This Is Not How One Confronts Hezbollah

This Is Not How One Confronts Hezbollah

Hassan Haidar |

Ahmed Al-Assir’s group caused security and political mayhem in the region of Saida, where it seemed as if fundamentalists were taking revenge against the army for their own powerlessness to confront Hezbollah directly. But now that the provoked battle had ended and its repercussions have been contained, this must not obscure or dominate the main issue preoccupying all of the Lebanese – namely that of Hezbollah getting implicated in the war in Syria and implicating all of Lebanon with it.


For reasons that are perhaps connected to an old grudge against the army going back to the events of the Nahr Al-Bared refugee camp and to their relationship with some of those who fought there and now reside in the Ain Al-Hilwe refugee camp, the fundamentalists of Abra have done a favor for the party they claim to struggle against. Indeed, they have turned into outlaws and their arguments no longer stand. Such arguments had never reached a political level that could have won them supporters across the country, and had remained crowded with base confessional terminology, personalized and tailored to their leader. And instead of Assir trying to leave the army out of the “battle of the security apartments” held by Hezbollah in the region of Saida, he “succeeded” at having the Lebanese unite against him, across the spectrum of their political and sectarian affiliations, with the exception of a small minority whose defense of him made little difference, earning himself and his followers the label of “wanted men”, after the premeditated murder of members of the military.


No matter how true the claims might be about Hezbollah’s influence within the military institution and its different branches, the army remains the only national state institution that has succeeded at protecting itself from the acute division that has struck all other formal bodies of the Lebanese state, despite the difficulty of the task, making of its preservation a national demand.


Sunni Muslims in Lebanon were never favorable to violence, nor did they ever call for it. They stood throughout the civil war alongside the state and its institutions. They rejected and mocked those who tried to forcefully represent them in armed militias that were successively formed, armed, and funded by the Palestinians then by the Syrians. But such formations never met with consensus and remained isolated from their social environment. They thus faded away after the war ended.


This is what Hezbollah understood perfectly well. Since the beginning of the process of rebuilding the country’s infrastructure and political system under the leadership of the late Rafic Hariri, it thus worked in coordination with the Syrians on obstructing the Sunni approach and on besieging its moderate leaderships, in order to prevent them from reviving the unifying state as per the Taif Agreement. It also aimed to maintain political and popular division that would allow it to continue holding the decision to make war and peace without being monitored or held to account in any way.


Hezbollah also worked, always in coordination with Damascus, on encouraging radical Sunni groups and forging various alliances with them, so as to encourage them to eat away at the popularity of the moderates and compete against them in representing their sect. It is within such a framework that the suspicious media coverage obtained by Assir himself falls, when this served and deepened the Sunni “dichotomy”.


Thus, dragging Lebanon into a confrontation like the one that took place in Saida is tantamount to undermining the efforts exerted by all parties – with the exception of Hezbollah – to restore the state’s stature and role, restrict armament to its legitimate institutions, seize all illegal weapons, and integrate them within its framework. As for those who thought that confronting an armed Hezbollah politically requires turning to violence, they fell into what Hezbollah itself seeks. Indeed, a deteriorating security situation provides Hezbollah with a way out of its isolation, after it has alienated itself not just from all other Lebanese constituents, but from all the Arabs as well, in addition to facing increasing restlessness within its own sect.


The fact remains that Hezbollah’s fate is not contingent on its own abilities, as dangerous as they might be, but rather on the fate of those who “invented” it in Damascus and Tehran, where one battle is taking place and another is looming.