How will a Hezbollah-backed government affect the State of Israel?

The government, the parliament, the president all are no more than a mask which covers the real face of Lebanon, the face of Hassan Nasrallah

Rachel Avraham

OpEds Hassan Nasrallah
Hassan Nasrallah

Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, noted, “Two arenas have reached a boiling point recently,” both in Iraq and Lebanon.  According to recent media reports, Hezbollah and its allies have agreed to the formation of a new government in Lebanon under Prime Minister Hassan Diab.  However, although this is supposed to be a government of technocrats that will determine the future of Lebanon, the pivotal role that Hezbollah played in forming this government undermines its credibility.  This in turn adversely affects the Iraqi protesters' struggle and Israel’s security interests, as it means Hezbollah is now further entrenched within Lebanon.  

However, it looks as though the Lebanese people will not accept this situation silently.    

“The Lebanese protests have been high profile in recent days and there have been unprecedented roadblocks, which includes a violent clash with Security Forces that responded harshly to the protesters,” Safadi noted.  “It appears that we are facing a turnaround to a degree that persists as the demonstrators continue on the path to a civil war, which is a point they are trying to avoid so long as the protesters demands are met, but Hezbollah will not relinquish control and neither will its main allies Michael Aoun and Jubran Basil. This is where a collision is inevitable.”

“It is important to note that Hezbollah has not yet taken its supporters to the street to suppress the protests and what we have seen to date has been very limited activity,” Safadi stressed.  “But as soon as he loses control, Nasrallah will deliver a speech in order to rally his forces to the street.  In such a situation, the military is expected to back the demonstrators and so will the Druze and the supporters of Samir Geagea, but the question remains, which side will Hariri take, given that recently his position was juxtaposed with that of Hezbollah and he colluded with their interests, thus renouncing his commitment to the Saudi government?”

How can someone like Nasrallah have any influence in Iraq, especially when he can’t leave his bunker and travel there?
It should be emphasized that Hariri and his Future Movement are not part of this new Lebanese government.  Neither is the anti-Hezbollah Christian Lebanese Forces Party and the Progressive Socialist Party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.  Such a reality significantly undermines the new government, which is why the protesters have not left the Lebanese streets. 

Furthermore, it will be hard for this government to convince members of the international community to financially support Lebanon when an internationally recognized terror organization has played such a prominent role in the formation of the new government. This reality will further strengthen the resolve in the Lebanese street to protest, as the Lebanese people now demand that their economic problems be solved.   

Prominent Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar stated: “From the military point of view, Hezbollah brought Lebanon to wars which other sectors did not want especially the 2006 war with Israel and in 2014, Hezbollah entered into the Syrian Civil War.  These wars brought about significant damage to the Lebanese economy.   Every Lebanese person paid heavily the price of these wars, even if they opposed them.  Secondly, the political situation in Lebanon is due to the threat that Hezbollah as an organization poses as the master of the state.  Its armed units are stronger than the Lebanese Army. They are not bound by the law. They do in Lebanon whatever they want.” 

However, at the same time, Kedar does not think that anyone in Lebanon is brave enough “to challenge the hegemony which is exercised by Hezbollah.   Therefore, Lebanon turned from a multi-group regime to a regime controlled by one group, the Shias.  In order to persuade the elites to submit to Shia hegemony, Hezbollah gave the elites monopolies, and this is the source of corruption in Lebanon, which the people are demonstrating against.”

“Therefore, these demonstrations are against the political structure which became the only cover to the fact that Hezbollah controls all aspects of Lebanon,” Kedar noted.  “The government, the parliament, the president all are no more than a mask which covers the real face of Lebanon, the face of Hassan Nasrallah.   They want to remove this mask by dismissing the government and by bursting the parliament. They want to change their situation altogether, meaning to get rid of the rule of Hezbollah and implicitly the Iranian influence on domestic Lebanese issues. This is actually what pushes people to the street.”  

The question remains, how does all of this affect the Iraqi protest movement?  Hezbollah terror leader Hassan Nasrallah has already stated that he seeks a more active role in Iraqi politics following the elimination of Al Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani. In fact, the new Al Quds Force Deputy Commander Mohammed Hejazi was Iran’s missile man in Lebanon, who worked with Hezbollah in order to improve the precision of their missiles.  However, just because Nasrallah seeks to get involved in Iraqi politics does not mean he will be successful at it. 

According to Safadi, Iraq is just as much as a boiling point as Lebanon is: “There are demonstrations across the country.  There are many voices opposing Iran there. They seek to remove all Iranian proxies including the Al Quds Force from the country, which used live fire, tear gas and rubber bullets that resulted in many fatalities in just the past week.  In Iraq, there is a fundamental struggle between the protesters and the government.  The protesters completely distrust all of those involved in the deterioration of Iraq over the last decade and a half, most of whom are loyal to the Iranians. For the past three months, politicians have tried to display different candidates to exchange the prime minister, but the protesters rejected all of the proposed names and withheld their approval.”

“Today, the population understands that there is no civilian political candidate not connected to Iran and there is a demand to find a candidate who is not loyal to Iran,” Safadi stressed.  “There will be a candidate from the military ranks who will be acceptable to the protesters, who will clear Iraq from Iranian militias, hand over all of the weapons owned by the militias and bring the corrupt to trial, which is certainly not an easy task and will require both American and possibly Israeli support.  A bloody battle is expected between Iran’s supporters and opponents in Iraq.” 

In such an atmosphere, how can someone like Nasrallah have any influence in Iraq, especially when he can’t leave his bunker and travel there?  The Iraqi people will oppose him in such an anti-Iranian climate and would view his involvement in their politics to be unwanted foreign influence.

One might ponder, how will all of this affect the State of Israel?  Over the short run, it won’t affect Israel too much.  Hezbollah is too busy consolidating power in Lebanon and trying to gain influence in Iraq in order to be bothered with Israel. 

Nevertheless, even though Hezbollah will be busy with other matters over the short run, that does not mean that Hezbollah does not pose a long-term strategic threat to Israel.  In fact, a well-armed Hezbollah backed by the regime in Tehran could tear the Israeli economy apart if they are ever permitted to launch long-range missiles at the State of Israel. Ben-Gurion International Airport would be paralyzed, as would the entire country from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem northwards.  If PIJ joins the fray, there would not be a single safe area in the Jewish state. 

Hezbollah’s arsenal makes the Hamas threat look like child’s play. For this reason, Israel should act now against Hezbollah when they are weak instead of waiting for them to attack once they get their house in order.