He won’t ask them, let alone order them, as he should. His explanation is that it would not be appropriate at a time of heightened tension between Lebanon and Israel, but why the elevated level of tension in the first place? That stems from Hizballah’s ongoing existence as an Iranian- and Syrian- supported state-within-a-state that, at this point, is probably all but better armed than the Lebanese government. Hizballebanon Update. “Sleiman says he won’t ask Hizbullah to disarm,” from the Daily Star, May 10:
BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Sleiman said the government cannot ask Hizbullah to give up its arms at a time of heightened Israeli tension and before agreement on a national defense strategy was reached.
Israeli allegations last month that Syria had transferred long-range Scud missiles to Hizbullah fuelled security concerns, although Lebanon and Syria both denied the charge, while Hizbullah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has refused to comment.
Hizbullah is on the United States’ terrorism blacklist, but it is also part of the Lebanese government.
Syria says it only gives Hizbullah political backing and that Israel may be using the accusation as a pretext for a military strike.
Israel launched a 34-day war against Lebanon in the summer of 2006 during which the powerful group fired thousands of mostly short-range rockets against Israel.
“To demand now, in this regional atmosphere full of dangers and the drumbeats of war that Israel is banging everyday, and before we reach an agreement on a national defense strategy to protect Lebanon, we cannot and must not tell the resistance … ‘Give us your weapons and put it under the state’s command,'” Sleiman was quoted as saying in the Ad-Diyar newspaper on Saturday.
The current government, led by Sunni Muslim businessman Saad Hariri, has backed Hizbullah’s right to keep its weapons to deter Israeli attacks, an issue that has been at the heart of Lebanon’s political crisis over the past five years.
Sleiman has chaired periodic National Dialogue sessions but politicians have been unable to agree on a national defense strategy, in which Hizbullah’s weapons would be integrated into the Lebanese Army, to protect Lebanon from Israel.
Israel is worried the Iranian-backed resistance group has replenished its arsenal to attack it on Iran’s behalf should Tehran’s nuclear sites come under attack.
Resistant to what?
Security Council Resolution 1701, which halted hostilities between Israel and Hizbullah in 2006, calls for a stop to arms smuggling. It bans all unauthorized weapons between the Litani River and the Blue Line, the UN-monitored border between Israel and Lebanon.
The Israeli state has criticized the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, UNIFIL, for not stopping weapons it says are flowing to Hizbullah. The United Nations says that is the responsibility of the Lebanese authorities.
UN Security Council Resolution 1559, sponsored by the United States and France and adopted in 2004, demanded that all Lebanese militias be disarmed. Hizbullah is the only group to have kept its arms since the 1975-1990 Civil War.