Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has now added a new component: “The army-people-resistance and the Syrian army.” Nasrallah’s addition to the standard form of words came in the context of the Lebanese army’s operation near Ras Baalbek against armed Daesh militants in a 200 sq km area on the border with Syria.
The Lebanese army insisted that it carried out the operation alone, and that there was no coordination with a simultaneous offensive by Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border. However, Hezbollah, through its media outlets and Nasrallah’s speech, contradicted the army and confirmed the existence of a military operations room with representatives from Hezbollah, the Syrian army and the Lebanese army; thus Nasrallah’s new form of words.
The truth is concealed from the public because there has been no serious, independent media coverage of military operations in the barren areas straddling the border. Lebanese media are limited to reporting official statements from Army Command, just as during the fighting around Arsal between Hezbollah and Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham, they were limited to reporting official statements from Hezbollah.
The result is that public opinion is divided along predictable lines. Some believe that the Syrian army and Hezbollah were indeed coordinating with the Lebanese army, while the March 14 supporters and others insist that the army alone can lead the fight to protect Lebanon’s borders. In fact, they say, Hezbollah should hand its weapons over to the Lebanese army, which has proved that it can succeed in the battle against terrorists.
Hezbollah’s attempt to add the Syrian military to its ‘army-people-resistance’ mantra is a cynical attempt to tie the fates of Lebanon and Syria together.
Despite the legitimacy of the call for the army to be solely responsible for Lebanon’s security and borders, and for weapons to be in the hands of the Lebanese army alone, everyone is grounding their stances on ambiguous data about the battle in the barrens. This ambiguity stems from the absence of accountability regarding what is truly happening, how the battle was fought and what parties have really been involved in it. The most important question should be about the roles of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime in bringing these armed militants inside the Lebanese borders in the first place, and why the Lebanese army was prevented from cleansing and liberating the region in the past. These are questions that are neither raised nor discussed.
All the political parties in Lebanon are looking forward to the aftermath of the eradication of Daesh from Lebanon. In fact, what is happening now is a contest to assume the mantle of leadership in the fight against Daesh, and therefore to benefit from the consequential rewards that will flow from the regional and international powers involved in the arena. In embarrassing the Lebanese government, and forcing it to restore relations with the Syrian regime, Nasrallah aims to create a shield or justification for the party’s involvement in Syria and its support for a regime that oppresses and kills its people, not to mention Hezbollah’s own role in that killing. Nasrallah’s addition of the Syrian army to the army-people-resistance nexus aims to restore the notorious association between the fates of Lebanon and Syria, and to sow further division. It jeopardizes Lebanon’s future for the sake of the regime that runs the Syrian war.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter @dianamoukalled