Israel could force a war on Lebanon

The Lebanese government is being held hostage by a situation that is beyond its control.

By Christiane Waked (Regional Mix)

Published: Sat 31 Aug 2019, 11:17 PM

Last updated: Sun 1 Sep 2019, 1:18 AM

Two Israeli drones crashed last week in Beirut's southern suburbs, areas that are dominated by Hezbollah. The incident caused panic and stupor among the population, prompting Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah to deliver a fiery speech vowing to fight Israel. He also promised that his party will not allow such matters to pass easily.
This isn't the first time Israel has targeted Hezbollah. In the past few years, Hezbollah and other Iranian allies in Syria have been attacked several times. However, sending drones to Lebanon takes the conflict to a new level.
Israel always considered Iran as a big threat and it is no secret that Hezbollah represents both Iranian and Syrian interests in Lebanon. The Lebanese and the international community are wary of this influence as a majority of political decisions in
Lebanon need the group's approval.
Recently, during a meeting at the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, said that the port of Beirut has become 'the port of Hezbollah' through which Iran is delivering arms to the Shia party.
The transfer of advanced weapons from Iran to Hezbollah is clearly a message to Israel that Tehran can use its main Lebanese ally anytime to advance its own political agenda and destabilise the region and its economy. The Lebanese government is being held hostage by a situation that is beyond its control. On one side, Israel is breaching Lebanon's sovereignty and the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 by sending drones to its soil and on the other side, the government cannot confront Hezbollah, which makes it a catch-22 situation for Lebanon and puts the country at risk of a new civil war.
The Lebanese authorities are therefore right in saying that they have the right to defend their country "by all means". On Wednesday, the Lebanese soldiers opened fire on Israeli drones that crossed into southern part of the country - a few days after the Israeli drone attack on Beirut's suburbs.
Lebanon needs political stability and economic prosperity as the country is at the brink of bankruptcy. The Lebanese banking system has been downgraded by international credit rating agencies, which lowers confidence in the country's banking industry.
Consequently, the lira (Lebanese pound) has also weakened. Besides, Washington's secret plan to target dealers with Iran and Hezbollah is not helping Lebanon much. A new war on the Lebanese soil would spell disaster not only for the country but for the entire region.
Lebanon opened its doors to almost two million refugees from Syria and Iraq, while the western world looked the other way and used their financial muscle to keep refugees away from their soil. Lebanon, however, is now feeling the pinch as its limited resources are strained. Any war in Lebanon would push these refugees and also the Lebanese to run towards the West.
It would be prudent to look at alternative ways to put pressure on Hezbollah. The group is already weakened by the Syrian war, having lost around 2,500 fighters in Syria, and many more have been disabled and severely wounded.
And, we know that the group takes direct orders from Iran. Qui donne ordonne, a French proverb succinctly captures this relation between Iran and Hezbollah. It means the one who provides is the one who gives orders. So, when Iran is cornered, Hezbollah will be automatically neutralised. That is why it is very important that Europe takes a clear position on Iran and sees it for what it is. Tehran plays a vital role in destabilising the Middle East, the Gulf region, and Lebanon.
The lack of consistency and the weakness in European policy towards Iran could have repercussions for the continent itself.
Moreover, Hezbollah should realise that blindly following the Iranian strategy and staying a key partner of Bashar Al Assad in the Syrian war could lead to its own destruction and also cause irreparable damage to Lebanon.
Christiane Waked is a political analyst based in Beirut

More news from OPINION