Parliamentary Elections in Lebanon: Iran-Israel Tensions
Professor Habib Malik
Lebanese American University, Beirut
14th May 2018
On the recent parliamentary elections that took place in Lebanon on May 6th pretty much the results for the most part were expected, for example the block that includes Hezbollah and the other Shiite allies, the Amal Movement led by Nabih Berri, the Speaker of the House, garnered pretty much more or less the same amount of seats that they had previously in their main strongholds of Baalbek in the northern Beqaa Valley and throughout southern Lebanon. In fact Hezbollah, if anything lost seat in the Byblos area, where there is a small Shiite community living within a larger Christian community. As for the other groupings, well, Hezbollah’s main Christian allies, the Patriotic Movement, actually lost some seats, led initially by Michel Aoun, now President, and now led by his son in law Gebran Bassil. Hariri’s Future Movement lost some seats as well but the fiercely anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces led by Samir Geagea, actually made some impressive gains. So, all and all, we can say that there is a kind of a Lebanese style of checks and balances here. And the idea that after the elections Hezbollah is basically in full control of Lebanon is neither accurate nor true. It is too simplistic and in fact, in a sense, it is an exaggeration that can be the source of obfuscation, in terms of understanding the true picture of Lebanon and it’s many nuances.
Now, as far as the recent clashes between Israel and Iran in Syria, well yes, they are worrying and the problem there is that human error or some kind of miscalculation or overreach can always result a spiral towards catastrophe. I am talking basically about some form of runaway escalation which can get out of hand. That is always a possibility. But that said my sense is that neither Israel nor Iran are looking for a wider or larger conflict at this point. And given that and given if you like the US – Russian sealing on how much the Syrian situation can deteriorate and affect its surroundings, I think for now at least the region is spared a major conflagration between Israel and Iran. The other interesting noteworthy observation is that Hezbollah in Lebanon have kept out of any direct engagement with Israel. This been the case for a long time ever since the end of the summer 2006 war and in fact today the Lebanon-Israel border has never been quieter. And, although some Hezbollah members might be involved in activities inside Syria alongside the regime forces and the Iranians, Hezbollah has considerably scaled down its involvement in Syria over the last several weeks and months. And that too is part of the internal agreement in Lebanon of what is known as distancing Lebanon from other Arab arenas and other inter-Arab conflicts. And so Hezbollah, to some extent, has abided or has been abiding by that. So I don’t see any imminent breakdown of the current deterrence equation that seems to be quite robust at this point between Hezbollah and Israel in south Lebanon.