Reminders of the July war
Eleven years after Israel’s July war against Lebanon, there is talk of a new war between Israel and Hezbollah. Israel is worried about the Iraqi-Iranian axis backed by Russia. Hezbollah, despite all its threats, knows that Israel will not refrain from targeting any region in Lebanon, even if that leads to Lebanon’s destruction. So far, the Lebanese-Israeli border has been calm for the past 11 years, with only limited violations.
Hezbollah has paid the price of the Arab Spring, as its position has drastically changed since 2011. It has shifted from a party that garnered Arab compassion in the context of its conflict with Israel, to a doctrinal party that defends Iran’s regional role. Hezbollah has always been a facade for Iranian projects, but this was concealed by the Arab-Israeli conflict, through which it succeeded in presenting itself to Arab public opinion as a rare success story against Israel.
Today, Hezbollah’s status quo is lamentable. It can no longer garner the compassion of Arabs, who are now tormented by many crises; the conflict with Israel ranks last in their list of concerns. Moreover, the task entrusted to Hezbollah — to annoy Israel — was undermined after the 2006 war; no matter what was said about Hezbollah being victorious, the war ended the party’s role on the border as the southern front was covered by international resolutions.
Hezbollah has since turned its back on the southern border and embarked on its Lebanese adventures. As soon as the war ended, its supporters occupied Beirut Central District. Its militants invaded the city in May 2008, overthrowing Saad Hariri’s government, assigning the prime ministry to its new ally Najib Miqati, and carrying on its plot to control Lebanon.
Eleven years later, Hezbollah has lost much of what it considered as assets. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah no longer addresses anyone outside the sectarian mood he represents.
Regarding Syria, Hezbollah believes that any regime change there will reflect on its position in Lebanon, so it has decided to defend the Syrian regime at all costs. Eleven years after the July war, Hezbollah has lost much of what it considered as assets. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah no longer addresses anyone outside the sectarian mood he represents.
So the intimidating talk of war is merely a storm in a teacup. The balance of power in this possible confrontation does not appear to be in Hezbollah’s favor, especially as it is fighting in Syria. But the balance established by Israel on its border with Syria is more effective than that established on its border with Lebanon. It carries out raids anytime it wants, which is not the case elsewhere, and it is establishing intelligence relations with the Russians there. Moreover, in southern Syria there is a front controlled by international strings that do not allow any party, including Daesh, to make a move beyond the rules of the game.
Hezbollah is the decision-maker on various levels in Lebanon. Short of the party waging war, the consequences for Lebanon will likely be limited to economic sanctions. But this will still hurt as any economic activity can be linked to Hezbollah or its allies. When added to the fragility of the political and civil situations, the consequences of economic sanctions will not be less than those of a direct war. Hezbollah’s regional role is in Syria, not Lebanon.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.