Once again the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is flexing its muscles. Its been six months since Lebanon’s parliamentary elections were held, where prime minister designate Sa’ad Hariri was appointed to form a government for the third time.
During this time, Hezbollah, backed by Iran, has continuously stalled efforts at government formation to demonstrate its discontent with recent international pressure, particularly from the United States, against it. The group sees the formation of a government in Lebanon as coming at an inopportune time when Iran is being weakened and is going to great lengths to prevent this from happening. Under the US administration of President Donald Trump, Hezbollah operatives have been sanctioned, significantly curbing the group’s ability to carry out destructive policies at the behest of its sponsor, Iran.
This is not the first time the group has put Iran before Lebanon. Let us not forget that the country was without a president for two-and-a-half years, until Michel Aoun was finally chosen in 2016. Hezbollah, at the time, seemingly unilaterally blocked efforts to form a government while it was assisting its ally, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, to crack down on a revolt against him.
Last week, Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri, accused Hezbollah of blocking government formation after announcing that he “had done his job and the government was ready”.
This coincided with ramped-up US pressure against the Iran-backed group. Just last Tuesday, the Trump administration had targeted Hezbollah with fresh sanctions on four of its operatives based in Iraq. The US State Department also added Jawed Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, to the sanctions list. This is part of Washington’s overall policy of curbing Iran’s behaviour in the region which it views as destructive. For years, Arab states have complained of Iranian interference in their domestic affairs as well as fomenting sectarian strife in order to weaken Arab states.
This is perhaps most evident in Lebanon where Hezbollah continues to do Iran’s bidding. The sanctions have constituted a challenge to the Iranian leadership, and the party wants to show that it holds sway in the country. Of course it comes at the expense of the Lebanese people who continue to suffer because of Hezbollah’s antics. The militant group must put politics aside and work in the interest of the country it claims to represent. For far too long, it has carried out destructive policies in Lebanon, which have effectively rendered the government powerless and restricted its abilities to deal with long-standing and pressing issues that the country is grappling with.