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Whisky Tango Foxtrot: Lebanon

What's the situation with Lebanon and Hezbollah?

Lebanon Hezbollah

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken was more or less begging Binyamin Netanyahu to lay off the civilians in Gaza, he has managed a deal to allow a UN humanitarian mission to help refugees from the northern Gaza to return home. Which comes on the heels of Hezbollah launching a series of drone strikes over the northern to save face after letting the Israeli’s whack all those Hamas higher-up they were supposed to be protecting.

So, when the unpleasantness on the Israel/Lebanon border escalates from here – and it’s a pretty safe bet that it will – understand that Lebanon and Hezbollah are not the same thing. Lebanon, a dysfunctional train-wreck to be sure, is an actual nation state. It is a member of the UN for what that’s worth, and the US kit’s out the country’s army. Beirut was saddled with a completely dysfunctional government structured completely on identity politics long before that was the fashionable thing to do. It’s basically a hangover its previous train-wreck administrators – the French. Whomever is to blame, is a system that lends itself to corruption, mutual suspicion, tribal grudges and the odd identity politics-fueled civil war.

Hezbollah, on the other hand is a very-well armed gang and criminal organization made up of Shi’a Muslims, one of the ethnicities represented by the aforementioned train-wreck. It is paid by the Shi’a Islamic Republic of Iran to stir up regional trouble and pester Israel so that Tehran can wreak that sweet havoc without getting its hands too dirty. Which is pretty straight-forward in a wicked bastard sort of way. Hezbollah operates in south Lebanon and is allowed to do this because the what the Lebanese are calling a government in Beirut is really too weak to do much about it. And they keep order in the south.

What Beirut does not want to do is go to war with Israel when Hezbollah over-eggs the pudding and really pisses the IDF off – and remember that at the moment they are pretty worked up. Still, Lebanon is a nation and claims that it will defend itself if Israel invades – even if it is only to get at Hezbollah. The Beirut paradox is that they know that they can’t do much about Hezbollah lobbing rockets at Israel without risking an invasion of the other Tehran-backed groups camped out in Syria at the moment, but to do nothing risks an invasion from Israel. Which would trigger an invasion from Syria. And all that would lead to (yet another) multi-faceted civil war. The last one lasted 15 years and totally ruined the eighties.

As hairy and that conflict might get, at the center of it, would be Lebanon’s US-backed army fighting Israel’s US-backed army, in a fight started by a Iranian back militia. It’s a win for Tehran.

And explains why Blinken has been on his knees begging Netanyahu to keep his head. It isn’t for world peace, Imperial Britain’s concept of  “Balance of Power” or Woodrow Wilson’s idea of making the world safe for democracy. Blinken’s reasons are more practical: This is an election year and he does not want it getting out that the Biden is backing both sides of a 2,000 year old religious war.



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