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Hezbollah continues ‘absolute dominance’ of Lebanon amid domestic political crisis

Tony Badran
28th November 2017 - Quoted by Ariel Ben Solomon - Jewish News Service

The Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah, which makes up part of Lebanon’s government and has a strong military force that threatens neighboring Israel, is seemingly unaffected by the status of embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Amid Beirut’s political squabbling, Hezbollah retains de facto control over much of the Lebanese state.

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“The Hariri episode changes absolutely nothing in terms of the balance of power and Hezbollah’s absolute dominance of the Lebanese state,” Tony Badran, a Lebanon expert and research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, told JNS.org.

Badran said nothing about the events surrounding Hariri changes the outlook for Israel, which “sees no distinction between Lebanon and Hezbollah.”

“The one thing of note in the whole affair is that Saudi Arabia now shares this assessment, that Hezbollah is the state,” he said.

An anti-Hezbollah coalition in Lebanon?

According to Badran, there is no meaningful anti-Hezbollah coalition in Lebanon, with Hariri illustrating that point.

“Hariri’s return to the premiership a year ago was the result of a complete capitulation to Hezbollah—a surrender evidenced by the list of concessions on virtually everything, from the presidential election to the cabinet formation to judicial, security and administrative appointments, to the parliamentary election law and so on,” said Badran. 

“That Hariri is walking back his resignation is only evidence that his position in Lebanon is entirely dependent on Hezbollah,” he said.

Hariri’s return to Lebanon followed weeks of speculation over his whereabouts. It was unclear whether or not the Saudis had forced Hariri to resign and were holding him under house arrest. 

Badran said Hariri’s vacillation on his resignation decision underscores his effective break with Saudi Arabia.

“However, Hezbollah will not have failed to notice that Europe and the U.S. appear invested in maintaining Hariri as the fig leaf for a pro-Iran order in Beirut,” he said.

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Asked about the likelihood of a fresh conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, Parker responded, “Israel is not going to go out of its way to hit Beirut while the Saudis’ man is in Beirut trying to counter Hezbollah.”

But he speculated that if Hariri resigns or is killed, “it makes a conflict with Israel more likely.”

Badran, on the other hand, said the Hariri issue has no direct bearing on the dynamics that could lead to a war with Israel.

US policy on Lebanon

Badran criticized America’s Lebanon policy, which is premised on strengthening state institutions. The U.S. argument “is that doing so, over time, somehow undermines Hezbollah,” explained Badran.

“The policy makes no sense, since Hezbollah controls the state and its institutions—strengthening them strengthens Hezbollah,” he said. 

The U.S. “should reconfigure its approach entirely,” Badran argued. American support for Lebanon, he said, “should be conditioned on the Lebanese Armed Forces taking action against Hezbollah and the militias in its orbit.”

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Tags

gulf-states, hezbollah, iranian-proxies, israel, lebanon, saudi-arabia