Hasan Nasrala is flushed with victory
Hezbolah is attempting to get its point across in Lebanon through violence and has decided to abandon its low-intensity strategy of taking hostages and waiting, which it had employed up until now. The delivery of the corpses of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in exchange for Lebanese and Palestinian corpses and prisoners boosts Hezbolah’s image in the eyes of the Arab world, says the author. Read and find out why.
UNTIL THE LEBANESE state and army’s institutions are capable of neutralizing the militias causing the clashes that continue to devastate Lebanon, the formation of a new government, which Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is hoping for, will remain unrealizable.
Meanwhile, as was expected, and in agreement with the information that Western security and intelligence agencies have had for nearly a year, Hezbolah has handed over to Israel the corpses of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regav, the two soldiers whose capture brought about the initiation of the 2006 Lebanon War. The confirmation of the death of both soldiers, which was no secret, was confirmed by the Red Cross the very morning of the exchange.
Regarding the agreement that facilitated the exchange, there is no reason to object from the humanist point of view. However, from a strategic standpoint based on an analysis responsible for the future security of Israeli soldiers, we must ask ourselves whether or not the role that Ehud Olmert’s government has played with respect to never abandoning its soldiers and bringing them back home is correct, specifically when focusing on the future and the fate of the Israeli soldiers that will become prisoners of war.
“The insurrection carried out by Hezbolah upon invading Beirut and other towns in Lebanon this past May definitively established the Tehran regime’s ability to meddle in domestic Lebanese affairs” There have not been any myths in this agreement, but rather errors were confirmed, along with signals of weakness that may or may not be temporary, but that encourage terror in the region. The only myth that this exchange confirms is that Israel never abandons its men, dead or alive.
To the Arabs visibly flushed with victory in the streets and in the Islamist temples, what is clear is that Nasrallah, in a (for the moment) politically successful move against Olmert, who is fading and under-attack, has demonstrated that the Party of God does not abandon its own either, dead or alive, and chalked up another victory for the Arab world.
Besides, the insurrection carried out by Hezbolah upon invading Beirut and other towns in Lebanon this past May not only constituted another blow to the hope that a true democracy and sovereignty would be created in Lebanon, but it definitively established the Tehran regime’s ability to meddle in domestic Lebanese affairs, and it strengthened Hezbolah.
These events events also gave rise to a new political agreement, negotiated in Doha, Qatar, that allowed for the election of the Lebanese president after a long period of disagreement. Guidelines –although rather unrealistic and lacking institutionalism– were also set in Doha in order to address the formation of a national unity government, a new electoral law and the return to national dialog concerning the relations between the state and non-state players, especially Hezbolah.
A FATAL MISCALCULATION
“The government erroneously calculated that Hezbolah would not respond as it did in view of its decision in May” In reality, there is much speculation concerning the elements that were behind the government’s decision to fire Beirut airport’s (pro-Hezbolah) chief of security this past May, as well as decommission Hezbolah’s telecommunication networks. Remember that this is what unleashed the confrontations.
There are those who maintain that everything was part of a plan by Parliament member Saad Hariri’s followers. Others prefer to approach the problem as a demand by the Shi’a sector for a greater portion of power in the government.
“For the moment, Hezbolah is satisfied, since it has achieved its objectives” What is certain is that the government has been under pressure for quite some time to fulfill at least some of its international commitments to the containment of Hezbolah, and it erroneously calculated that the political terrorist group would not respond.
What is tragically important is that this miscalculation by the government regarding Hezbolah’s reaction caused bloody clashes between Sunnis and Shi’as in Beirut that have spilled over into various regions of the country, leaving nearly a hundred dead and more than three hundred injured.
THE OPPOSITION’S POLITICAL AND MILITARY STRATEGY
Hezbolah is now asking itself whether or not now is the right time to carry out a large scale operation that could run the risk of an open sectarian war which, without a doubt, would put its moral and ethical superiority in danger by once again taking up arms against the Lebanese themselves. But, for the moment, the organization is satisfied, since it has achieved its objectives to a large extent. “Hezbolah has abandoned its low-intensity policy towards the government, and it now hopes to get its point across through force, until a breaking point is reached”
Militarily, its militias have conquered and brought Beirut’s Sunni west under its control. The organization even rules beyond the southern suburbs, and it also controls the strategic highways to the south and east of Beirut –which were formerly dominions of Walid Jumblatt‘s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP)– and has reasserted its access to the airport and the maritime ports from the capital.
From a political point of view, Hezbolah has abandoned its low-intensity policy towards the government of taking hostages and waiting, and it now hopes to get its point across through force, until a breaking point is reached. In the process it hopes to rapidly achieve the formation of what we can denominate a new status quo in Lebanon. It has at its disposal the new president Michel Sleiman, who the organization proposed and helped put in power, it will have the power to block motions in the next government and it has established a clear, uncrossable line regarding any future negotiations on the political table with respect to the untouchability of its arms and operative communication and infrastructure.
WITH OR WITHOUT SYRIA
The number of Hezbolah’s funds proceeding from Iran has tripled in the last eight months. According to a statement (anonymous for security reasons) by a leading member of the Party of God released to the Al Jazzera agency’s web portal on June 29th, this is the result of two concerns: one is fear of an Israeli attack in the near future “By reviving Lebanon’s weak institutions, Hezbolah is attempting to convince it that its existence is necessary to protect the country from foreign aggression” (Hezbolah thinks that it will inevitably occur), and the other is concern over the Syrian-Israeli peace talks which, if successful, could leave Hezbolah without its principal supply connections into and out of Iran.
Syria, due to its rearmament, has been extremely important since the war of 2006, and it is of strategic importance for Lebanon to be able to count on its neighbor being on its side. But in view of the eventual loss of Syrian support, Hezbolah has covered for this possibility by reasserting its control over and access to the country’s airport and maritime ports. This is how Hezbolah will be able to survive a policy change in Damascus: The United States and Israel will no longer be able to ask Syria to hand over Hezbolah as part of any future peace treaty involving the Golan Heights, since the Syrian response will be that it no longer has influence over the organization, which is openly leaning towards Iran.
To a large degree, the survival of Hezbolah depends on the coverage provided by the Lebanese state and ordinary people in the country. On the other hand, by reviving Lebanon’s weak institutions, Hezbolah is attempting to install the idea that its existence is necessary to protect the country from foreign aggression. It will now be more difficult for Israel to launch a large scale attack against Hezbolah if the organization participates in the government and, at the same time, Nasrallah strengthens his place in what is seen more and more as an unstable Lebanese state headed by an internationally recognized president, with a pro-Western prime minister and a democratically elected parliament.
RETURNING TO THE POLITICAL PRAGMATISM OF THE PAST
It is very clear that Hezbolah has politically defeated both the United States and Saudi Arabia. However, “Although Doha gives strength to the appearance of a moderating approach to a solution to the regional crisis, it is obvious that Lebanon shows just how many internal contradictions exist in the West’s regional politics” when the Bush administration and the House of Saud observed that Hezbolah was limiting its demands and curbing its actions against the Western coalition backed bloc so that Siniora could continue to run the government, they opted to take advantage of the misfortune. The United States and Saudi Arabia applauded the Doha Agreement and the election of the new president, and the American Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, flew to Beirut to express Washington’s support for the president-elect and the Lebanese state. And this is how the Bush and Saudi Arabian administrations’ farce with respect to their politics in the Middle East continued, even though they knew that the Tehran regime is actually the one pulling the strings, and that Hezbolah is only a minor league player.
Qatar’s role in achieving a resolution, together with Turkey’s role in the mediation of talks between Syria and Israel, is an unmistakable sign of a return to pragmatism in political relations in the Middle East, no more and no less. It also shows the dead end alley in which the political ideology of the American administration has been trapped with respect to the underlying conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In spite of the fact that The Doha Agreement gives strength to the appearance of a moderating approach to a solution to the regional crisis, it is obvious that Lebanon shows just how many internal contradictions exist in the West’s regional politics.
The Doha Agreement, more than presenting illegal bad habits, could allow for a few months of relative calm. But until the Lebanese state is capable of controlling and subjecting the para-state militias to legal authority once and for all, and until it manages to rid itself of Iranian influence, it is not only improbable that Lebanon will achieve real stability, but it is also highly probable that, as in the 1980s, it will once again suffer from the effects of a confrontation that is not their own. Furthermore, the more than probable future collision between the United States, France, Germany and Israel and Iran over the nuclear controversy will surely affect the peace and security of the Lebanese citizens.