Lebanon must reclaim its sovereignty from Hezbollah
The Israeli military on Saturday announced it had shot down three unmanned aircraft launched by Hezbollah toward an area of the Mediterranean Sea where an Israeli gas platform had recently been installed. The platform is in a contested area that is the center of a legal feud between Lebanon and Israel. This feud is about the delimitation of sea borders and, ultimately, each country’s share of offshore gas resources.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his foreign minister carefully criticized Hezbollah’s action as counterproductive but did not go as far as condemning it. Most political forces stayed silent on this military operation emanating from Lebanese territory and, most probably, no one was informed.
This is another prime example of Iranian proxy Hezbollah launching a military reconnaissance operation beyond the country’s borders and putting the entire country at risk. It also brings forward the question of why Israel should continue negotiating with Lebanon when Hezbollah calls the shots. Despite the declarations by Lebanese officials of good progress, this military mission was still conducted. How can this be? How can we continue accepting state sovereignty being shattered in this manner?
I condemn this action by Hezbollah. I condemn it because it is another knife in the back of Lebanese sovereignty before being anything else. The lie that Hezbollah wants you to believe is that “the immediate objective should be to prevent the enemy from extracting oil and gas from the Karish gas field,” as claimed last week by the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah. In reality, it is all linked to Iranian regional activity and applying pressure and sending a message to the US and the regional powers. It can be added to the provocations by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ speedboats harassing US Navy ships a fortnight ago. The message here is, as always, that they have the capacity to bring chaos to the region.
Hezbollah, just as in 2006, has put the entire Lebanese state in danger while politicians look the other way. If Lebanon does not want to pursue negotiations with Israel on the border, then it is up to the Lebanese state to move forward, not Hezbollah. Once again, Iran and Hezbollah use this excuse to advance their agenda in the region and, as a bonus, silence everyone in shame. The worst part is that none of the voices that claimed to be fighting for sovereignty dared condemn this action. Why? Because they will be accused of being pro-Israeli and siding with the enemy. This is all lies and false accusations.
Hezbollah knows it will not stop the Israelis from moving forward in its gas extraction activities or that it will disrupt the negotiations. Hezbollah also knows it will allow Israel to use such actions against Lebanon, just as the trip of new Prime Minister Yair Lapid to Paris revealed. In short, it disrupts the Lebanese proposals in the indirect talks with Israel.
The entire Lebanese political system is heading toward complete disintegration.
Khaled Abou Zahr
These activities by Hezbollah are simply playing along with the Iranian agenda while it is facing off with the negotiating teams regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal. It is no surprise this happened right after the Doha talks, following which US officials stated that the chances of a deal had deteriorated. Not surprisingly, and in contradiction, Iran considered that these talks went well. It is all part of the usual tactics used by the Iranian regime.
It is quite easy for Hezbollah to take this action with total impunity, as the entire Lebanese political system is heading toward complete disintegration. Lebanon is also in complete economic and social chaos. The country is in the middle of consultations over the formation of a new government, meaning there is once again only a caretaker prime minister. It really seems like Lebanon has had more time with a caretaker PM than an actual one. This is also a game of humiliation of all official institutions by Hezbollah, which brings the entire state down.
Lebanon will probably still have a caretaker PM when the mandate of the president ends in October. And then what? Will Michel Aoun be sworn in for a new mandate while a caretaker PM still runs around trying to put together a consensus government? Or will political forces block this?
The fact that groups opposed to Hezbollah have enough seats but are unable to agree to put a government in place tells the rest of the story. And so, regardless of all speculation, nothing will change, as they do not call the shots. They have all become a caretaker political force, while Hezbollah handles all political, social and military policy. How can this continue?
There is an absence of political will and the capacity to face the hegemony and constant humiliation from Hezbollah. The ones capable of doing so have been eliminated or silenced. How can politicians stay silent amid these military activities that put the entire country at risk? Where are the voices of the new MPs? Isn’t this sufficient reason to put differences aside and form a strong opposition government, or will they follow the steps of the legacy political actors? They stood silent when Hezbollah sent forces to kill Syrians. They stood silent when they sent forces to train Iraqi militias and take part in combat.
It is high time for Hezbollah to be held accountable for its actions and for the country’s sovereignty to be restored. This starts with restoring the Lebanese state’s power over decisions of war and peace.
• Khaled Abou Zahr is CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.