Hezbollah is imposing its diktat in Lebanon

The real danger is in Nasrallah’s exposing that the Lebanese state is powerless against the power of the party.
Sunday 09/06/2019
Increasingly confident. Hezbollah scouts raise their fists as they listen to a speech of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, via a video link, in southern Beirut, April 22. (AP)
Increasingly confident. Hezbollah scouts raise their fists as they listen to a speech of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, via a video link, in southern Beirut, April 22. (AP)

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has given the green light to the three Lebanese presidencies to engage in negotiations with Israel, to delineate and demarcate land and sea borders between the two countries.

Yet, in his speech on al-Quds Day, he made statements that make it clear that Iran’s strongest arm in the Arab region will not stand by as a spectator if the country is attacked.

In one of his positions, which was described as increasing the chances of war between Hezbollah and Israel, Nasrallah said Hezbollah was ready to build factories to manufacture precision-rocket if the United States continued to raise the issue of the presence of the plants in Lebanon with Lebanese officials.

Before saying that, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had no factories for such weapons in Lebanon but he was sending a message to those concerned at home and abroad, saying it is Iran that decides on sovereign issues in Lebanon and, as the representative of its leader in Lebanon, he is the one who decides on declaring war without considering, even just formally, that such a serious decision lies solely with the Lebanese state.

Nasrallah’s discourse, which was characterised by its escalatory tone, unlike his previous positions towards Israel and Washington, did not receive reaction from either the Israeli leadership or any US official. Israel has not announced that it was reneging on its intention to negotiate with Lebanon and Washington has said nothing about changing its role as an intermediary between the two countries.

What is interesting is the Israeli silence about Nasrallah’s recent positions, especially that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was the first to raise the issue of the existence of precision rockets and factories in Lebanon from the UN podium last year. This silence may be one of the cards Netanyahu is collecting for an excuse to start a war on Lebanon at the moment he chooses.

The issue of precision rockets, as dangerous as it is for Israel, is a source of danger for Lebanon as well. The latter threat stems not only from its military gravity but that the weapons are in Hezbollah’s hands and not in the hands of the Lebanese state. It is not Lebanon that decides whether to use them and yet it is the Lebanese who will bear the full consequences of any war between Hezbollah and Israel.

What is more suspicious in the affair is that Lebanese officials, especially the forces that have long accused Hezbollah of playing risky games with Lebanese sovereignty and of confiscating the decision of war and peace, have remained silent and did not react to Nasrallah’s statements.

Granted that Lebanese President Michel Aoun and parliament Speaker Nabih Berri are allies of Nasrallah and do not usually oppose his views but the head of government, the head of the Lebanese Forces Party (LFP) and the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, are not and should have reacted. At best, their silence is misplaced, unless it is intended to confirm the statement that some keep repeating that all of Lebanon is in Iran’s fist.

The surrender of “sovereign powers” or the March 14 Alliance, especially those in the government, represents an increased risk for Lebanon. Indeed, for as long as there was opposition to Hezbollah’s influence, Lebanon found sympathetic ears to its predicament with that party but now that Nasrallah’s positions and his bypassing the state’s role and strategic responsibilities go unchallenged, this will confirm Israel’s claim that all of Lebanon is under the control of Hezbollah and that, in any future war, it will not distinguish between Hezbollah and the Lebanese state.

The great paradox in Lebanon is that, despite the grave dangers surrounding the country during this turbulent stage of the US-Iranian conflict and in light of Nasrallah’s positions, the Lebanese parties are engaged in marginal conflicts related to internal issues and to a power struggle but within the limits set by Hezbollah.

The LFP is busy hindering the rise of the Free Patriotic Movement and its control of more parts in the Christian quota and has given this goal a major priority.

Events are showing that all the LFP wants is to lift Hezbollah’s hands from the internal political conflict inside the Christian community. LFP Executive Chairman Samir Geagea seems so suspicious of and so focused on every move by Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil that what Hezbollah is doing, despite its gravity, does not provoke any reaction as it did before the most recent parliamentary elections.

Same thing with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, whose Future Movement has become more concerned with maintaining positions in the administration than with the dangers posed by Iranian policies. Jumblatt has tried, as usual, to gripe about Hezbollah’s grip but, when he realised he was alone in the fray, he remained silent.

The danger of Nasrallah’s speech does not lie in his stepping over the limits of state sovereignty or in showing the truth that Lebanon is, in fact, an Iranian card. The real danger is in his exposing that the Lebanese state is powerless against the power of the party.

Even worse, it does not appear that anyone among the components of the government is ready to tell Hezbollah that it has gone too far and that it will not idly stand by as Hezbollah carries on with its adventure of destroying what remains of Lebanon, in war or in a fantasy peace.