Iran’s guardianship is smothering Lebanon’s politics

Hezbollah believes that the current balance of power does not permit any rebellion against Tehran and its arm in Lebanon.
Sunday 09/12/2018
Complex agenda. Religious figures listen to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as he addresses his supporters via a screen in Nabatiyeh, November 10. (Reuters)
Complex agenda. Religious figures listen to Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as he addresses his supporters via a screen in Nabatiyeh, November 10. (Reuters)

Forming the new Lebanese government has become subject to whatever Hezbollah decides. This is a true reflection of the guardianship exercised by Iran over the country’s affairs.

When Lebanon was under Syrian guardianship, the government was decided in Damascus. With Iranian guardianship now, the decision and the process came from “the suburb” (Hezbollah’s headquarters). Iran simply will not allow any government to be formed in Lebanon if it is not in line with the mood of the regime in Tehran.

The equation is simple and expected, even for those political parties that are supposed to oppose Hezbollah. What is surprising, however, is that the parties act as if they are stunned by the emergence of a political knot called “representing the Sunni members of parliament loyal to Hezbollah in the next government.” Suddenly, these parties have opened their eyes to the stubborn persistence of Hezbollah and the other instruments of Iran’s guardianship to have their way in Lebanon’s government.

It was within the framework of this guardianship, and nothing else, that the notorious presidential compromise was completed. Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces had reconciled with Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement and even Saad Hariri’s Future Movement ended up by agreeing to Aoun’s nomination for the presidency. It all happened because Hezbollah’s influence dictates, even to its opponents, their manoeuvres.

The future of Tehran’s tutelage over Lebanon will be determined by what will be taboo or available to Iran in the Middle East.

Until then, Iran, and therefore Hezbollah, will not facilitate the birth of Hariri’s government in accordance with purely Lebanese balances blessed by the major political players in the country.

From time to time, Hezbollah reminds Lebanese political elites who the boss is in Lebanon and, from time to time, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah makes a fleeting appearance and unleashes a storm that sweeps away the elites’ consensuses and agreements. After that, the Lebanese must reset their time to Tehran’s time. They will never be allowed to face the world with a legitimate constitutional front as long as Iran and Hezbollah face threats to Iran’s role in the Middle East and Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon and Syria.

It has become common knowledge that Hezbollah’s stifling efforts are a sign of its desire to overturn the 1989 Taif Agreement and move towards a tripartite constitution in Lebanon between Christians, Sunnis and Shias rather than the current bilateral one between Muslims and Christians.

The party does not seek to strengthen its role by strengthening the influence of the Shia community in the sectarian mosaic in the country. Hezbollah’s ambitions in Lebanon go beyond the interests of the Shias in Lebanon. It has penetrated the spaces of Christians, Sunnis and Druze and driven the political class to produce a weird elections law that miraculously matches the party’s complex agenda for Lebanon.

Hezbollah is harvesting the fruits of a process that began shortly after its inception in the early 1980s. It has done everything and committed all sorts of misdeeds to confirm its superiority over the Lebanese.

An international tribunal is trying suspects from the party in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. That crime was the heart of the party’s plan for changing Lebanon’s political and social structure.

When Nasrallah stepped to the microphone and chided the country’s politicians, dignitaries and clerics, he aimed to remind anyone naive enough to believe that Lebanon was a sovereign state with the freedom to move internationally at the CEDRE conference in Paris or locally by engaging in deliberations between the three branches of government of who the decision maker is in Lebanon.

Accordingly, whoever wants to form a government in Lebanon must submit to the will of Hezbollah’s headquarters in the suburb, exactly like it was previously done with Damascus.

Lebanon stands to sustain great losses and the government crisis will deepen the suffering of the Lebanese but that is no concern of Hezbollah’s nor is it its job or priority.

Hezbollah believes that the current balance of power, which Hezbollah wants to establish and consider final in Lebanon as well as in the region, does not permit any rebellion against Tehran and its arm in Lebanon.

So, and judging by experience, the party’s presumed rivals have only the prayers of Lebanon’s international friends to oppose to Hezbollah’s military might.

Lebanon may find some relief in the US administration’s campaign against Iran.

However, Lebanon cannot afford to wait for the outcome of that tug of war nor does it have a guarantee that the deal Washington wants to conclude with Tehran will consider its interests. Lebanon might end up paying a high price in this deal, just as it paid in the deal concluded by Washington with Hafez Assad’s Syria.