Hezbollah – Iran’s Pawn – OpEd


A war with Israel is the last thing that Lebanon needs.  The Lebanese people are in the midst of a severe economic downturn, facing soaring prices and severe shortages of food and basic commodities. Hezbollah-allied political, financial and business leaders, the source of the graft and corruption at the heart of the nation, have allowed Lebanon’s economy to deteriorate to crisis level. 

Lebanon is in a catastrophic economic situation which has lasted for years.  If Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, were to initiate a full-scale conflict with Israel, he would find little support from the hard-pressed Lebanese. Even the continuous armed skirmishes over the Lebanon-Israel border serve little purpose beyond administering an Israeli tit for a Hezbollah tat.  They achieve nothing of any value for either side.  Initiated by Hezbollah at the behest of its paymaster, Iran, their true function is to fulfil Iran’s desire to cause as much trouble in the Middle East as possible.  

Hezbollah was established in 1982 specifically to counter Israel’s invasion of  Lebanon, undertaken in response to constant attacks on Israel from Lebanese territory by Palestinian militants.  But when the subsequent Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon ended in 2000, Hezbollah’s aim was achieved.  What purpose can the constant armed interchanges have now?

One truth, long unacknowledged in the western world but the cornerstone of Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, is that the Iranian regime is in relentless pursuit of its own agenda, namely to dominate the Middle East as a first step toward spreading the Shi’ite tradition of Islam eventually to the whole world. This was clearly spelled out by the instigator of Iran’s Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on more than one occasion: “We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry ‘There is no god but Allah’ resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle.”

As essential stages in this process, the revolutionary leaders envisaged the overthrow of Zionism (ie Israel) and of capitalism (ie the US) – a fact which one-time US President Obama, and now President Biden, have seemed peculiarly reluctant to acknowledge.  Time and again attempts at mollifying the Iranian regime have proved useless – its ultimate aim remains unaltered.  It still regards America as the Great Satan, and Israel as its smaller manifestation – both destined for obliteration.

In pursuit of their objective Iran’s leaders recognize no bounds.  They sponsor terrorist activities and deploy their puppet organizations – among others, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen, and Hezbollah in Lebanon – to undertake them. In Lebanon Iran has nurtured, financed and equipped Hezbollah ever since 1982 to harry Israel.  UK media reported on January 12 that Iran is paying Hezbollah fighters a wage of $1300 per month. 

Lebanon’s problem as a sovereign state has been its inability to prevent the accretion of political, social and above all military power by Hezbollah over the past 40 years – a process that has left the sovereign state of  Lebanon in thrall to Hezbollah.  

In 2024 Hezbollah is virtually a state within a state, sucking the lifeblood out of Lebanon at the instigation of Iran.  It has effectively brought Lebanon’s political process to a standstill – since October 31, 2022 the nation has been without a president. and has hobbled along with only caretaker government ministers.  Every attempt to resolve the political difficulties has been frustrated by Hezbollah and its political allies.

As for Hezbollah’s armed forces, it is generally believed that they are larger and more powerful than the Lebanese national army.  The Hezbollah military has, after all, been in receipt of sophisticated technology from Iran for years, and has built up a formidable state-of-the-art armory directed at Israel.  The two armed forces exist side by side within the same state, and although under the previous president, Michel Aoun, there was often a degree of collaboration between them, Hezbollah steers its own course, and is not answerable to Lebanon‘s political leaders for its activities.

Hezbollah’s last full-scale clash with Israel was brought to an end in August 2006 by UN Security Council Resolution 1701.  One main purpose of the resolution was to keep Hezbollah troops far from the Israel-Lebanon border, thus forestalling any future conflict.  In accordance with the resolution 15,000 UN international troops, operating alongside the Lebanese army, were deployed to police the Lebanon-Israel border. There are currently just over 9,500.  Known as UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon), they have been in place for the past 18 years, their authority largely ignored by Hezbollah.  

Another provision of Resolution 1701 that neither Iran nor Hezbollah had any intention of meeting was the UN’s strong demand, laid down in previous resolutions, that all armed groups in Lebanon, other than those of the Lebanese state, should be disarmed.  

On the day that Resolution 1701 passed unanimously in the UN Security Council, Hezbollah secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, said that Hezbollah would honor the call for a ceasefire provided Israel agreed to end its military actions. Resolution 1701 was approved by the Lebanese government one week after it was passed by the UN. As it did so, Nasrallah reiterated his pledge that once the Israeli offensive ceased, Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel would also stop. 

In practice, of course, 1701 has failed utterly to maintain stability along the Israel-Lebanon border.  Hezbollah, marching to the beat of Iran’s drum, has prevented UNIFIL from performing its mission.  It has used its militia to control the area, has deployed its forces there, has launched thousands of rockets into Israel, and has constructed tunnels under the border to enable its terror units to penetrate Israel.  Its bombardment of Israel with rockets, missiles and drones has been unceasing.  UNIFIL has proved ineffective, unwilling to confront Hezbollah head-on.  It has failed to prevent Hezbollah’s continuous activity along the border in blatant violation of 1701. 

For its part, the UN has failed to insist that its UNIFIL forces actually enforce adherence with its Resolution 1701.  As a result Iran, through its Hezbollah pawn, has been empowered to disrupt regional stability, just as it has done by fortifying Hamas in Gaza and using the Houthis in Yemen to attack shipping in the Red Sea and deploy missiles directly into Saudi Arabia.  The perpetual Hezbollah-Israel skirmishes across the Lebanon border serve no-one’s purposes except those of the Iranian regime. In the end it will be necessary to tackle the organ-grinder rather than his monkey.

Neville Teller

Neville Teller's latest book is ""Trump and the Holy Land: 2016-2020". He has written about the Middle East for more than 30 years, has published five books on the subject, and blogs at "A Mid-East Journal". Born in London and a graduate of Oxford University, he is also a long-time dramatist, writer and abridger for BBC radio and for the UK audiobook industry. He was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 2006 "for services to broadcasting and to drama."

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