Hezbollah adjusts tactics in dealing with Lebanon’s crisis

Analysts attribute this apparent tactical shift to the militant group’s wariness about the risks of fallouts including new sanctions from the West.

Thursday 01/04/2021
A file picture shows a Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon. (REUTERS)
A file picture shows a Hezbollah flag and a poster depicting Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah are pictured along a street, near Sidon, Lebanon. (REUTERS)

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement said on Wednesday it was time for politicians to make concessions to agree a new government that must rescue the country from financial crisis.

Lebanon’s financial meltdown is posing the most serious threat to stability since the 1975-1990 civil war, but squabbling politicians have been unable to form a government for months.

“Everyone must know the country has run out of time,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah, said in a televised speech.

He said there had been “serious, collective efforts” in recent days to ease a political standoff that has obstructed cabinet talks for months.

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah, have been at loggerheads since October.

“It is time…If someone is still waiting for something, wants something or expects it, we have to put these matters aside and move seriously towards a real, rapid solution,” Nasrallah said.

Hariri has said Aoun is trying to dictate cabinet seats in order to gain veto power, while Aoun’s party accuses Hariri of trying to orchestrate a majority for himself and his allies.

A new cabinet will have to implement reforms if it is to unlock much needed foreign aid for Lebanon.

Nasrallah’s talk about ‘concessions’ indicates Hezbollah is adjusting its tactics, months after Nasrallah himself diminished hopes of soon reaching a consensus to form a new government. Analysts attribute this apparent tactical shift to the militant group’s wariness about the risks of fallouts including new sanctions from the West for obstructing the formation of the cabinet and escalating the political crisis in Lebanon.

In October last year,  the Hezbollah chief focused on the need for his Shia group to be represented, meaning that Hezbollah rejected the idea of a non-partisan government of experts.

At the time, Nasrallah stressed the importance of Hezbollah’s participation in the next cabinet.

“We must be in the government, through partisans or non-partisans,” he said.

“We must stay in the government in order to protect resistance. We will join any future government because we care about what remains of the Lebanese economy, politics and other issues,” he added.

The Shia group has been accused by France and a number of other Western and Arab countries of obstructing the formation of a new cabinet.