Hezbollah Plays Nationalism Card

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nasrallah.jpg
This short International Herald Tribune piece by the Nixon Center’s Alexis Debat and Ghassan Schbley got me thinking about the simultaneously turbulent centrifugal and centripetal forces between transnational Islamist movements and state structures in the Middle East
It’s a very short, clever article — but here is the part with which I partly disagree and yet still find intriguing:

Nasrallah’s recent turnaround has given away important clues about Hezbollah’s ultimate hierarchy of allegiances. Confronted with a crucial decision between relevance and identity, the movement chose to amend what it wants, and sacrifice its sectarian credentials or international allegiances to reclaim the nationalist high ground.
Hezbollah is already reaching out to other constituencies, and getting in increasingly frequent arm twisting with both Iran and Syria.
The Saudis were key in defusing the crisis in Lebanon. The Saudis are also hard at work in Iraq and, as we have seen recently, in Palestine. In this process, the Bush administration should be careful to remain safely in King Abdullah’s back seat.

First of all, despite patronage from Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has always been a political movement focused on the liberation of its constituents from Israeli control. It’s core grievances are over land and self-determination.
This is not dissimilar to nationalist movements in revolutionary China and Vietnam that were to a significant degree misdiagnosed by the U.S. as primarily problems of transnational Communism.
It doesn’t seem to me that Nasrallah made any stunning turnaround.
He simply exploited state-based regional stakeholders as well as the transnational Islamist movement in this crisis and extracted resources from them. If he had to flirt with transnational movements and identity, then that’s a small gesture compared to his own desire to embed Hezbollah in the very fabric of Lebanese society and to one day have a hand in working the machinery of state.
The depiction of Saudi foreign policy activism seems spot on with me. The Saudis are filling a void that a faltering America has left open in the Middle East.
To say, however, that America ought to “remain safely in King Abdullah’s back seat” overstates the degree of mutual coordination and collaboration between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia on the Middle East project. It is because of Saudi dissatisfaction with American policy and American results that the Saudis have heightened their engagement with Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, and elsewhere.
If anything the Saudis left America off on the curb — and it’s not defined yet whether they will be back to pick us up.
Nice piece nonetheless.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

20 comments on “Hezbollah Plays Nationalism Card

  1. china wholesale says:

    nice post,thanks foe sharing

    Reply

  2. celtic woman says:

    The motivation to increase Shiite influence and power in Lebanon is valid because the Shiites are constitutionally shortchanged on representation. Their representation does not accord with their share of population. They are also economically marginalized

    Reply

  3. celtic woman says:

    The motivation to increase Shiite influence and power in Lebanon is valid because the Shiites are constitutionally shortchanged on representation. Their representation does not accord with their share of population. They are also economically marginalized

    Reply

  4. MP says:

    OTOH, what Bloix says about Nasrallah’s views on Israel are pretty accurate–at least according to the many quotes one can find all over the press.
    As to the theocracy stuff, we’ll have to see. Shi’ites have been known to be quite interested in, and capable of, creating a theocracy (in Iran) with some harsh consequences for a people who were pretty largely secular (many of them at least).
    It seems a bit (uncharacteristically) naive on your part to try to paint Nasrallah as some sort of secular Constitutionalist who just wants to get proportionate representation for his party.
    I guess we’ll see if he’s more of a nationalist or more of a cleric.

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  5. Den Valdron says:

    I’m not sure how solid a ground you are on with this ‘Shiite Theocracy’ stuff as Hezbollahs main motivation. Can you cite some credible sources for this. For the record, Israeli propaganda organs are not credible.
    The motivation to increase Shiite influence and power in Lebanon is valid because the Shiites are constitutionally shortchanged on representation. Their representation does not accord with their share of population. They are also economically marginalized.
    Again, I’d ask for some credible citations on the assertion that they seek to impose clerical control of political and social life.

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  6. Bloix says:

    “Hezbollah has always been a political movement focused on the liberation of its constituents from Israeli control.”
    This is incorrect in every respect. Hezbollah is a Lebanese movement whose constituents are Lebanese Shi’ites – the largest and poorest religious/ethnic group in Lebanon. Its original and still ultimate goal is the establishment of a Shi’ite theocracy in Lebanon. Its interim goals are to increase the political power of Shi’ites in Lebanon and to impose clerical control of political and social life in Lebanon. Second, Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territories, who are overwhelmingly Sunni, are not Hezbollah’s constituents. Third, Hezbollah’s position on Israel is that it must be destroyed entirely – not primarily in order to liberate Palestinians, but because Israel is an illegitimate incursion into the Dar Al-Islam, or lands of Islamic control.

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  7. Carroll says:

    Iran? Russia? China? Europe? India?
    Posted by Den Valdron at February 27, 2007 02:35 PM
    >>>>>>>>
    Russia doesn’t need Saudi. And I think the Europeans would be more to the Saudi’s liking and more of a match.
    They have lounged around on their thrones so long
    they thought things would remain the same forever…..but oops, the US set their store on fire and now they have to do something to save their royal heads.

    Reply

  8. daCascadian says:

    It`s the end of the world as we HAVE known it & I feel happy; at last the scum are being flushed out for all to see.
    Ah, so satisfying an end but oh so scary during the process.
    “There’s a lot of poor and working ethnics who have to struggle their way into the system, who can identify with black people’s striving. I’m trying to show both that the color of the enemy is green.” – Dennis Kucinich (per Studs Terkel)

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  9. Nick Baban says:

    This reminds me of George Packer’s New Yorker article “Knowing The Enemy” on social scientists helping the US military “disaggregate” local issues from the cause of international Jihad, redefining the “War on Terror” into a “global counterinsurgency”.
    But no, our leader has declared the age of the “Axis of Evil”, the they all wear black hats, we wear white hats, with us or against us, terrorism bad, freedom good…
    America screwed.

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  10. bAkho says:

    Hezbollah is also a social movement. The initial spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th Centuries was rapid becaused it replaced a corrupt and elitist, social, economic and political system. The Hezbollah base are primarily people who are disenfranchised by the current order.
    I like the context you give to this issue, Steve.

    Reply

  11. Den Valdron says:

    I’m fascinated by Steve’s contention that the Saudi’s are breaking away from American foreign policy which they see as rudderless and counterproductive.
    Here’s the thing. How long can the Saudi’s force the issue before a major break occurs with the United States.
    The United States foreign policy is not indifferent to the Saudi’s initiatives. If the two aren’t cooperating, if one isn’t following the other, then what happens?
    In the event of a major break, what do the Saudi’s do? Who is their next ally?
    Iran? Russia? China? Europe? India?

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  12. MP says:

    The Kucinich story was impressive. I hope he makes it. I don’t think that being right from the beginning is terribly important, however, and most people don’t either.
    The bigger question is: Can he sell his ideas? Can he inspire people to act? A politician who can’t sell his ideas, who can’t rally folks to act, is just another person who happens to be right.
    He was wrong about one thing: It’s not true that everyone starts at 1%.

    Reply

  13. Frank says:

    Hillary has given new meaning to the term “beating about the bush” when asked about whether her vote to give extraordinary war power to Bush was a mistake. Her parsing of the reasons for her vote was a stunning and unwitting revelation of her character. I was neutral about her candidacy, but now, because of her surprising answers to that question, feel she is not worthy of becoming president. A female Lieberman was revealed by her “answers” to that question.
    Kucinich was on the mark….they all had the same pre Iraq war information.
    “Beating about the bush Hillary”, is a new slogan worthy of bumper sticker fame.

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  14. Bt_Bill says:

    Perhaps the Saudi’s have “left America at the curb” diplomatically speaking but, in his piece in this week’s New Yorker, Sy Hersh suggests there is a lot going on below the radar between SA and US and frankly, I’m surprised there’s no mention of Hersh’s piece in this TWN post (a bit too “hot” perhaps?).
    See http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/070305fa_fact_hersh

    Reply

  15. Freedom says:

    I would say that it was Iran (with Syria’s help) that got the situation ‘under control’ in Lebanon, not the House of Saud. The latter has nothing to gain by allowing Hezbollah (and Iran/Syria) off the hook as regards US & Israel aggression towards them. Across the Middle East, the population appear to be finally coming to their senses and no longer adhere to divisive ideologies that have allowed their domination by Western imperialist powers and by autocratic rulers. Poll results show that a majority of the people, for example, by far see Nasrallah as the heroic figure (and would you believe it, Ahmadinejad!). The Saudi monarchy is in a bit of a pickle here and whatever its game may be, I don’t think it holds the trump card anymore.
    http://tinyurl.com/2t7ak4

    Reply

  16. Carroll says:

    Posted by Pissed Off American at February 27, 2007 12:40 AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>
    Kucinich is no fool and has always been a fighter…but bollywood won’t let him get elected….too honest, too to the point, too plain spoken and consistantly clear on his positions…can’t have that can we….what would the pundit industry have to diss with a man who has stuck to his convictions thurout his career?
    America isn’t quite bad off enough yet to be ready for a Kucinich. If he ever got the nomination however I would vote for him. Another reason I don’t like the primary system.

    Reply

  17. Pissed Off American says:

    Thanks, Easy E.
    I particularly liked Kucinich’s answer to the following question….
    Do you think that the candidates who’ve apologized for their vote made a mistake in earnest?
    Kucinich replies….
    “Let me just tell you something, on matters of life and death, there’s no room for mistakes. On Iraq, we all had the same information. It reflects on a person’s thinking. It’s too late to apologize when you have caskets being shipped over to the United States and you have 650,000 innocent Iraqi civilians that are dead.”
    Yet who do we see paraded, pimped, and lauded, here on this blog and on the MSM? Hagel, Hillary, Giuliani, Obama, McCain, ETC.
    And his comment about “we all had the same information”? That is the one over-riding FACT that gives the lie to Hillary’s excuse for her shameless echoing of the Bush/Cheney LIES that led up to the invasion of Iraq. There were many experts politicians, that saw through the lies, why couldn’t Hillary? I believe she DID see through the lies, yet found it politically expedient to repeat them.
    Unfortunately, Kucinich doesn’t stand a chance. The media well largely ignore him, and instead market the lies and the posturing of the status quo corrupt players that Steve is apparently so enamored of.

    Reply

  18. Easy E says:

    Off topic, but here’s one for POA.
    NEWSWEEK: Dark-horse Kucinich plots his course.
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17348970/site/newsweek/
    A little turmoil in the backrooms of the Military Industrial Establishment?
    Let’s hope so…………….

    Reply

  19. Jerome Gaskins says:

    I remember kicking some butt-head to the curb in Maryland when I lived in Philly. It was such a relief, getting rid of that dead weight!

    Reply

  20. Mullah Cimoc says:

    Mullah Cimoc say all waziristan so like britney spears for dancing girl. All children especially love her too much.
    But now divorce and in public with not the panties. Is this the devil to show for the children such thing? For this should be ashame all of amerika. also the tattoo.
    This poor child girl also astronaut girl go crazy this all prove much better in Waziristan and NWFP where girl stay pure and so happy and never take the LBT (low back tattoo).
    You know in waziristan what happen one man put tattoo on daughter of taliban man? Bang bang. This wicked man them kill so quick make true justice.
    And amerika man suffer for lesbian divorce court judge kick man from home, live in car, not see children go jail.
    even for all money in amerika this not worth it. better live happy pure in waziristan fight for family and children.

    Reply

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