ATFL is concerned that cross-border and internal tensions are placing even greater burdens on Lebanon’s stability and independence. There is no mistaking that the deepening challenges engulfing Lebanon are due to its unique political composition and preferred policy of “disassociation” from regional conflicts, unfortunately more observed in the breach than in reality.
These tensions are real and numerous, including:
Internal concerns with refugees and Hezbollah’s military dominance,
Domestic issues surrounding the government’s performance and upcoming elections,
Israel’s increasing pressures on Lebanon to rein in Hezbollah,
Israel and the GCC’s hate-fest with Iran,
Iran’s manipulations in Iraq, Syria, and with Hezbollah,
And now, Saudi Arabia’s push to isolate Lebanon even further from it and other members of the GCC.
Lebanon is facing many obstacles to its stability, the most compelling to ATFL is the specter of another conflict waged between Israel and Hezbollah. It appears that Washington is doing too little to keep the march to war from mobilizing. In Lebanon, US military and diplomatic officials have held extensive discussions with the Lebanese government, speaking warmly of the relationship with the LAF and support for Lebanon. However, this has not been carried through in Washington where a steady stream of media and panels has been discussing the next Israel-Hezbollah war and how it will decimate Lebanon.
When questioned about Israel’s goal is, the answer lies somewhere between a preemptive strike to eliminate Hezbollah’s arsenal that threatens Israel, sending a signal to Syria about stability along its border with Israel, to letting Iran know that Israel will destroy its proxy Hezbollah before it will allow Iran to enlarge its scope of influence from Tehran to Beirut.
This puts the ATFL is a quandary, – how to support Lebanon’s territorial integrity, independence, and stability, which we believe are clearly US interests as well, while addressing the consequences of Hezbollah’s role in the country, which, we believe, has both negative and helpful results. For example, the first response from Hezbollah upon hearing of PR Hariri’s resignation was to call for calm and continued cooperation in the government to stand fast against external pressures.
So if brutalizing Lebanon is intended as a signal to Iran…why not go to the heart and head of the threat in Syria and Iran? Israel has already demonstrated that it knows where the weapons flowing to Hezbollah are being manufactured and transported, so it has identified the primary targets. It has also made it clear that it knows that Hezbollah has infiltrated villages in southern Lebanon and has men and supplies among the civilian populations. Aren’t there better means for reducing threats to Israel and to the Lebanese civilians than assaulting entire villages as Israel has threatened?
More importantly, there is a fallacy in looking for a military solution as that only guarantees that there will be no peace in the region. An Israeli military campaign in Lebanon – while it may mean no war now, it also means no peace ever for Israel. If Palestine continues, after 70 years, to be a core issue with Arabs and Muslims worldwide, it isn’t hard to imagine the highly negative impact of the destruction and occupation of Lebanon that will reverberate in the West as well.
Another misjudgment in targeting Lebanon and not the sources of instability in the region, is that an all-out assault brings the region closer to a nuclear Armageddon as Syria and Iran cannot ignore the consequences of a failed state in Lebanon. Another war in Lebanon may set off a civil war in the country between armed camps, while the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), the only non-sectarian stabilizing force in the country, will have the impossible task of restraining local militias from further chaos. Israel’s northern and northeast borders will be hotbeds of instability and conflict.
All of this, of course, plays directly into Russia’s goal of destroying American influence, restraining democracy, and promoting autocratic rule throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Is this what the US wants…more war, less stability, diminished influence, greater threats to our friends in the region, and promoting Russian ascendency even more?
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or positions of the American Task Force for Lebanon or its staff and board.