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The Opposition’s Plans (or lack thereof) for Lebanese Security

July 14, 2009

While Hezbollah and its allies continue to insist variably on “real participation”, proportional representation, and/or a blocking third, al-Akhbar’s Hassan Aleiq reveals information on March 8’s intentions towards Lebanon’s security apparatus.  Aleiq reports that neither before nor after the elections did March 8 actually develop a coherent initiative for reforming Lebanese security, save Nasrallah’s vague intention to equip and train the military.  However, given the Opposition’s defeat, the following is much more relevant:

كانت أجواء المعارضة توحي بأنها كانت تريد البناء على فوزها المفترض لإعادة «النصاب» الأمني في البلاد إلى ما كان عليه قبل عام 2005، وخاصة لناحية إقصاء المسؤولين المحسوبين على قوى 14 آذار عن المواقع الحساسة التي يتولونها. لكن خسارة الانتخابات أعادت قوى الأقلية إلى الموقف الذي كانت تتسلح به قبل الانتخابات: الحفاظ على المواقع التي يسيطر عليها المقرّبون منها أو من هم غير محسوبين على الأكثرية، ومنع قوى 14 آذار من تحقيق تقدم أكبر داخل المؤسسات.

Inner circles of the Opposition revealed that it [the Opposition] wanted to build on its supposed win to return the security situation in the country to what it was before 2005, particularly towards removing the authorities loyal to March 14 from the sensitive positions they occupy.  But the loss of the elections returned the Minority to the position that it was holding before the elections: preserving the positions that those near to it and those not beholden to the Majority control and preventing March 14 from achieving greater progress within the institutions.

Aleiq’s illuminating piece raises three issues.  First, the Opposition still hopes to “turn back the clock” to before 2/14/2005, at least in terms of security policy.  Most likely this means returning key positions in the government’s security apparatus to pro-Opposition, Hezbollah-friendly individuals.  Second, Hezbollah does care about exerting formal control over the state and is not simply satisfied with the de facto “monopoly of force” it currently enjoys.  This is a double edged sword in the sense that while the participation of the Hezb in the government can have some moderating and constraining effects upon its behavior, once it occupies sensitive security positions in the bureaucracy will it ever willingly vacate those positions?  Third, as Aleiq comments later in the piece, the blocking third is essential to the Opposition’s ability to check the Majority on security policy and political appointments within the bureaucracy.  Another reason why we are witnessing such protracted bargaining over the Cabinet formation.

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