Aoun’s pro-Hezbollah stance increases risks for Lebanon

Every day that Hezbollah operates outside of Lebanon’s borders the danger grows.


2017/10/22 Issue: 128 Page: 5


The Arab Weekly
Rami Rayees



There is growing specu­lation in Lebanon as to how regional develop­ments might unfold and what this could mean for the country. As tensions ratcheted up between Washington and Teh­ran, many in Lebanon wondered if it would be Beirut that again pays the price.

This is hardly paranoia. The se­verity of the measures imposed by the Trump administration on Hez­bollah, a Lebanese political party and Iran’s strongest regional ally, provided ample cause for concern. There is no real indication US sanc­tions on Hezbollah will stop there or will grow to include the bank­ing sector, one of Lebanon’s few success stories, and other citizen-owned enterprises in Lebanon.

Tehran has been a vigorous supporter of Hezbollah’s growth in Lebanon since 1982, supplying it with arms and nurturing it until its military and political influ­ence stretched beyond Lebanon’s borders. Any doubts over this line were emphatically dispelled in 2011 when Hezbollah stepped away from its traditional role as a counter to Israel and threw itself into the Syrian civil war.

The so-called resistance axis (in­cluding Tehran, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah) that emerged from that bloody conflict has repeatedly championed its astounding victo­ries in the Syrian theatre and called for other parties within the region to base their foreign policy assump­tions on them and act accordingly.

Of course, the very concept of those astounding victories likely needs to be revisited and perhaps some time given to a death toll that stretches to half a million Syrian citizens and the displacement of more than 7 million within and beyond Syria.

Every day that Hezbollah oper­ates outside of Lebanon’s borders the danger grows. Sticking assidu­ously to an agenda written for it in Tehran, Hezbollah has been fierce in its condemnation of Saudi Arabia and its policies throughout the Mid­dle East. However, this localised rebellion looks soon to be checked, with every indication pointing towards a Saudi return to the Leba­nese political scene.

Riyadh recently invited senior Lebanese officials to visit, prob­ably to try to return to it a political balance that has been gradually shifting away from the kingdom for the last few years.

Within Lebanon, the country’s independent relations with regional powers that have been a bulwark against external aggression also look to be ending. As Hezbollah becomes more enmeshed in the Syrian war, so too do the assump­tions of the resistance axis that see the normalisation of relations with Damascus as Lebanon’s natural next step.

Once Beirut has aligned with Syr­ian President Bashar Assad, there will be few chances to retreat to the safer ground of past neutrality.

Pressure on Lebanon comes from within as much as from without. Lebanese President Michel Aoun, a strong ally of Hezbollah, has been defending the possession of the party’s weapons as a necessary as­pect of Lebanon’s defence, a policy that starkly contradicts Lebanon’s strategy of rebuilding the state apparatus as a means of confront­ing external threats. As a policy, it threatens to establish Lebanon as a legitimate military target and brings Beirut one step closer to the brink.

With that said, Israel never re­ally waited for a pretext to attack Lebanon during previous invasions (1978, 1982, 2003 and 2006). Still, the government’s support for Hez­bollah dovetails neatly with Israeli preconceptions of the country’s attitude towards it. Consequently, during any future invasion, there would be no need for Israel to differentiate between targeting Hezbollah or the various aspects of the Lebanese state not previously destroyed in past wars.

Until recently, Hezbollah’s pres­ervation of its second-strike ability against an Israeli incursion has appeared to work as more of deter­rent than a necessity. However, as US President Donald Trump em­barks on an aggressive new policy direction regarding both Iran and Israel, the risk to Lebanon and its people increases.

The circumstances are new; the situation is not. Lebanon remains at a crossroads. Will developments again reduce it to the condition of a battlefield or will some turn of fate allow it to continue upon its precarious, occasionally troubled, but still peaceful path?


Rami Rayess is editor-in-chief of Lebanese Al Anbaa Electronic Newspaper (anbaaonline.com) and spokesman for the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon.


As Printed
MENA Now
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi

Designers

Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved