Courtesy Reuters

Lebanon’s Shadow Government

How Hezbollah Wins by Losing

On July 14, a mysterious explosion rocked the southern Lebanese town of Khirbet Silim, destroying a building. United Nations peacekeepers later claimed that the building was a Hezbollah weapons depot that had accidentally blown up. Hezbollah, a Shiite militia with close ties to Iran, has remained silent about the blast's cause, but the group made clear that it does not appreciate the renewed international attention focused on its arsenal.

Under the Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, blue-helmeted UN troops are responsible for intercepting illegal weapons shipments and shutting down storage sites south of the Litani River. But when UN troops tried to raid another suspected weapons cache in Khirbet Silim a few days after the explosion, hundreds of villagers surrounded the soldiers, pelted them with rocks, and forced them to withdraw. Peacekeepers fired warning shots in the air as they cleared a path out of town. Ever since, black-capped Hezbollah men have stood guard outside the house.

Since the June 7 Lebanese parliamentary elections, an alluring but simplistic narrative has emerged in the West: because Hezbollah and its allies were defeated at the polls, the militant group would lose some of its luster and a pro-American political coalition would rule Lebanon. In fact, Hezbollah remains the country's dominant military and political force. Moreover, it holds the key to both domestic and external stability -- its actions will determine whether there is another war with Israel or if Lebanon will once again be wracked by internal conflict. By losing the election, Hezbollah also avoided being held accountable by Lebanon's other sects -- without power, there is little responsibility.

Under the Saudi-brokered Taif Accord that ended Lebanon's 15-year civil war, all of the country's militias were disarmed. But Hezbollah was allowed to keep its weapons as a "national resistance" against the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended in May 2000. When the Israelis withdrew, many Lebanese asked why Hezbollah did not give up its arms and become a strictly

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