*Emile Lahoud, the president of Lebanon, rejected US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s demand that the Hizbullah militia in south Lebanon be replaced. He said that Hizbullah is a legal political party, and expressed satisfaction that its guerrilla actions had gotten the Israelis back out of south Lebanon after 18 years.
The Israeli and Zionist Right has it as a principle that they should never give back up land once they manage to grab it, so Ehud Barak’s 2000 withdrawal from Lebanon was widely seen by them as a mistake. In the Arab and Muslim worlds, however, it was seen as only right that the Israelis leave Lebanon, where they had no business in the first place. Some fear Ariel Sharon has his eye on the waters of the Litani River in Lebanon, and that Sharon has a history of sticky fingers and aggressive acquisitions.
In the Middle East, Powell’s demand that the Lebanese army should take back over policing the South would be seen as preparing the way for another Israeli incursion, since the Lebanese Army is a pushover compared to Hizbullah. Most recently Hizbullah has been shelling the Shibaa Farms area, a sliver of land occupied by Israel from Syria in 1967.
Hizbullah’s depute leader, Shaikh Naim Qasim, replied to Powell: “Lebanon refuses to take dictation from America.” The Hizbullah also denied responsibility for 1980s actions of terrorists against the US embassy and the Marines, saying it exists only to fight Israel aggression in Lebanon.
Actually, responsibility for those actions was claimed by Husayn al-Musawi of Islamic Amal, a Baalbak-based group. See “Amal’s relationship with Iran,” by Bill Samii. But Hizbullah is being disingenuous if it denies acts of terrorism against others than Israelis.
*Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, Tehran-based leader of SCIRI (the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) again repeated that an early departure by US and British troops was an Iraqi, regional and international demand. Emissaries of his Supreme Council met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher. -al-Hayat.
*Agence France Presse has an interesting article about the ways major hospitals in the Shiite parts of Baghdad have been more or less administratively taken over by Shiite militias headed by clergymen. The lay hospital administators are complaining that the clerics are demanding to see the books. The hospitals need the militiamen to protect them from having their medicine stores looted. Some clerics are even bringing in medicine. But when asked, the clerics say that have been sent by the Najaf Seminary Campus (al-Hawzah al-`Ilmiyyah). That is an ambiguous phrase, since it could refer to a number of leading Najaf clerics. But in the case of the hospitals, I’d bet the clerics taking them over are emissaries of Muqtada al-Sadr. He and his organization appear to have made a decision just before or during the war that they would try to step into such popular welfare roles if the Baath fell. They have taken over several large mosques, as well. This technique was used in Lebanon by Hizbullah and in Iran by the Revolutionary Guards. Disbursing healthcare, or being seen as the provider of it, is very useful to fundamentalist religious organizations.
*The training of police and soldiers by US forces (some of our reservists are normally policemen and can give good training) continues. But most Iraqis appear still to live in a state of unsettling insecurity. AP’s Nico Price says that even where traffic cops have been returned to the streetcorners of the capital, no one pays any attention to them. Apparently being able to thumb your nose at traffic regulations is universally considered a key element of democracy. :-)
*A clerical commission (Shura) in Kabul that reviewed the proposed new Afghan constitution insists that Afghan law be identical to Islamic law. Deputy Chief Justice Ahmad Manawi said Friday, “The only source of legislation in Afghanistan is Islamic Shariat law.” Shariah is not actually just Islamic law, but is rather an elaborated system of interpreting it, based on medieval jurisprudence and sometimes in the modern era a fundamentalist literalism. Algeria and Egypt fought virtual civil wars to stop this sort of thing from happening in their country, but apparently the US’s response to religious radicalism in Afghanistan has been to ensconce religious law in that country!