Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hezbollah’s Pyrrhic Victory

What Bashir Gemayel could not deliver, namely a peace treaty with Israel in 1982, and what Rafik Hariri could not offer, namely joining a bandwagon of Arab States willing to swap land for peace with Israel in the mid-1990s, Hezbollah did!

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Hezbollah, the narco-terrorist arm of Iran that controls Lebanon has delivered on the long-awaited promise to pacify the Southern border with Israel. Call it what you may, but the maritime border delineation that was sponsored by the US-Biden Administration is the most important geopolitical event in Lebanon since the Israeli invasion of 1982 and the withdrawal of Syria’s troops in 2005. All other events, from the assassination of Bashir Gemayel in 1982, to that of Rafik Hariri in 2005 to the Beirut Port Blast in 2020, whilst of epic proportions, have not had such an impact on the positioning of Lebanon on the regional chessboard. 

Practically, Hezbollah has guaranteed that no military attacks or incursions will occur South of the borders. This assurance is of great significance to Israel, the US and, to the EU. Whilst the first two players are known constituents in the regional power game, the EU, and more recently so, realized that it has a critical economic stake at play. Israeli gas, and later Lebanon’s gas, will find its way to Egypt where it shall be liquified, and turned into LNG before it is exported to Europe which, is using it to wean itself from Russia’ gas dependency. So, the maritime border demarcation agreement is a big deal, a very big deal.

On the domestic front this should have been enough for Hezbollah to reap all benefits for rendering this narco-terrorist group and the community it claims to represent, the sole masters of the country. 

Militarily, this has already been achieved. Hezbollah controls or coaxes into submission, all armed groups in the country, those of legitimate and illegitimate statuses. From drug dealers and smaller Palestinian factions, to the LAF and UNIFIL contingent, no one dares, plans, or wishes a military showdown with Hezbollah. 

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Politically, no meaningful player in the country seriously opposes Hezbollah even orally, except for few outliers. The Shia community is already spoken for, the Sunnis are broken and in isolation from their Arabian hinterland, the Maronites are fractioned and bitter, and despite self-delusions about their political and demographic declines, are willing to compromise with Hezbollah to still cling on to some sort of a nominal role. Finally, the Druzes are survivors and whether it is the PLO, the FL, the Syrians, or Hezbollah, they have demonstrated their capacity to adapt, and live to see better days. 

So, if regionally the Hezbollah-Iran tandem has won, and if domestically, it reigns supreme, what seems to be the issue?

No victory is meaningful if one ends up with a country in ruins and a State in utter destitution. Hezbollah has won on all external fronts and lost in its own backyard. Hezbollah has delivered the Herculean task of finalizing an agreement with Israel but has no rabbits to pull out of its hat to bring the band of nitwits -on whom it has built its domestic platform of 8thof March Forces- into resuming to play along the charade of a State. 

Bashir Gemayel – before delivering a path to peace with Israel- offered the sample of the Christian enclave as a stable, well-organized, and efficient model for the rest of the country to follow. Rafik Hariri – before professing the land for peace deal- delivered a Gulf-sponsored, incomplete capitalistic model, but one that nonetheless appealed to many especially after a devastating civil war.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, Nasrallah has delivered peace -not only the promise of peace- but his acolytes have bankrupted the economy, destroyed the State, and left nothing tangible for Hezbollah to “monetize” upon this hard-earned victory. Nasrallah is the only victor in Lebanon who cannot cash the check of his victory because it will ultimately bounce, literally and figuratively. 

Yes, Hezbollah is in control of all security matters in Lebanon, but so what? Yes, Hezbollah could force all factions to concede more political rights to the Shia community via a forced amendment of the Constitution, and then what?

What power can one yield in a country without income, or savings, with a high level of illiterate refugees, and a higher level of literate emigration, poor healthcare services, no educational prospects, no energy resources available to produce electricity, no significant trade or commerce, spoliated State coffers, and a moribund administration? Where would the political cronies of Hezbollah find means to pursue graft and corruption; in which sector, administration or source of revenues? What victory is that if you win the battle and ruin the peace….

Nasrallah should heed the words of King Pyrrhus of Epirus (280 BC):

“If I achieve such a victory again, I shall return to Epirus without any soldier. If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” 

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