Saturday, May 15, 2010

Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East by David Hirst

Fawaz A Gerges on a survey of the troubles of the Middle East

Fawaz A Gerges
The Guardian, Saturday 15 May 2010

"....In his post-2006 war speech, Nasrallah told the immense, euphoric throng that the victory they were celebrating had transformed Lebanon from a "small" state in the Middle East into a "great" one. Hirst agrees that Lebanon is no longer the hapless object of others' actions but also an active agent in its own right because of Hezbollah's powerful influence in the region. "Lebanon – the eternal victim – has now become an active player too, posing no less a threat to greater states than they habitually posed to it."

That is a mixed blessing. Hirst cites Israeli leaders who say they are readying themselves for the "next war", the "second round" against Hezbollah and the Lebanese state, which they deem to be all but inevitable. And while Hezbollah has evolved into a conventional political party with a domestic agenda, he argues it still possesses a potent militia, with an external, visionary, Islamist agenda and is aligned with Iranian and even Syrian foreign policy. In other words, Lebanon is still a battlefield for others' wars. The only difference now is that if Israel fires the first shot in the "seventh Middle Eastern war", the war might not remain confined to Lebanon."

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