March 8, Tuesday Rally by Hezbollah: pro-syria? Not really. It was more of a pro-Hezbollah rally if anything. Nasrallah didn't mention, in his speech, that he wanted the Syrians to stay in. In fact, the main theme of his speech was more a "thank you & good bye" tribute than anything else, as Annahar put it in its front page (ta7iyyat shokor wa wada3). In fact, the rally was called for only after asad
announced his plans to withdraw. The relatively late movement on hezbollah's behalf is despite (alleged?) secret requests/pleas from the Syrians for Hezbollah to launch a pro-syria parade long before having to withdraw.
One very important thing is that nasrallah didn't even mention Lebanese president lahoud. Hezbollah wasn't going to let bad allies and corrupt "friends" ruin its efforts. It was already being pushed to the front to defend and pay for 15 years of corruption which the others (from berry to joumblatt) benefited from. Suddenly, it became the sole representative of Syria in Lebanon, and that's one role it wouldn't play.
As a whole, Hezbollah involvement is now giving some room to the other, less popular shia party, amal, now that the situation calls for "dirty Lebanese politics" and little tricks of election laws, in which few are more skilled, or more willing to indulge, than nabih berry. The level of political practice deteriorates even further from Pierre gemmayel's "they threaten with quantity of people, but we have the quality" to michel murr's breaking heads "Taksir rouss" to gebran
tweini's describing the Hezbollah rally as sheep (ghanam), to walid eido's statement that "any level-headed person with any intelligence chooses the opposition,” etc….
March 14, Monday Rally by opposition: Huge crowd, Bahia Hariri's speech was excellent in Hezbollah terms, and distinguished the hariri family from the others in the opposition, who didn't necessarily like it that much, but still exercise great self-restraint when replying to it, in fear of losing the hariri supporters, and because the hariri family is still "above attacks" in the mourning period.
There is a prominent demand that the protestors wanted at some point, but the maronite opposition leaders were not willing to pursue fully: lahoud's resignation. There are many reasons for this, but the most obvious ones are the potential of a political gap and the size of the battle. A third, more subtle reason is highlighted by some analysts: the unwillingness of maronite leaders to jeopardize the presidency as an institution which guarantees the existence and role of maronites in Lebanon and the region. In many ways, this is inspired by Lebanon's first image as the "Christian home" or "Christian nation" in the arab
world. For a long time between the Lebanese "independence of 1943" and the civil war, this term stood for "maronite nation", or more precisely "nation of the maronites of mount Lebanon." This, almost like alawite Syria, was a minority role based on presidential dictatorship, in this case extremely well protected by the pre-war constitution. This maronite/Christian division was once quoted by the eloquent, though not so objective, sleiman franjieh, who said "the Christians on the outskirts of Lebanon (massi7iyi al-2a6raf) were not going to let the mountain maronites take them down with them." Sleiman is a maronite leader of the northern area of Zghorta. Another example along these lines is that Robert Fisk describes the Lebanese war as a conflict between the Maronites and everybody else.
When joumbaltt demanded that lahoud resign, the maronite patriarch sfeir answered that it was of low priority now. The answer was very swift, with joumblatt visiting Hezbollah secretary general nasrallah and "re-phrasing" his demands on most issues, in a way that made LBC, the most prominent opposition TV, include the visit and declaration as the first news item of the evening news, and question if he, as an opposition leader, was "allowed" to make such declarations. (hal min al-masmou7 li walid joumblatt 2an...?)
Comming up: the last of three parts - "What's Next?"
disclaimer: the above post is not my opinion. It is the opinion of a friend in Lebanon, who requested that I post his opinions. Please refer to my original post "The "Other" Perspective: A Primer" to get a clearer perspective of what is happening.