ON MAY 6, the US-backed “March 14 coalition”, who controlled the Lebanese government, took a new initiative aimed at weakening the power of Hezbollah, which led the successful resistance against Israeli invasion in 2006.
As a flotilla of US war-ships moved in to patrol the coast, the government announced that the communications network of Hezbollah was illegal and would be dismantled.
On May 7, workers across Lebanon took widely supported strike action demanding an increase in the minimum wage, in response to soaring food prices. Organised workers have been a crucial part of the broader opposition movement led by Hezbollah in Lebanon, and have long been calling for the removal of the US-backed government.
Government backed militia attacked workers attempting to demonstrate, and the large-scale mobilisations happening around the country quickly took on a more general character of confrontation between pro-government and opposition forces.
The next day, Hezbollah fighters took over a large section of West-Beirut, disarming pro-government militia, occupying their buildings and disabling media agencies. Across the country, supporters of the opposition, including Sunni Muslims in the south of Lebanon, helped complete a rout of pro-government forces.
Strong support for Hezbollah amongst some sections of the army means Lebanon’s rulers are afraid to use it against the resistance movement. Hezbollah’s strategy in areas it took over was to quickly hand control and prisoners to the army.
Acknowledging defeat, the government struck a deal with the opposition that will see General Michael Suleiman, head of the army, become president of Lebanon. Opposition forces, including Hezbollah and the mainly Christian Free Patriotic Movement, have been granted more seats in cabinet, enabling an effective veto over government decisions.
Unfortunately the deal does not challenge the neo-liberal “Paris Agreements” imposed on Lebanon, which lie at the root of problems faced by workers. Unless they address these concerns, Hezbollah risks alienating its mass base. But for US imperial planners, unable to remove Hamas from Gaza, facing renewed resistance in Iraq and growing disquiet in Egypt, this victory for Hezbollah is a serious setback.
By Paddy Gibson