October 13 marked the day when General Michel Aoun, a former commander of the Lebanese army, fled to the French Embassy in Beirut. Although history does not repeat itself, a tragedy that affects Lebanon’s domestic situation is about to happen.
Divisions are widening and deepening in the country due to Hezbollah’s domination and its control of institutions and the army’s decision-making. Meanwhile the president, i.e. Michel Aoun, is biased toward Hezbollah even when it comes to international decisions.
Some of Aoun’s recent remarks reflected Hezbollah’s control over the decision making process of the state and army as he reiterated that Hezbollah is needed to deter Israel because the army’s power is not enough and claimed that Hezbollah has nothing to do with domestic affairs. Aoun also claimed that Lebanon is committed to the dissociation policy toward the Syrian crisis.
Iran may be interested in escalating the conflict to respond to Trump’s measures against it and in order not to be accused of being weakRadwan al-Sayed
Everyone knows that Hezbollah controls Lebanon through its militias’ power and that it is fighting in Syria alongside other Shiite militias! In addition to all this, there are the threatsm, which Israel and Hezbollah are exchanging. Israeli officials are saying that any future war will target all of Lebanon and not just Hezbollah while Nasrallah is saying that all of Israel will be threatened if it attacks Hezbollah in Lebanon.
There are also the increasing American sanctions against Hezbollah, which the US views as a terror group. This time, the sanctions do not only target Hezbollah and its practices but it directly targets Iran and the nuclear agreement. Since Hezbollah is a purely Iranian organization, it is normal for Iran to consider using it whenever it feels threatened.
A potential war
A potential war thus has the following interests to consider. First of all, Israel thinks Hezbollah’s power is growing in Syria and Lebanon and if war against Iran is unlikely then ending Iran’s links in Syria and Lebanon is preferable. The US may share this opinion with Israel.
Meanwhile, Iran may be interested in escalating the conflict to respond to Trump’s measures against it and in order not to be accused of being weak. Iranian officials said considering the Revolutionary Guards as a terror organization entails an overwhelming response.
Also read: Saudi minister says ‘international alliance needed’ to confront Hezbollah
Are these exchanged accusations credible? Both parties do not want war now, especially Nasrallah, but it may accidentally happen if one party does something and the other responds. Israel has struck Hezbollah’s bases and convoys in Syria and the Syrian regime, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah itself did not do anything.
What will Lebanon’s stance be if the war happens? If it happens, Aoun and Hariri cannot do anything but they could have done many things in the past months. Aoun could have kept silent regarding the South where Israel claims that Hezbollah is still operating in despite UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
The president could have shown the army as independent and efficient on the eastern borders with Syria but following the decision to fight ISIS, he opted for a ceasefire upon Nasrallah’s request.
Nasrallah is still claiming that he emerged victorious while the Lebanese state did not dare celebrate what it viewed as a victory for its army. This is why Lebanon and the decisions of its army and president looked like they are tools in Hezbollah’s hands.
Could the prime minister have done anything? He could have pressured the president to serve Lebanon’s interest of maintaining calm in the South where the front has been calm since 2006 after international troops deployed according to UN Resolution 1701. The prime minister could have objected to suspending the fighting against ISIS upon Nasrallah’s request.
However, instead of doing that, he summoned the general security chief and assigned him as a third party, in addition to Nasrallah and the president, in the deal between ISIS and Nasrallah and the Syrian regime. Nasrallah commended the president as he viewed him as a “patriot,” which is a great testament. However we do not know the type of the reward which Hariri received!
What’s dangerous now is that the situation is out of Lebanon’s hands as it’s in the hands of the Israelis, Iranians, Russians and Americans. This is what happened in 2006 when Iran engaged Lebanon in a war following Hezbollah’s raid against an Israeli patrol.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Radwan al Sayed is a Lebanese thinker and writer who attained a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Theology at al-Azhar University and a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Tübingen in Germany. He has been a scholar of Islamic studies for decades and is the former editor-in-chief of the quarterly al-Ijtihad magazine. Radwan is also the author of many books and has written for Arab dailies such as al-Ittihad, al-Hayat and ash-Sharq al-Awsat.