The Lebanese parliamentary elections on May 6 have brought Hezbollah, the Amal movement and their allies’ majority in the future parliament with 70 out of 128 seats. Shortly thereafter, US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that the US would abandon the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose tough sanctions on the country. The announcement was followed by Israeli jet fighters bombing military targets in Syria on May 8 and May 10. In between, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had previously loudly and clearly congratulated Trump on his Iranian decision, traveled to Moscow.
Israel said it had responded to the attack of 20 Iranian Revolutionary Guards missiles in Syria. Berlin, Paris, London, Washington and their allies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates supported Israel and condemned Iran's attack. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Tehran did not want any further escalation in the Middle East while the Syrian army declared its wartime readiness, increasing concerns of a new conflict in the region.
Shaky Peace in Lebanon
Sputnik’s contributor states that everything actually may have been for the better. These parliamentary elections were the first time the Lebanese have voted for proportional representation. Smaller parties, including representatives of the so-called Civil Society, had a chance to get parliamentary seats, although the younger generation remained marginalized due to the voting age limit of 21.
As election observers had foreseen, the Alliance bloc around Hezbollah and Amal, also known as the March 8 movement, received the majority. The “Alliance for the Future” Party, representing the incumbent Prime Minister Saad Hariri, got the minority in the new Lebanese Parliament, as he could not mobilize its followers. Leukefeld points out that his result could be interpreted as a boycott from his usual voters.
She also stresses that Hariri probably did not get campaign financing from Saudi Arabia this time in contrast to previous elections. The Gulf had criticized him for agreeing to a government of national unity with Hezbollah and Amal. Meanwhile, another party the "Lebanese Armed Forces" (LF), which is considered extremist for alleged attacking and murdering its political opponents, received money from the Gulf this time and was able to increase its presence in the parliament significantly.
Sputnik’s contributor points out that the German media took a similar tone commenting on the outcome of the elections, claiming “peace in Lebanon is shaky as the Shiite militia Hezbollah with allies became again the major force which could lead to new a spiral of tensions. The commentators also reportedly stress that "Iranian influence" is growing, and the small country on the eastern Mediterranean is facing an "uncertain future.”
This falls in line with claims by Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett, who posted on Twitter "Lebanon = Hizbollah" and threatened to retaliate against Israel in the future.
Growing Role of Hezbollah
Sputnik’s Leukefeld, Israel and the West interpret the election in Lebanon only through the prism of "the dangerous Hezbollah," emphasizing a one-sided perception of the latest developments. According to her, the Lebanese, supporting Hezbollah, Amal and their allies, voted for reliability and protection (against Israel) and corruption. She states that many Lebanese fear foreign interference by Europe, the US and the Gulf countries and don’t have such an anticipation with regard to Iran.
The commentator names Hezbollah a national power factor for Lebanon, as it advocates political transparency and fighting against corruption. She points out that Hezbollah doesn’t represent the multimillionaire dynasties of Lebanon exploiting the country. Leukefeld also draws attention to the fact that nobody is forced to follow its Shiite ideology, which is why Hezbollah is supported by Christians, Sunnis, Druze and, of course, Shiites.
Prelude of a New War
However, Sputnik’s analyst also says that Hezbollah’s military strength, gained in its alliance with Iran, Russia and Syria in the war in Syria, should be taken into the account. It has been recognized by Prime Minister Hariri, who said in an interview with Politico magazine that Hezbollah had become a "regional player." He also expressed his support for the government of national unity with Hezbollah in order to save Lebanon from further conflicts, which the country has not experienced since the 2006 war with Israel.
Having a military organization, Hezbollah represents a serious force, according Leukefeld. It’s better trained, organized, disciplined and equipped than the Lebanese army, and this military wing takes the defense of Lebanon seriously, ready to rebuff attacks by Israel as well as by radical Islamists such as the Islamic State from Syria.
The analyst claims, citing a 2012 report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the Pentagon, that over the past seven years the West, Turkey and the Gulf States have tried to isolate, weaken or overthrow the Syrian government that cooperates with Iran. But as the Islamic State* has been beaten, the concept of isolating the Syrian government and thus Iran has failed. The commentator points out that the military and political influence of Iran and Hezbollah has expanded. At the same time she concludes that Iran is ready to cooperate with the US and the Gulf States, as the yearlong negotiated nuclear deal has shown.
However, she claims that the US, Israel and some Gulf countries still rely on confrontation, provoking conflict escalation. Encouraged by the US and funded by the Gulf States, Israel believes it can continue to proceed with attacks, which have increased in 2018, according to Leukefeld. She states that Tehran's goal is to rebalance the region to the point where Iran must be accepted if not through negotiations, then by confrontation.
The analyst concludes that the recent strikes in Syria could be the prelude to a new war in the southwest of the country, the Golan Heights, unless Russia manages to mediate. According to her, both Israel and Iran respect Moscow as a new regulatory power in the Middle East.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia.
The views and opinions expressed by the contributor are those of his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.