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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Prague, 1948 --> Beirut, 2006

Daily Star (Lebanon)

December 07, 2006
By Michael Young

In the broad details, there are striking similarities between the communist takeover in Czechoslovakia in 1948 and what is occurring in Lebanon today; between the "coup of Prague" and the "coup of Beirut," which Hizbullah and its comrades are presently sweating to implement.

As in Lebanon, the Czechoslovak communists benefited from a Cabinet crisis to kick off massive street protests. They controlled the government and the security ministries, and chose to act because they were expecting to lose ground in upcoming parliamentary elections. The communists had to strike quickly at a time when their external patron, the Soviet Union, was entering into a confrontation with the West. Indeed, Moscow had forced the Czech government to reverse its initial acceptance of Western aid under the Marshall Plan, fearing this would take Prague out of its orbit and offer more legitimacy to non-communist forces.

In Lebanon, too, Hizbullah is being pressed by its external patrons, Iran and Syria, to overthrow a system they fear losing. Syria seeks to reimpose its hegemony over Lebanon, and its priority is to undermine the tribunal dealing with the Hariri assassination. Iran, for its part, doesn't like the fact that United Nations Security Council 1701 is stifling Hizbullah along the Israeli border. Hizbullah may not control security ministries as the communists did in Czechoslovakia, but it has influential allies in the military, and its militia is more powerful than the army. It may not fear losing elections, but its setbacks in the July-August war, particularly the destruction visited on Shiites, obliged it to mobilize its supporters against the government so they would not turn their anger against the party. Like the Czech communists, Hizbullah is using both institutions and the street to seize power. It has also succeeded, like the communists did with the socialists in Czechoslovakia, in neutralizing a key actor whose opposition could have decisively damaged their ambitions: the Aounist movement.

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