LEBANON: Shia Discontent
Continuing cease-fire violations tn the suburban slums of south Beirut, there many Shia Muslims reside, underscore the potentialenewal of ma/or fighting it President Gemayei remains unable to start the national reconciliation talks. Although the Shia make up the country's largest seel, they have almost no help or attention from the central government. During the fighting last month. Nabih Barri, the leader of the major Shia faction, tried to extract concessions from Gemayei, but he avoided using his Amal militia against the government. If recofKiliation talks falter, Barri will be under greater pressure to discard his moderate course
Shia readers oppose partition because it would leave many members ol the sect in south Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley under Israeli and Syrian conirol. They believetrong central authority is the only hopenified Shia community, and they are pushing for more Shia influence in the government. Barri and other Amal officials, however, are pessimistic about prospects tor unification.^
more seats for the Shia in any new national assembly. Shia deputies would push for economic programs lhat would benefit the sect.
In addition. Barri indicated that he wants Shia to command the Army and head the security and intelligence services, posts whichre reserved for Christians. He probably calculates that this would improve the abKty of the Shia to protect themselves.
Last month, when the Lebanese Army battled Druze and Palestinian forces in the mountains of Ihe Alayh and Ash Shut Districts, the Druze and the Syrians urged Barri to order Shia militiamen in Beirut to stage an uprising against the government. Barri restrained his forces, however, and also refused to join the opposition National Salvation Front. The Amal leader's net ions apparently reflect his belief that negotiations with the government hold the best hope for gaining Shia objectives at/km
Growing Shia Concern
not makehe reconciliation talks andesumption ot full-scale fighting is inevitable.
Tension In Beirut
The situation around Beirut airport remains potentially explosive. Opponents ofoderate approach probably are fostering resentment in the surrounding Shia slums by portraying the Multinational Forceiased occupation force that in recent weeks has directed return fire only al Muslim largets.B
At the sameariety ot armed groups that Barri does not control are free to initiate firelights in the area patrolled by the Multinational Force These groups include the Lebanese Communist party, the Communist Acbon Organization, and the Muslim Studentro-Iranian Shia faction that has sought to undermine Barri' leadership
TO .educe the threathia uprising, government officials have argued that Shia Interests can only be advanced by supporting, the government and Ihe Army. The Shia. by joining forces with Syrian-backed Lebanese factions agamst Gemayel. would ensure the tall of the government and the partition they want to avoid The government's argument was persuasive during the fighting last month, even though Gemayel apparently offered no reward for Shia restraint.
Hlnisational redialrlbullon of power, however, almost certainly have caused the Shia to expect that they will benefit from any new arrangements.esult, some Shia will now be more prone to violence If they believe their aspirations are frustrated, in the event Of an uprising in Beirut, the US would find It difficult to draw "red lines" in the capital or to provide significant military support to back up its commitment to Ihe Lebanese Army
Byegotiated settlement of Shia demands, Barri has staked at least pari of his prestige on the favorable outcome of the reconciliation process. Protracted or inconclusive talks are likely to erode his Influence over the Shia and result in violence that miQht again propel Lebanon toward an all-out civil war}