الثلاثاء 31 تشرين الأول 2023
Lebanon's Calculated Caution: Why Another War Might Not Happen Soon
من الصحافة اخترنا لكم
From a Lebanese perspective, the specter of another war between Hezbollah and Israel is a haunting reminder of the devastating miscalculations of the past. The repercussions of such an error in judgment today could be even more catastrophic than the conflict of 2006. Yet, amidst the tension-laden atmosphere, there are reasons to believe that a large-scale confrontation may be avoided, at least for now.
1. Established Ground Rules: Israel and Hezbollah have tacitly agreed upon certain rules governing their skirmishes. These include limited exchanges of fire in specific areas mainly Syria, the Chebaa farms, and adjacent regions in Lebanon, with UNIFIL acting as a mediator and ensuring calm is restored after small rounds of fighting. This understanding serves as a fragile framework that neither party seems eager to dismantle.
2. Hamas and Saudi-Israeli Normalization Talks: Hamas recently achieved a significant victory, derailing the talks between Saudi Arabia and Israel. This outcome suggests that the Palestinian issue remains a formidable barrier to regional normalization. Hezbollah already benefitted from the move conducted by Hamas. Opening the Lebanese border as part of a larger conflict will not bring a strategic win for Hezbollah, nor will it help it deal with any domestic pressure favorably.
3. Exclusion of Hamas: Hamas's recent aggressive actions can be interpreted as a strategic move to safeguard its role in the impending regional deal. While not directly involved in the Saudi-Israeli normalization talks, Hamas made a calculated move to assert its influence. By initiating hostilities, Hamas aimed to ensure it has a significant say in the negotiations that directly impact the Palestinian cause. This aggressive stance served as a reminder to regional players that any comprehensive deal must address the concerns and aspirations of all Palestinian factions, including Hamas. Thus, while not part of the formal negotiations, Hamas's actions underlined its determination to be included in shaping the future of the region, prompting a careful consideration of its stance by other stakeholders.
4. Hamas's Future: If Hamas manages to survive the current crisis, it could potentially re-enter negotiations. This possibility further discourages Hezbollah from taking actions that might alienate potential allies within the Palestinian struggle.
5. Hezbollah's Pragmatism: Hezbollah's recent resolution of oil and gas discussions, aimed at appeasing the United States amidst ongoing Iranian nuclear talks, underscores its current pragmatic approach. A full-scale war risks jeopardizing this delicate balance, making it an unattractive option.
6. Iran's Dialogue with the International Community: Iran, a key supporter of Hezbollah, is actively seeking a diplomatic resolution with the international community. A large-scale confrontation would likely hamper these negotiations, something Iran is keen to avoid. Such a confrontation could also risk dragging Iran as a direct combatant, something it had successfully maneuvered away from ever since the Iran-Iraq war and most recently the Iraq debacle.
7. Internal Challenges: Internally, Hezbollah faces numerous challenges. Lebanon is already deeply divided. Hezbollah understands that exacerbating these divisions could lead to an irreparable fracture within the country, especially with calls for the division of the country ensues; a scenario it wishes to prevent.
8. Refugee Crisis and Civil Unrest: Similar to 2006, a new conflict could lead to widespread displacement, and potentially to a new wave of internal unrest. Hezbollah is acutely aware that it must weigh its actions carefully, considering the potential for mini-civil wars in different regions of the country following the Kahale, Chwaya, and Khaldeh incidents. In 2006, things were different. Hezbollah was not involved in Syria with its arms being used to challenge the Syrian Sunni majority. It was not yet partly responsible for the Syrian refugee crisis. Refugees could be a strong card in any internal turmoil against Hezbollah, something the party is very aware of.
9. Element of Surprise: Crucially, if Hezbollah was to be involved in the current conflict, it had missed the element of surprise that favored Hamas in its recent actions. A carefully planned surprise attack can have a significant impact on the course of a conflict. The absence of this advantage makes Hezbollah think twice before escalating the southern conflict.
In conclusion, while the specter of war looms large, Hezbollah’s current calculations seem to be tilting towards restraint. The delicate regional balance, coupled with the lessons of the past, serve as compelling reasons for all parties involved to tread cautiously. However, in the volatile landscape of the Middle East, the situation remains fluid, emphasizing the need for continued vigilance and diplomacy to avert a potentially disastrous conflict.
The Saudi position on the current conflict between Israel and Hamas/Islamic Factions is a significant stepping stone towards diplomacy.