario, Canada.

Many thanks.

Post a Comment