Hezbollah is seeking foreign help to protect its power

Hezbollah is betting on a foreign Santa Claus bringing support to Lebanon.
Sunday 08/12/2019
Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks to supporters through a giant screen in the capital Beirut’s southern suburb. (AFP)
Unsettled narrative. Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks to supporters through a giant screen in the capital Beirut’s southern suburb. (AFP)

More than six weeks since the start of the Lebanese uprising, the entrenched power in control of Lebanon seems to have only one option left to reproduce itself — seek foreign help and bring in influential regional and international powers.

The option does not exist to appeal to the Lebanese people, who have been exposing the corruption and fragility of the authority in the country by insisting on an independent interim government to prepare for an early parliamentary election.

The power referred to is represented by the triangle headed by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and parliament Speaker Nabih Berri holding the base angles.

The absence of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri from the power triangle does not exonerate him from having been part of it. However, that Hariri, along with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and Christian leader Samir Geagea, are out of the decision-making equation, which remains firmly in the hands of the power trio mentioned above, if not in the hands of Nasrallah alone.

The strength of the uprising lies in various factors. It is genuinely Lebanese with an unprecedented demographic and geographical spread. It has enough vitality to create new forms of resistance to the authorities.

Perhaps its biggest strength is that it is facing an authority with a formidable record of failure and corruption, intrinsically incapable of responding to the demands of the people, not just at the level of political and democratic reforms but also at the basic level of the economic and living conditions crisis.

The vile quota system — or shall we be more accurate and call it the corruption system — is what forms the power base of the authority and its cronies in Lebanon and what drove it to the current impasse. Any serious attempt to deal with this impasse presupposes dismantling the sources of corruption. The power system itself must be dismantled and the rules of the political game changed to allow Lebanon to emerge from its deep crisis.

Ironically, Hezbollah has always been fighting its opponents in the process of controlling power in Lebanon by accusing them of being foreign agents and assets, even though it is itself the unequivocal arm of Iran in Lebanon and Nasrallah has unequivocally declared his allegiance to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whom he unabashedly called “the Hussein of his time.”

Hezbollah is looking for an external saviour instead of confronting corruption head-on and proceeding with required reforms to stop it and waste in the state. It solicits external help because it understands that stopping corruption and waste means the end of its power and spells the end of the equation it uses to extract power from its political allies and partners: unquestionable loyalty to Hezbollah in exchange for protection and a free hand to loot the country’s resources.

Begging help from abroad is the reality of Hezbollah’s position. It is betting that someone will come to Lebanon bearing gifts of financial and economic support, like a Santa Claus on Christmas Day bearing gifts for children. Hezbollah refuses to acknowledge there is a real Lebanese uprising that will not accept anything less than changing the rules of power and governance in Lebanon and that the Lebanese are convinced that a return to a situation like the one before October 17 is no longer possible.

It can’t understand that foreign powers, especially Washington and Paris, which had gone through the trouble of organising the CEDRE Conference to support Lebanon, are not in a position to give financial support to an authority that has lost the confidence of the people in terms of integrity and merit.

Hezbollah must understand that the desired change cannot be a formal or surface one, as it is trying to suggest by giving it another label or by forming a techno-political government that everybody knows would be a reproduction of the current government and of the rejected rules of the game.

All of this reflects the confusion of the authority in place and its inability to go along with the change expressed by the popular uprising. The people want to break the vicious cycle of the crisis represented by the authority, a crisis reflected in the divergence imposed by the system of interests between Hezbollah and Aoun. He is afraid that bringing back Hariri as prime minister, as Hezbollah insists, carries the risk of weakening himself, especially since Hariri insists on excluding Aoun’s son-in-law and apparent heir, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.

This is why Aoun’s cronies are clearly talking about the need to form a government without Hariri. The president and his camp stand to lose the most in this battle. The uncertain situation can cost them many Christian votes because it makes them look like vassals to Hezbollah.

On the other hand, Hezbollah wants to maintain its relationship and alliance with Aoun because of the Christian support he provides, even if this support is waning. Hezbollah has consumed all the energy it could harvest from its alliance with Aoun and his son-in-law and realises that cannot provide it with any foreign service, for, in the eyes of the Lebanese and of the international community, they have become more Catholic than the pope in their support of Hezbollah. Obviously, Hezbollah needs people whom the international community can listen to.

The foregoing represents the confusion that is reigning in Lebanon because it stems from Hezbollah’s bet that external equations and regional and international understandings can restore power in its own hands.

Hezbollah does not realise that Lebanon has started a new phase at all levels and that betting on foreign powers to save it from its crises is unproductive. The change in the rules of the game run by Hezbollah and the transition to new rules is inevitable. Rather than serve the mentality of the mini-state within the state, the new rules must be based on the rule of law and justice.