Lebanese crisis could end up strengthening Hezbollah



The country’s political structure is based on a delicate balance between different ethnicities and sects, and the deep economic crisis could favor the Iranian-backed group.

Lebanon has experienced several civil wars and Israeli invasions, which over time have strained the country’s social fabric, economy and governance structures.

The latest economic crisis sparked widespread protests across the country, and the political deadlock – no government has been established since the massive explosion last August in Beirut leaving an interim government in place – has put the country in place. danger of collapsing.

While ordinary people suffer, Lebanese political factions are engulfed in the blame game. Hezbollah, the country’s powerful Shiite political party with a strong military wing, blames the central political establishment for the ongoing crisis while ruling elites and their political allies hold the Iran-backed group responsible for the unrest in the country. Lebanon.

Despite Israeli and American pressure against the armed group, experts believe Hezbollah could emerge stronger from the ongoing crisis as it consolidates its political base across the country.

“If the situation continues to deteriorate and the state collapses, Hezbollah will be in a better position than other political groups to provide for its constituents and control areas that are important to it,” said Heiko Wimmen, director of the Iraq, Syria and Lebanon project at the International Crisis Group.

“Objectively speaking, its influence would even increase,” explains the Beirut-based analyst. TRT World. But Wimmen also draws attention to the fact that the armed group is also “keenly interested in preserving the status quo” which favors Hezbollah and its allies.

Wimmen says Hezbollah reached the peak of its influence with the 2018 elections and since then the political setup has allowed them to exert “decisive influence” over state institutions, allowing them unhindered use. public resources.

“This is their golden loop situation,” says Wimmen.

Sami Hamdi, political analyst and director of the political risk consultancy International Interest, also believes that the economic crisis will strengthen Hezbollah. “As this economic and political crisis unfolds, the reality is that none of the other parties are providing solutions to the Lebanese people, Hezbollah, at least for its own constituencies, is providing solutions ranging from medical services to access to the grocery store, ”Hamdi said. TRT World.

Supporters of Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah board a convoy marking the Day of Resistance and Liberation in the village of Kfar Kila, near the border with Israel, in southern Lebanon, on May 25, 2021. (Aziz Taher / Reuters Archive)

Lebanese demographics also favor Hezbollah, as the Shia Arab population continues to grow at a higher rate than other ethnic groups.

Other analysts also point out that pointing fingers at Hezbollah for Lebanon’s financial woes might not work this time around as people continue to attack banks across the country, seeing them as a symbol of their own misery. .

“I have a big problem with attitudes that ridicule a nuanced understanding of conflict. And so I have a huge problem blaming the economic crisis on Hezbollah / Iran when in reality the financial oligarchy and its allies in the state (across the political spectrum) caused the crisis ”, wrote Nizar Hassan, a Beirut-based researcher on Twitter.

In the longer term, attitudes within the Lebanese elite might also “work in favor of Hezbollah”, as they are perceived by ordinary people as not caring about Lebanon, Hamdi says. This perception is one of the main reasons for the current popular anger, he adds.

Even Israel seems very concerned about what is happening in Lebanon, offering its help to its neighbor. “In light of the dire economic situation in Lebanon and given Hezbollah’s attempts to deepen Iranian investments in the country, I contacted UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force) via IDF liaison officers and discussed a proposal to transfer humanitarian aid to Lebanon, ” wrote Benny Gantz, Israeli Minister of Defense.

Lebanon is expected to reject Gantz’s proposal, the country having previously refused aid from Israel.

Hezbollah’s growing base

Hezbollah is attracting a constituency increasingly alienated from the Lebanese central government and its political elites, according to Hamdi. “It is a base that Hezbollah enjoys unwavering support and it is a base that the Lebanese government has neglected for years.

While the state is unable to provide basic services, Hezbollah provides services like supermarkets at relatively affordable prices as well as medical aid. “This is the case with ‘you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.’ Hezbollah intervenes where the Lebanese government fails, ”Hamdi said.

Since 2019, the country’s currency, the Lebanese pound, has lost more than 85% of its value against the US dollar, making imports expensive and fueling inflation. Even the World Bank has ranked the country’s economic crisis as one of the worst in over 150 years.

“While it is easy to assume that Hezbollah rules by force and that much of its influence is the result of military strength and capability, it is also the result of filling the void left by the government. and to cement oneself in this void, ”adds the analyst.

Hamdi also draws attention to the fact that Hezbollah has managed to go well beyond its traditional base.

“Hezbollah was able to ally with the Christian section of Lebanese society to establish a formidable alliance that was able to function effectively, giving Hezbollah significant official control over the state,” the analyst said.

Source: TRT World


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