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Surrounded By Chaos And Collapse
by James Dunnigan
September 26, 2012

Israel has quietly reminded Lebanon recently that if Hezbollah attacks Israel, the retaliation will include all Lebanese infrastructure (roads, bridges, power plants, and military assets). This strategy recognizes that while Hezbollah only rules in the south, the radical Shia militia makes use of all infrastructure in Lebanon. While this is true, the Lebanese government is also in a difficult position when it comes to controlling Hezbollah. That's because Hezbollah represents the minority Shia and has long used religious fanaticism and financial and military support from Iran to dominate the majority (a fractious collection of Christian, Sunni, and Druze groups). The majority wants to cut Hezbollah down to size but they don't want to wreck the country in order to do it. Most Lebanese still have memories of the 1975-90 civil war that ruined the economy, killed over 100,000 people (over four percent of the 2.8 million population), and caused at least  a million to flee the country (many never returned). Now Hezbollah is becoming weaker and unstable because of the civil war next door in Syria. Hezbollah was founded with the assistance of Syria, which has long been a client of Iran. But the Sunni majority in Syria is finally casting off decades of rule by a Shia (Alawite) sect. This has inspired the Sunni minority in Lebanon to fight the more numerous Shia in their midst. For weeks now gangs of Shia and Sunni gunmen have been fighting each other in northern Lebanon. Because of the war in Syria, Hezbollah can no longer travel freely there. Syria was to be the place Hezbollah could retreat to if the Israelis came after them in a big way. With that refuge gone, and more aggression from the majority minorities of Lebanon, Hezbollah feels threatened. It's not a healthy situation.

The new rulers of Egypt are facing some very serious economic problems. The economy has still not recovered from the disruption of the revolution 18 months ago. On top of that the government is running out of money, mainly because of fuel price subsidies. Egyptians pay 36 cents a liter for petrol (gasoline), while Israelis pay six times more (about two dollars a liter, or nearly eight dollars a gallon). Israeli petrol is not subsidized and is common heavily taxed. Egypt long used the subsidized fuel as a benefit for the people. Trying to take that away would cause widespread anger, perhaps even a mass uprising. But the government has no cash to buy and import all the fuel (at about 70 cents a liter) Egyptians are currently using. Fuel shortages will also cause unrest.

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