Hezbollah, Terrorism And A Political Maneuver

The Easiest Way to create problems between the Lebanese government, Hezbollah, the UNIFIL and the European Union?  (Ramzi Haidar-Getty Images)

The Easiest Way to create problems between the Lebanese government, Hezbollah, the UNIFIL and the European Union? (Ramzi Haidar-Getty Images)

Hezbollah might be achieving military advances in Syria, but diplomatically, he’s facing a major setback. On monday, Hezbollah’s military wing got listed in the European Union as a terrorist group.

Useless Move By The European Union?

The European Ban doesn’t mean a lot to Hezbollah. Hassan Nasrallah doesn’t spend his vacations aux Champs-Élysées, and Hezbollah’s weapons don’t particularly reach the Lebanese south via Frankfurt’s airport. The move will only complicate things with the Lebanese state, which was probably what Israel wanted in the first place. Hezbollah is represented in the Lebanese government and it is likely to stay that way meaning that the European Union’s projects might face difficulties or even stop, and it isn’t in the great interest of the EU to look like they’re abandoning the Lebanese state. No one wants to get the mainstream American image in Lebanon. And that’s just a small consequence.

European Soldiers On Lebanese Soil

We tend to forget that easily, but there are 3742 soldiers on Lebanese territory that are members of EU states armies. That can’t be any good for the UNIFIL that is supposed to act as a neutral force in the south. The French, Spanish and Italian forces (among others) will have to distance themselves a bit and the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group might create a very tense atmosphere.

No True Separation

There’s no such thing as separate military and political wings for Hezbollah. The issue can become very confusing as many (if  not all) of the “political wing members” of Hezbollah are also members of the military one. A small example: Is Hassan Nasrallah considered a member of the military or political wing?

Nabih Berri Or The New Camille Chamoun

This is not the first time something like this happens. Lebanon had a 10 years travel ban between 1987 and 1997. The salvation came in 1997 when Rafic Hariri was Prime Minister and Berri was speaker. 16 years later, the speaker, the same Berri, asks Hariri’s son in the week the Hezbollah designation happened – what a coincidence – to serve as a prime minister again. Berri’s moves are so ingenious (see here and here) that he might be considered as a new Camille Chamoun. He knows exactly whom he should speak with, what to say to him, and when he should make his move. In a time when alliances are seeming to collapse, Berri wants to be the most useful politician in the cold. By asking to bring the closest Pro-American  – formerly vetoed by Hezbollah – Sunni politician as a PM, Berri makes a compromise: In exchange of handing Hariri the premiership, he makes sure that even the biggest Lebanese opponent to the party won’t work against it diplomatically. Saad Hariri might even be able to remove Hezbollah from the list like his father removed the ban in 1997. Berri would’ve seemed as the political ally of Hariri and the diplomatic savior of Hezbollah: That’s how you make sure you can still be speaker of the parliament in 2014.

Can You Smell The Competition?

First, rumors start spreading that Aoun is getting closer and closer to the Future Movement and that meetings are happening between FPM officials and the Saudi Ambassador. The next thing you know, Berri, out of nowhere, suddenly asks Hariri to come back and serve as a Prime Minister. There can be only one explanation to that: Jumblatt chose a Future Movement  ally as a Prime Minister and told Hezbollah that the party will be present in the government or there will be no government. It’s already getting too crowded in the cabinet, and if someone is going to be left out, it won’t be the kingmaker Jumblatt, nor the PM’s M14 allies, nor Hezbollah, which leaves us with Berri and Aoun, explaining the ” I love you more competition” on Hariri between the FPM and Amal. For someone who once attacked the FM almost every week one can’t but notice how Aoun’s criticism is relatively non-existent in July.

Maybe the designation of the military wing as a terrorist organisation was supposed to pave the way for a foreign intervention in Syria, but one thing’s for sure: Hezbollah’s military victories resulted in a small diplomatic failure that is starting to weaken him politically.