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“Islamic Fascism” and Coup Plans in Beirut: A New “March on Rome”?

Much criticism was directed at the circulation of the term “Islamic fascism” when it was used in the White House. Yet it has also been used within the Middle East as a term with which to characterize Hezbollah’s strategy of toppling the democratically elected Siniora government, through a combination of threats and violence and—planned for December 1—mass demonstrations.

On July 17, on his Arab reform website, editor Pierre Akel analyzed Hezbollah strategy, and on October 16 he returned to his own previous text because of the pending showdown in Beirut. The analysis from the summer inquired into Hezbollah’s intention in kidnapping the Israeli soldiers, which set off the war. Akel argued that Hezbollah’s point was really to seize power in Beirut through provoking the war with Israel.

He writes:

« Does the Hizbullah plan (which shall certainly make use of the « nationalistic » and « Islamic » prestige of a successful attack against Israeli forces) include a « march on Beirut » with the aim of toppling the elected Siniora government through a mixture of militia and political pressure (aided by President Emile Lahoud who would sign a « decree » putting an end to the mandate of the present government and replacing it by a new pro-Lahoud government which would reestablish Lebanon’s vassal relationship with Syria- noting that Syria itself has entered in the Iranian orbit lately ?

And finally :

« Was the « Fascist Scenario » – a repetition of Mussolini’s March on Rome – the scenario adopted by Nasrallah and his Syrian and Iranian partners?

 . . . 

« If the Hizbullah « coup d’état » is realized, then it would, in reality, be a « coup d’état » against the 1943 Convention (which was the basis of Lebanon’s independence), against the « Taef Accord » (which put an end to the Civil War). Which amounts to saying that it would be a « coup d’état » against the liberal democratic regime and the starting point of a «Mullacracy » in Lebanon. Such a «mullacracy» would, certainly, be the spark to a new civil war and to the division of Lebanon into confessional mini states.

That was the summer analysis, and Akel reports that his terminological choice elicited controversial responses:

That article, written 5 days from the start of heavy Israeli raids all over Lebanon proved to be controversial. Many pseudo-liberals and pseudo-progressists rejected its « pessimistic » analysis and expressed their dismay, in particular, at the use of the term « fascist » to describe Hassan Nasrallah. Inevitably, there had to be some pseudo-marxists to point out that Fascism was a «European phenomenon of the 1930s » which could not recur in a totally different Lebanese context!

So the term was politically incorrect and—this is certainly a familiar refrain—it is inappropriate because political categories from Europe are allegedly inappropriate in the rest of the world. This is of course muddled multicultural thinking, compounded by academic pedantry. The real point though is that by mid-October the report of a coup planned against the legitimate government had become all the more plausible.

Five months later, It is unfortunate that the pessimistic scenario is proving to be true to the letter. Hizbullah and Amal ministers have left the Lebanese government when the ruling majority did not accept their « ultimatum » : a « third of government portfolios », which means a minority enjoying a veto power over all government decisions, to Hizbullah and its allies, or else.. When the Lebanese government went ahead to approve the UN International Court proposal for Lebanon (in relation with the Hariri assassination case), the Syrian-appointed President Lahoud declared that the Siniora government has become illegitimate as the Shias are no more represented in it.

So the pro-Syrian and pro-Hezbollah faction resigns from the government and then complains that it is not represented: their democratic sincerity is a transparent fraud. The faction’s resignation had been prompted by steps in the arduous process of approving the UN tribunal to look into the Hariri assassination (and now the Gemayel assassination as well).

A left that stands today with Hezbollah stands against democracy and against the United Nations.

Akel continues:

The background to the Hizbullah-Syria-Iran offensive is easy to guess : the defeat of the Republicans in the recent US elections and the possible withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

This was my point here about the price of realism: accommodating Syria in order to solve Iraq could mean selling out Lebanese democracy by handing it over to Assad or Nasrallah. The “left” victory in the mid-term elections could translate into counter-revolution in the Middle East.

But, thankfully, it’s not just about deal-making from above:

If such were the case, [precipitous US departure from Iraq] the anti-Hizbullah forces in Lebanon could, probably, be in a less advantageous position. But, certainly, not in a desperate position. Remember, on March 8, 2005, Nasrallah rallied 300,000 supporters in the center of Beirut to declare his loyalty to the Syrian dictator. At the time, 30,000 Syrian soldiers were still occupying the country. Yet, 6 days later (and a time when the Bush administration seemed baffled by Hizbullah’s demonstration of its force) more than a million Lebanese marched on Beirut to crush Hizbullah’s attempt to keep the country under occupation.

That’s the heroic, democratic response. Today it appears that the situation is heading toward a new confrontation. Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem has repeated demands that the elected government resign. That is not new. What is new is the extent to which this demand is now coupled with barely veiled threats of imminent violence. Although he starts by promising peaceful demonstrations, he adds that Hezbollah will not restrict itself

to one mode of action. We will take to the streets peacefully, with slogans prepared [in advance]. We will try to keep the slogans and the street [actions] as restrained as possible, but it is [always] possible that some may try to carry out reprehensible actions. But we have promised ourselves that we would not discuss the type, timing, and scope of our [planned] actions. The opposition leader has the set [of ideas], and when we decide on a certain action, we will announce it in the appropriate time and manner, according to its [particular] nature. We leave the initiative to the opposition leadership . . . the action will include sit-down strikes and other civic [events]. There may be a kind of civil disobedience. . . . There may also be actions by [certain] sectors. . . . We do not expect problems in [our] street, only in their street [i.e. that of the March 14 Forces]

Islamic fascism? This is a clear announcement that legal activities will be intermeshed with illegal activities, as determined by Hezbollah leadership, with the goal of toppling the legitimate government. Moreover, in classic propagandistic manner, it blames the other side in advance!! for the violence that it is planning itself.

On November 28, the pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper Al-Diyar made the situation as clear as day:

A knowledgeable political source summed up the situation for Al-Diyar over the past few hours, in light of the fact that efforts and contacts had reached the point where no progress towards a solution to the crisis was evident: ‘All the evidence shows that matters have reached an impasse, and are moving towards escalation. A solution [to the impasse] will doubtless be found in the streets. This [option, i.e. taking to the streets], is becoming stronger, to the point where, for the first time, it is possible to talk about the approaching zero hour.’ The source declined to speak of the date and time of the opposition’s street actions, but said that he thought it would not be much longer.

Knowledgeable sources estimated that the opposition would begin its actions within the next 48 hours, and noted that the activity would be surprising, and that no ‘zero hour’ would be declared – rather, no more than five people would be informed of it.

So: violence against the democratic government is imminent. Zero hour is coming. And the spontaneity of the action is being carefully orchestrated from above. Islamic fascism. Q.E.D.

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