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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Communication vs Pragmatism

update: a few hours after publishing this post, the Mikati government with the tacit approval of Hezbollah has approved the financing of the STL.

...or why Hezbollah's self interest actually calls for financing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) for Rafic Hariri's murder (Lebanon is due to pay its share of the financing of the tribunal. Prime Minister Mikati has said he would resign if it is not approved by the government)

Hezbollah is confronted today with the most basic of all political choices: prefer communications and the party's image or act pragmatically and prioritize the party's political interests.

The communication choice, would be to utterly reject the STL. This has been Hezbollah's stance since 2005: The tribunal has been portrayed by Hassan Nassrallah and every party member as a US and Israeli tool, and Nassrallah has openly said that he will never accept to finance it. Doing so now, might seem for Hezbollah's constituents and allies as a sign of weakness.

On the other hand, the pragmatic choice would be to go for the financing considering the alternatives the party has, and for the following reasons:
1. A strong Assad in Syria is a survival necessity for Hezbollah. Syria's own interests in Lebanon requires the prime minister to remain. In light of the Arab Leagues attacks on Syria, Assad needs a friendly Arab government, and this Lebanese government has proven to be very friendly with Assad's regime.
2. Financing the tribunal will provide PM Najib Mikati with a needed boost within his own Sunnite community. Both Assad and Hezbollah need to counter the influence of Saad Hariri within the Lebanese Sunnite community. Reinforcing Mikati can therefore only benefit Hezbollah on the short term.
3. A quick alternatives political analysis, shows that even if Lebanon does not finance the Tribunal, the Tribunal will probably keep going on. So what ever Hezbollah's moves are, the Tribunal will remain. Better therefore for the party to reinforce Assad and Mikati.
4. By financing the Tribunal, Hezbollah would have stripped the main communication argument March 14th has been using against the Government. M14 will find themselves in a difficult communications situation.
5. Hezbollah can barter this tacit approval of the financing with a major political gain for the party or its allies (like Aoun): revive the shouhoud el zour case, finance Aoun's pet projects etc...Thus ultimately benefiting with the public opinion.

Hezbollah's history has shown that being politically pragmatic has always been a key feature of their policy. Furthermore, considering 1. the communications strength the party has, and 2. the utter trust the Shiite community has in the party, Hezbollah can easily spin this choice.

The real challenge is going to be with the anti-Hezbollah camp. How to re-mobilize the street if the STL issue is "deflated". Time for an urgent meeting between Hariri, Geagea and Gemayel!


Arab Democracy said...

Excellent predictive value. 10 out of 10.

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