Wednesday, August 15, 2012

With Syria in turmoil, Lebanon remains at risk

Syria may now have become the main arena in a Middle East proxy war, but the threat posed to the Lebanese is no less real

David Hirst, Wednesday 15 August 2012

".....It is all too reminiscent of the incremental processes that led to full-scale civil war once before. But these processes have so far been slow-moving, and one thing that might continue to slow them down is the conviction, in the anti-Syrian camp, that President Assad's fall has become inevitable. And when it comes, it will deal a devastating blow to Hezbollah, and automatically shift the whole internal Lebanese balance of power. So why not simply wait till that happens and take full advantage when it does? That moment, and how the rival parties – particularly Hezbollah – react to it, will be critical.

Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, must know this all too well. It probably accounts for his contradictory behaviour. On one hand he has been quite conciliatory in the face of the day to day political war of attrition waged against him by his domestic foes. On the other, at the price of a further erosion of his once immense prestige, he has taken to praising the Assad regime as rarely before.

It is probably no accident that this extraordinary identification with an utterly discredited, and probably doomed, order has come in conjunction with his Iranian patron's increasingly strident assertions that Assad shall not fall; for it will prevent that "by any means". What these means might be isn't certain, but one possibility is particularly troubling to the Lebanese. This is that an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear installations, or just the brazen sabre-rattling now heralding it, might furnish Iran and its allies with the opportunity for diversionary hostilities of an altogether different kind: including, of course, another war between Israel and Hezbollah."

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