Hariri’s resignation and Lebanon’s raging protests are bad news for Hezbollah

Orient Net 2019-10-30 09:59:00

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The resignation announcement Tuesday by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri could have been expected to please Hezbollah. After all, Hariri — the son of former prime minister Rafik Hariri who was murdered by Hezbollah emissaries in 2005 — is a longtime foe of the terror group.

But in reality, the resignation — like the protests raging across the country, which prompted it — is causing Hezbollah’s top brass a serious headache.

It is no coincidence that in his latest speech, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah railed against the rallies and issued an implicit threat to mobilize his staff “to prevent a vacuum.”

It is also no coincidence that Hezbollah members were filmed Tuesday storming the protest tents in Beirut, destroying them and harming demonstrators. Similar violent clashes have broken out several times over the past week between Hezbollah supporters and the protesters, who are demanding the replacement of not only the government but also of the regime system and the current ethnic divide of power that is crippling the country.

Hezbollah’s negative response to the protest mainly stems from its fear that the unrest gripping Lebanon since October 17 will spiral out of control. Criticism of Hariri is one thing, and is welcome as far as the terror group is concerned. But changing the regime system is another thing entirely, and could cause severe tension between the different ethnic and religious groups and potentially even violent confrontations.

Hezbollah is comfortable with the status quo and with the current failing system. It manages to rule the country even without its members serving as prime minister or president. It controls the Lebanese army even though the chief of staff is Christian, and it sets the country’s foreign and domestic policies, while leveraging the inter-religious divide to maintain its power. It does as it pleases throughout the country, including developing one of the biggest arsenals of rockets in the world and taking steps to turn them into much more dangerous precision missiles.

A true revolution in the Lebanese political system would plunge the Shiite organization into an unknown future, which could in fact turn out to be to its benefit — but the risk is too high at the moment.

Still, the fact that hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens — of all ethnicities and religions, including Shiites — have taken to the streets is a direct result of the problematic political and economic situation in the country. Preserving the status quo is hurtling Lebanon toward bankruptcy.

With a huge number of Syrian refugees, with mounting unemployment reminiscent of places such as the Gaza Strip, with a swelling national debt and above all with a paralyzed, rotten and corrupt political system, Lebanon’s future looks dim. Hezbollah is better off ruling such a country than betting on a normal, functioning Lebanon, with leaders seeking the benefit of the entire country rather than a specific sect or group.

Hariri’s announcement that he is resigning is not particularly big news. He has resigned in the past and every such move was welcomed by Hezbollah. Over the years he has returned to the role and then again stepped down.

However, this time around, in light of the social, political and economic crisis, the resignation looks like it could eventually lead to all-out chaos, and even Hezbollah cannot predict how it will end.