Posted by: sean | January 24, 2007

Temperature rises in Lebanon

The opposition led by Hezbollah and General Aoun held a general strike yesterday that included blocking the road to the airport and degenerated into street clashes between pro-government and opposition supporters. What this means is that Sunni and Shia groups have been clashing, as well as Christian supporters of Geagea (pro-government) and Aoun (opposition):

Violent clashes erupted across the country, with two areas witnessing the return of old “fault lines” from the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War.

The Shiite supporters of Hizbullah and Amal clashed with the Future Movement’s Sunni supporters in the predominantly Sunni area of Corniche al-Mazraa. Stone-throwing and fistfights injured dozens of people and wreaked damage on cars and private property.

At the same time, supporters of Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun clashed with followers of Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea in several predominantly Christian areas, in fights recalling the leaders’ bitter rivalry in the late 1980s.

Lebanese officials were quoted as warning that the Aoun-Geagea struggle may turn into “a war of elimination.”

This is obviously bad news for Lebanon, and I’m surprised that it’s taking so long to come up with a compromise package deal that would get the government up and running again as national unity government. Of course there are a lot of things to be settled, including the presidency, expanding the cabinet, the Hariri tribunal and the Paris III economic deal, but I don’t think that these are unbridgeable gaps.

Hezbollah has said that yesterday was a taste of what it’s capable of, and I don’t think anyone doubts their resolve or power.

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