Though the reconciliation between Lebanon and some other Arab states has not been fully achieved, President Michel Aoun has released statements that may return the recent crisis to its starting point.
Aoun said that “Hezbollah weapons are not contradictory to the state, but are an essential part in defending the country.” He also underestimated the power of the Lebanese Army by saying that “as long as the army is not powerful enough to fight Israel, we feel the need to maintain the weapons of the resistance to complement the army”, like reported by arabnews.com.
Aoun’s statements have once again raised debate about the Lebanese-Arab rift. In addition, they could bring internal Lebanese divisions back to the pivotal point of Hezbollah’s illegal arms, which give the militia powers that far exceed that of the state. Aoun’s statements have put an end to the optimism that was unleashed in the first weeks after his election victory. At the time, internal Lebanese parties and regional parties were overoptimistic that Lebanon was going through a new phase of reconciliation.
But day after day, President Aoun has left those optimists in dismay. We should acknowledge that Aoun is unable to put the interests of Lebanon and its people before the interests of a regional party — namely Iran. Two weeks ago, Aoun said that without President Bashar Assad’s regime Syria would become “another Libya,” stressing that Assad is the “only existing power that can impose order.”
Now, he has put Hezbollah’s weapons entirely out of the question and even repeated statements that caused the diplomatic crisis between Lebanon and several Arab countries. Hezbollah has hailed Aoun’s statements, commending him as “the resistant president.”
Recent events and movements in Lebanon should be taken into consideration, including Aoun’s statements and Hezbollah’s withdrawal from Syria’s Qalamoun following a deal with opposition factions in preparation for the militia’s post-withdrawal from a large number of Syrian towns.
These movements coincided with encouraging talks on Syrian refugees’ return home. Moscow and Tehran backed many conferences and actions related to the Lebanese-Syrian situation, Hezbollah and Iran. In a recent speech, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said that the Lebanese government should “put arrogance aside and seriously consider conducting a formal contact with the Syrian government.” This also coincided with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov calling upon the new US administration to recognize that the Iran-backed Hezbollah fights against Daesh.
It seems clear that there is no authority in Syria, and Hezbollah and Iran are making decisions for Lebanon. In addition, the Russian role in Beirut cannot be ignored.
Hezbollah is quietly seeking to withdraw its troops from Syria and return to Lebanon. Has the militia decided to run its battles from inside Lebanon, or is it preparing for new regional clashes, in which Lebanon will be the first victim?