Lebanon’s opposition movement has had many motivations ascribed to it, not least by US President Bush: winds of change – Lebanon has been motivated by Iraq’s democracy.
But for the first time, a survey of Opposition members has rejected this. Only 9% of protesters are motivated by Iraq – in fact, slightly more (11%) were motivated by the Ukranian revolution! Nearly every protester (94%) was on the streets to demand an investigation into the murder of Rafiq Al-Hariri – the father of modern Lebanon. A huge majority (81%) also wanted Syrian troops out. With these two demands now met, the Martyr’s Square protest is due to end this Saturday.
The survey does reveal some worrying sectarian trends. Opposition support is divided equally between Maronites, other Christians and Sunnis. While the loyalist support is overwhelmingly Shia’a.
But there is widespread support for national dialogue based on the Taef Peace Accords which ended the Civil War, and support for the opposition’s decision to join a national unity government.
Interestingly Maronite Christians are divided on Hizbollah. About half support the group – which has been under US pressure – and half oppose it. Only 6% of Lebanese want Hizbollah to be forceably disarmed if there is no peace.
One thing the Lebanese agree on is interference by foreign countries. The US is viewed with even more suspicion than Syria! 69% oppose American involvement in Lebanon, but 61% oppose Syrian involvement. If Bush was surprised by the size of the ‘Syria out’ demos, just wait for the ‘America out’ demos! So maybe the killing of Syrians in Lebanon should serve as a warning to America – Lebanese hate Syrians, and they’re willing to kill them, but they hate Americans more.
Syria, the US and France do find support in Lebanon – but their involvement would be welcomed by different sects (to oversimplify: Shia want Syria, Maronites want the US/France, Sunnis want France/Syria). So foreign intervention is highly divisive in Lebanon – if that’s the excuse for intervention, it’s flawed from the outset. The best way for the international community to unite Lebanon is to promote national dialogue through Taef – which has widespread support in Lebanon.