Why Lebanon’s problems serve the interests of Hezbollah

Lebanon will go on in 2019 being the ultimate prey of Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah.
Sunday 06/01/2019
Activists argue with a Lebanese army officer during a protest against the  failure of rival political factions to agree on forming a new government, December 23. (dpa)
A country in disarray. Activists argue with a Lebanese army officer during a protest against the failure of rival political factions to agree on forming a new government, December 23. (dpa)

2018 did not bring Lebanon any relief from its many crises. With the dawn of the new year, there doesn’t seem to be any indication of a strong will on the part of Lebanese authorities to seriously deal with the political, economic and social problems plaguing the country.

Parliamentary elections took place last May in Lebanon after a delay of about five years. Eight months after the elections, Lebanon is still without a government.

The CEDRE Conference for Lebanon, a month before the election, garnered about $12 billion in aid and soft loans to help the country get out of its repetitive crises. Yet, nobody in the circles of power seems to care about the risk of having the results of the conference revoked for non-compliance with the reform requirements of the donors.

Regarding Syrian refugees, Lebanon has sought the help of international institutions and the world’s major powers. The performance of the political authorities has not been credible because of the Lebanese government’s inability to show diligence in dealing with the issue and its many associated problems.

Lebanese authorities were unable to uphold the official policy of keeping away from the Syrian crisis or to ensure the return of displaced Syrians to their homes, particularly in areas controlled by Hezbollah along the border with Syria.

Israeli threats to Lebanon have seemingly intensified. There was an escalation in the tension between the two countries that culminated with the exposure by Israel of the tunnels running under the Lebanese-Israeli border. A UN report confirmed the existence of the tunnels but Hezbollah observed an unusual silence about them.

Israel exploited the misdeed diplomatically and politically to the fullest while Lebanon confined itself to sending an official complaint to the United Nations about Israeli violations of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

What was strange about the incident was Hezbollah’s eerie silence. Hezbollah has never missed a chance to kick up a storm about the slightest Israeli action and used it to consolidate its dominance of the Lebanese state. This time Hezbollah was mute.

It had always made a big fuss about the Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms, without necessarily acting to liberate them. Now, the party seems to have forgotten about them. No clamour and no action.

It provided comfort to Israel by remaining in Syria and undermining the position of the Lebanese state. Every day we learn a bit more about how vulnerable Hezbollah has made the Lebanese state by limiting its scope of actions and by offering Israel military and security excuses to threaten Lebanon.

It seems that political division is what has prevented the formation of a new government in Lebanon but igniting divisiveness is one of the basic tools used by Hezbollah to control the state apparatus.

Let’s not forget that the impression that Hezbollah adamantly wants to create is that the Lebanese state is weak and therefore cannot be a normal state and that the abnormal existence of Hezbollah as a rogue military force in Lebanon is necessary to mitigate the repercussions of having a weak state. Naturally, Hezbollah does not wish for the Lebanese state to regain full control of the country because that would wipe out the justification for its existence.

By constantly harassing the state’s sovereignty in Lebanon, Hezbollah controls the various power mechanisms in the country to the point that it is difficult to imagine an important decision being made in Lebanon without Hezbollah being the one making it, regardless of whether that decision was related to security or politics or even the economy and finance.

Hezbollah is keen on preventing the existence of a genuine opposition. Any had to be loyal to it and only it. This is why Hezbollah insists on starting the tradition of having a government of national unity to ensure the participation in the government of most of the political forces in the country, as long as Hezbollah remains the actual decision maker.

To this end, it is OK from Hezbollah’s point of view to disrupt the work of the major political forces in the country and hold them accountable to its decisions, albeit on behalf of the government.

Through this game, Hezbollah obstructs any chance for a genuine opposition. Using money and weapons, it completes its control any force in the country that presents itself as belonging to the opposition. All opposition in Lebanon can oppose everything except Hezbollah. In recent street protests against deteriorating economic conditions, Hezbollah made sure to inject its followers among the demonstrators to appear to be an opposition force.

Hezbollah wants to be in the government to control this government and it wants to be in the opposition to control this opposition. It wants to control even the possibility of an opposition. The party wants to prevent the establishment of an official Lebanese authority because, without the existence of this authority, Hezbollah can grow and expand its control.

Lebanon will go on in 2019 being the ultimate prey of Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. It stands to be a consolation prize for Hezbollah and Iran for the loss they are likely to suffer in Syria as a result of international and regional pressures to weaken Tehran’s clout there.

Lebanon could be paying a double price, one for Hezbollah’s misadventure in Syria and a second for its dangerous return from there.