What’s next for blacklisted Hezbollah?

Hazem al-Amin
Hazem al-Amin
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In all likelihood, attempts by Lebanon’s March 8 coalition to find a Lebanese sponsor for the EU's decision to blacklist Hezbollah's military wing failed.

And so, there was a rapid decrease in the coalition's attempts to employ vengeful rhetoric; rhetoric similar to that used by the Syrian regime when it confronted the Lebanese people on the issue of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 (which demanded the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon in 2004) and rhetoric which was crowned with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Hezbollah itself is in fact the Lebanese sponsor of the European decision to blacklist Hezbollah. The decision must have a Lebanese sponsor. The need for a sponsor is just like when the Syrian regime was the Lebanese and the Syrian sponsor of Resolution 1559 - issued in 2005 stipulating the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and disarmament of militias.

It is also probable that the decision to "protect Syria," is what initiated the European decision and speeded up the process of its completion. The ease at which Hezbollah announced the beginning of fighting in Damascus was surprising, because it implied an ignorance of the repercussions of the party's decision. Or perhaps, it inferred that the party does not care about these repercussions. Hezbollah is an official party represented in economic, national and social committees. Its public announcement to participate in fighting in a neighboring country is a precedent that lacks insight towards possible outcomes.

Shall we recall how Syrian president Bashar al-Assad insisted on extending the term of former Lebanese president Emile Lahoud? Back then, the picture was clear. The decision challenged an international rejection. The decision also represented a contradiction of a Syrian tendency to step away from the brink at the last second. This was a tactic adopted by Assad's administration towards regional issues. Back then, some analyzed that the decision to extend Lahoud's term was not Syrian, but Iranian, because Tehran can dance on the dance floor in Lebanon and Syria but not on its extremities like former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad used to do. Tehran can also gamble with its smaller partner, Bashar al-Assad. This is what it really did. So, it was the beginning of the end for the little-experienced president. On the other hand, it was the beginning for a type of new and direct Iranian influence.

What does Hezbollah's transformation into a group unable to manage its affairs in politics and regional and international relations mean?

Hazem al-Amin

Something similar to this is currently happening with Hezbollah. The decision to officially engage in the fighting in Syria was announced after a photograph revealing the meeting between Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was published. Many events beginning with Gulf decisions linked to Hezbollah and its social, economic and political aspects and ended with the European decision that came after the party's announcement of its decision to fight. In addition, tension reigned over Hezbollah's relations with its Sunni "brothers" from Arab and non-Arab religious groups.

The fighting in Syria impacted the international decision. Let's compare the situation with the regime in Syria in 2005 and the situation with Hezbollah after the Gulf and European decisions were made. Back then (in 2005), a fissure ended international protection of the Assad regime. At the same time, Tehran moved from a phase of indirect influence to direct influence, particularly in Lebanon and Syria; although, its influence in the latter at that time was less than that in Lebanon.

The upcoming phase

What does Hezbollah's transformation into a group unable to manage its affairs in politics and regional and international relations mean? What does the party's role, limited to the military task in Syria, in addition to Lebanese maneuvers, which are insignificant in the regional scene, really mean?

Predicting the upcoming phase is probably linked to answering these questions. Previous analyses have overlooked Hezbollah's rise following the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and what this means on the level of the Iranian regime's direct and daily presence in all Lebanese details.

Since politics occurs within contexts, one must not overrule that Tehran is behind extending Lahoud's term and has therefore got involved in an adventure which results it did not calculate. As a result, Tehran is directly engaged in politics within Syria and Lebanon. Tehran is pushing Hezbollah to formally announce its participation in the Syrian conflict. This recent adventure raises possibilities of compromise over a partnership in the future of a new regime in Syria in exchange of compromise over its Lebanese influence.

Hezbollah's move to announce its participation in Syria's fighting, along with the huge prices paid for this announcement, must not be measured according to the announcement's repercussions on the party and on Lebanon's Shiite population in general. It should be measured according to the influence Tehran gains from it. Hezbollah can aid the Syrian regime in making a shallow victory, as it did in the border town of Qusayr. But this does not mean that Hezbollah has the capability to influence events in a country the size of Syria. The party's fighting in Homs did not yield the same results as in Qusayr. There's no sign of its limited number of fighters in Aleppo. The task of "protecting shrines" in Damascus does not have a substantial field value. Therefore, participating in the fighting has tasks and the situation in the field is not the top priority.

The question is what comes next for Hezbollah?

This vision of the crisis does not claim it is decisive in its interpretation of the move of involving Hezbollah in the fighting in Syria; a move crowned with an official announcement of this participation and that in turn created fissures within Hezbollah and made it pay huge economic, social and humanitarian prices. These prices are unjustifiable considering the size of the field consequences resulting from this participation. This is only an attempt to remember an incident with a similar political approach. The regime in Syria was dragged into an international confrontation in 2005 - a confrontation that Tehran harvested its gains and the Syrian regime paid the price for. So, what is next if we are confronting similar possibilities?

This article was first published in al-Hayat newspaper on July 28, 2013.

Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon's most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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