Hezbollah: A political party and regional actor that cannot be ignored

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United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) armored vehicles drive past a billboard bearing a portrait of a fallen Hezbollah fighter, near the village of Marjayoun, in southern Lebanon, on March 15, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Mahmoud Zayyat)

By: Sami Kleib

Published Friday, April 11, 2014

Hezbollah did not withdraw from Syria, yet it sits with its adversaries in the government. Hezbollah did not deliver its weapons, yet some of its adversaries have been disarmed and are being prosecuted through a security plan, in which it is participating. It did not announce a change in its strategy to confront Israel, but the West is knocking on its door again. Hezbollah is a difficult but necessary partner that must be consulted, according to a European diplomat.

What are the reasons behind these new stances taken by Europe? There are many, but four of them are the most significant:

A conviction, that grows day by day, is that Hezbollah is unbreakable, on the security, social, and political levels. The party has the proper capabilities, expertise, and weapons to serve as a counterbalance against Israel and its local and regional rivals.

The party went from being accused by NATO of terrorism to becoming a partner in counter-terrorism. The Lebanese army cannot succeed in its current and future plans without at least moral support from Hezbollah. It would not be possible to eliminate terrorist and takfiri groups in Syria without the party. Security actors are aware of the important intelligence role played by the party in uncovering bombs and networks aiming to terrorise Lebanon and ignite strife. The party and its allies form a heavy political force, making it impossible to take any major national political decision against the party or without it. The presidential elections are the best example.

Oil exploration in Lebanon will not happen if the oil companies were enemies of the party. Simply, Hezbollah could prohibit their involvement under the pretext of protecting Lebanese interests against Israel. It could also facilitate the operation if the interests converged, even with international adversaries. This situation will be reinforced if negotiations between Iran and the international community continue at their current pace.

Despite all the social calamities of the Israeli war prior to the victory of 2006 and its repercussions, the party's remained firm and steadfast, especially when the areas destroyed by Israel were rebuilt better than how they had been. The organic alliance between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement did not disintegrate, despite disagreements on some occasions.

The party's involvement in Syria did not weaken the party, although martyrs are continuing to fall. The general situation of the regional environment is still supportive of the Resistance and its leader.

There is no doubt that Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian war tarnished the party's image on the domestic and regional scene. The propaganda machine against this involvement was ready to incite confessional strife, but now the tide is turning. There are serious changes in Arab public opinion. Various delegations have visited Hezbollah on their way to Syria. They represent anti-Israeli national, Arabist, and Nasserite political factions. Even members of the Syrian opposition visit in response to the the party's role in promoting reconciliation and reducing the tragedy of the war.

What about the party's role in the presidential elections?

In the past two days, statements from the US, France, Iran, and Arab countries called for the election of a consensus Lebanese president. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi announced his rejection of a president from either March 8 or March 14.

Hezbollah is publicly supporting MP Michel Aoun for the presidency and Hassan Nasrallah is resolute on this issue. But those seeking a consensus president are hoping, more than ever before, to convince the party of changing its position. However, the doors are still closed to anyone who wishes to discuss a name other than Aoun.

The presidency is important. But what is more important is that Hezbollah finds itself today a major player in the presidential elections in Lebanon, even though it was expected to disappear by those who believed in the imminent fall of the Syrian regime.

The party is able to reach consensus with the Amal Movement, Aoun's parliamentary bloc, and even MP Walid Jumblatt since the interests of the mountain and his relationship with the party require him to do so.

Hezbollah is also capable of reaching an agreement between its allies and the Future Movement on a consensus candidate, if it could convince Aoun of the futility of his bid for presidency (even though this is impossible at the time being). If all channels of communication between political factions breakdown and a strong anti-Resistance presidential candidate is imposed, the party is able to disrupt the presidential elections.

More than ever before, Hezbollah has strengthened its role as a part of a major regional and global axis, which believes it carried out a strategic achievement in Syria. However, on the domestic Lebanese political scene, it acts from the rationale of being a mere party of a social fabric requiring consensus. Some believe this to be a weakness, but for those who are politcally aware they know that this is the beginning of a phase of regional and international transformations, which are more important than a ministerial declaration or a presidency.

The distance between Beirut, Tehran, and Crimea has become smaller.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


What exactly does an "edited translation" mean?

That it is pushed through a machine, then interspersed with blank lines before posting?

In any case the result is a bloody disgraceful effort at English.

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