Lebanon still looking for light at end of tunnel

Hezbollah can dig tunnels and improve its missiles all it wants. It won’t do Iran any good.
Sunday 09/12/2018
Israeli soldiers gather by an army vehicle across the concrete Lebanon-Israel border wall near the site of an Israeli excavation site, December 5. (AFP)
Israeli soldiers gather by an army vehicle across the concrete Lebanon-Israel border wall near the site of an Israeli excavation site, December 5. (AFP)

Why is Hezbollah digging tunnels between Lebanon and Israel? Does it really believe that a war between Lebanon and Israel could possibly end with a victory that would obliterate the “Zionist entity”?

Or is the whole affair about a message that Iran wants to send to the world? The message that Lebanon is a card in Iran’s hand and that it can use it as it pleases and that UN Security Council Resolution 1701, issued after the 2006 war, is the least of its concerns.

As long as the United States does not care whether Lebanon is an Iranian card, there is no Lebanese interest in undertaking such adventures as digging tunnels. These are adventures that only Israel can benefit from.

Lebanon officially denied the existence of the tunnels but, if they do exist, Hezbollah’s warrens and rockets can only be like Hamas’s tunnels in Gaza and its tragically ridiculous rockets, which have succeeded only in turning the victim into the executioner and the executioner into the victim.

It is not surprising that Israel would exploit the tunnels it discovered on the ceasefire line with Lebanon to tell the world that there is no state in Lebanon and that the real state there is Hezbollah, which is just a brigade of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The tunnels, despite official denials of their existence, are an expression of Lebanon’s deep crisis. There has been no government for seven months because of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s refusal to bow to “criteria” set by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, who is trying to establish new political conventions in the country.

So, after succeeding in imposing his candidate for president on the Lebanese, why should he not also impose his “criteria” for the composition of the government? That would mark the culmination of a major coup in Lebanon that began with the assassination of Rafik Hariri in 2005.

It seems there is a deliberate plan to confirm that Lebanon has become an Iranian colony and that there is no way a government could be formed without it first giving Tehran what it demands.

What Hezbollah, and, of course, Iran behind it, want to do in Lebanon is create a new reality. Quite obviously, the pro-Iran party wants to reap the fruits of Rafik Hariri’s assassination and, even before that, the fruits of extending the presidential term of Emile Lahoud despite the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

Israel’s public relations campaign regarding the tunnels and advanced rockets thrust Lebanon into a long dark tunnel that will be hard for it to get out of. Perhaps the most dangerous thing about these tunnels — if they exist — is that they reflect a level of hypocrisy that the country certainly does not need, especially amid its acute economic crisis.

What can be understood from Israel’s disclosure of the tunnels is that Lebanon has entered a new phase of slow escalation at a time when Iran simply cannot emerge victorious from its confrontation with US President Donald Trump. This is because Iran does not have the resources to go the full length of the game to end this confrontation, especially if the US administration escalates its economic sanctions on Iran.

Therefore, this affair of rockets and tunnels will amount to no good. It can only turn out to be disastrous for Lebanon.

The situation is reminiscent of what happened with the Palestinians in Lebanon when some Sunni Muslim Lebanese thought they could use them for more political gains in Lebanon.

This is what the late Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt believed. He did not realise from the start that his bets on the Palestinians to break the political clout of the Maronite Christians were ill-conceived.

Both factions of the Sunni Muslim and Druze communities thought they could use the Syrian regime’s ambitions in Lebanon to their advantage. This was when there was no awareness in the Christian community — except in the case of Raymond Edde of course — of the dangers represented by the Syrian regime’s and Hafez Assad’s ambitions.

The latter was the real source of Syria’s current crisis. In any case, he was behind the idea of creating armed militias to fight the Palestinians inside Lebanon and in Beirut especially.

Why does Hezbollah insist on repeating the mistakes of those who preceded it in wanting to control Lebanon? It is probably due to unchecked sectarian instincts on the one hand and the absence of precise calculations on the other.

Hezbollah’s and Iran’s calculations are wrong because Lebanon cannot be used as a playing card in Iran’s confrontation with the United States. Hezbollah and Iran should know that the Syrian regime has been discarded in the dustbin of history and that its hatred for Lebanon and the Lebanese cannot be translated on the ground. It cannot be done by appointing a cabinet minister representing “Hezbollah’s Sunnis” or by a clown whose mission is to perpetuate the blackmailing operation started by Syrian intelligence officer Rustom Ghazaleh.

Hezbollah can dig tunnels and improve its missiles all it wants. It won’t do Iran any good.

It can, however, damage the interests of Lebanon’s Shias, many of whom bet heavily on Hezbollah in the past. Pretty soon, these Shias will discover that a prosperous Lebanon is their only haven and that there is not a ruling majority in Lebanon but just minorities.

In the meantime, what can one do with an Iranian party that believes winning over and destroying Lebanon is a substitute for victory over Israel?