Tension mounts in Lebanon

Nicholas Noe (co-founder of Mideastwire.com) writes at Foreign Policy:

With the announcement from Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah this week that Hizbullah members may be indicted for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Raifk Hariri, one thing is now (publicly) clear, no matter what one may think about the integrity of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL): the militant Shiite party is both angry and concerned. Of course, this isn’t a wholly new development: the party has apparently been preparing for just such an eventuality at least since the summer of 2006 when the first media reports began circulating in this regard (interestingly, in Hizbullah’s analysis, these reports came just after Israel found itself unable to smash its bitter enemy in open battle during the July War).

At that time, and over the intervening years, the party was genuinely fearful that an STL indictment against it — for the murder of the leading Sunni in the country — might be added to an already formidable, though not insurmountable, “Cedar Revolution” cocktail of threats and weaknesses pressed by its many domestic, regional and international opponents. Indeed, more than the danger of another Israeli assault, it can be said that Hizbullah felt existentially threatened at the time by the prospect of an open civil war, aided and abetted by outside powers and fought along sectarian lines (mainly Sunni-Druze vs. Shiite). Hizbullah had learned, and painfully so, that its ultimate fight against Israel could not be properly conducted in times of internal bloodshed — such as during the Amal-Hizbullah engagements of the late 1980s — and that an STL indictment during a period of already high sectarian tension could tip the balance.

Now, however, the party has reached a fundamentally different — and more secure — position of political, diplomatic and military power, not to mention ideological coherence. Which is precisely why one should not over-emphasize Hizbullah’s concern vis-à-vis the STL’s current (purported) track — unless you are a partisan and/or polemicist and have a stake in shaping the course of the fight.

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One thought on “Tension mounts in Lebanon

  1. Joseph Elias

    The tension in Lebanon goes way beyond Hezbollah and the “STL.” Lebanon is under pressure due to pro- and ant-Israeli parties. The pro-Israeli party is usually identified as the “pro-West” or “pro-US” side. But, the West and the US have a proven track record of not doing anything that runs contrary to the desires of Israel. Two examples will suffice. When Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 to defeat the PLO because of the attempted assassination of its ambassador, it was publicly known that Arafat’s organization was not responsible. However, Israel wanted a war to attack the PLO and used this as an excuse. The US acted as Israel’s agent by permitting Israel to exceed Tel Aviv’s own line of limitation to reach Beirut. Then, the US acted as Israel’s aid by preventing the UN or anyone else to halt Israel’s weeks of bombardment of West Beirut. The second example is the 2006 war when the US gave unconditional diplomatic support as Israel bombed Lebanon’s infrastructure. The US has never acted contrary to what Israel desires in Lebanon. The anti-Israel parties are the ones who find themselves the targets of the US and Israel. The two major parties are Iran and Syria. Both have been targeted by the US for “regime change.” They both fear being attacked by Israel. They both suspect the US would also launch attacks as well. Because of Israel’s desire to act as hegemon of the Middle East, the US would not try to reach an agreement with Iran that would keep it as a potential balance to Israel, nor push Israel to end its war with Syria by reaching a comprehensive treaty. Lebanon could well be the battleground again for another war by proxy.

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