Will Camp David end Hezbollah?
Everything has a price in the bazar of politics, and Obama must please Israel
There are two parties standing against the agreement formula between the West and Iran regarding the Tehran’s nuclear program: Gulf Arab states and Israel. It’s certain that President Barack Obama will seek to present reassurances for each party. Yesterday, my column discussed Gulf objections to the matter. But what about Israel, the country harnessing the most influence on U.S. decisions? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently won the premiership seat for the third time in a row. Now Obama has to be more serious when dealing with him, after trying his luck and standing against Bibi before the elections. The White House won’t easily be able to pass bills in Congress on the final Iranian nuclear agreement without taking into account Israeli reservations.
Everything has a price in the bazar of politics, and Obama must please Israel. There are promises made by the U.S. administration to reinforce Israel’s defenses in order to guarantee that Tel Aviv continues to be superior over Iran and the region. Israel’s demands, which are more important to them than any weapons, will be to rearrange geopolitical surroundings that are of harm to its security and are linked to Iran.
Let’s recall that ever since the 1980s, Iran’s strategy has been confronting the West by forming proxies in the region to fight on its behalf and to be used to serve its own political aims. Lebanese party Hezbollah is the major proxy and there are Palestinian factions as well, among them Hamas. Proxies usually serve the Iranian agenda – for example, as part of Iran’s struggle with the U.S. and Britain during the 1980s, Hezbollah kidnapped American and British university teachers, clerics and spies. The most important task was to open a continuous war front via Lebanon to pressure Israel in order to serve Iranian aims. Most Israeli wars in Lebanon had nothing to do with the Lebanese people themselves. Lebanon was used as a battlefield because it was weak. This was first achieved via Palestinian organizations, but after the Palestinian Liberation Organization was exiled, the confrontation was naturalized via other parties, of which Hezbollah was a major one. The Iranians formed Hezbollah for that purpose. Although the commanders in Tehran and their allies have always raised the slogan of defending Palestine, they mostly played several roles in the regional struggle between Iran and its rivals.
Everything has a price in the bazaar of politics, and Obama must please IsraelAbdulrahman al-Rashed
I think there won’t be a Western-Iranian deal to end the 35-year-old state of war between them, without taking into consideration the issue of Iran’s proxies, and particularly Hezbollah and Hamas. I completely rule out a nuclear deal framework while allowing Iran to threaten Israel’s security directly on its borders. Therefore, there would be a need to cancel Hezbollah’s military assignment. I think Hezbollah’s command won’t hate the idea of no longer serving as an Iranian brigade against Israel. Despite the heavy propaganda, Hezbollah has suffered painful defeats in its wars against Israel due to an unequal balance of powers. Hezbollah had to tolerate these defeats because this was the nature of the proxy whose job is to stir trouble on behalf of Iran and tolerate losses that would be compensated for after each war.
We’ve recently seen how Hezbollah’s tasks varied as a result of the plurality of Iran’s regional wars, and Hezbollah had to send its sons to Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of Iran. After the nuclear agreement is signed, it’s expected that Lebanon’s wars with Israel will be over. However, we don’t know if Iran will continue to use Hezbollah in its current and upcoming wars. In this case, Hezbollah will continue to be a militia that lives off Iranian financial support, and Lebanon will therefore remain in a state of instability for years. Or the U.S. and its allies can pressure Iran within the context of the nuclear deal and the upcoming Camp David summit, thus obliging it to end the wars it had waged via its regional proxies – wars which are the major reason behind the lasting chaos.
There’s also Hamas, which like Hezbollah, has been for long linked to Syria’s and Iran’s interests and directives as it engaged in several wars against Israel and the Palestinian Authority in order to serve the two masters of Damascus and Tehran. There have always been complaints within Hamas against this connection with Iran; however, Hamas’ command always claimed there was a need for foreign support. But now due to recent developments, which include Iran’s end to antagonizing Israel and the new Egyptian regime considering itself in a confrontation against Hamas, the latter’s leaders are in a difficult situation and they have offered Israel a plan for a long-term 15-year truce. Of course they don’t call it peace but all peace treaties are in fact long-term truces. Israel may accept it because it would also help increase Palestinian divisions.
The American-Iranian agreement continues to be the most dangerous possible development. It will have several repercussions on the region and we don’t know whether they will be positive or negative as it will end a situation which has been the major reason behind most regional struggles which had first erupted at the start of the Iranian revolution.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 10, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.