By Arab News
By Diana Moukalled*
The battle of Jaroud Arsal, launched by Hezbollah on the Lebanese-Syrian border, has multiple goals.
This battle was waged after a primary Russian-US agreement regarding safe zones in Syria. Iran apparently did not welcome this agreement, thinking it marginalized Tehran; its discontent was manifested in efforts to assert its influence in Syria and Lebanon, where the Arsal battle is taking place.
The Iran-backed Hezbollah paved the way for this battle through a large political media campaign in Lebanon supported by political forces, either because they are Hezbollah’s allies or have decided to surrender to its power. Behind the fabricated speeches about “protecting Lebanon,” they are in fact working to create a safe zone for future repatriated Syrian refugees. Iran also wants to strengthen its areas of influence in Syria and tighten the safety belt around these areas.
Hezbollah knows that no one in Lebanon can object to this battle because no one wants to keep Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham (JFS), the militant group formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, controlling the barren areas on the borders. Hezbollah knows very well how and when to take advantage of decisive moments.
Hezbollah waged these battles, supported by shallow patriotic feelings, and undermining the role of the military institution on the borders. Hezbollah was able to get the needed compassion and support by launching a campaign of hatred against the Syrian refugees by spreading racist videos, in which Lebanese were seen beating Syrians, following the killing of Syrian detainees tortured by the Lebanese army. Hezbollah sowed misperceptions about Syrian refugees and the terrorists.
Patriotism in Lebanon today is just blind, ignorant hatred, and allows for the depiction of what is going on in Jaroud Arsal as a battle against terrorism. It is in fact a battle to confirm regional Iranian influence and undermine Lebanon even more.
What homeland are they defending, when the citizens’ feelings are being fueled with hatred against refugees, who are portrayed as terrorists?
The Lebanese have accepted the army’s killing of four Syrian detainees because they believed that this will pave the way for a stronger state fighting terrorism. However, it is really about preparing the soil for a wider regional sectarian plan.
Hezbollah is today the sole decision-making power in Lebanon. The government has to secure the party’s mission in Syria, in return for trivial rewards. No one cares about refugee camps being set on fire, detainees being tortured and killed, a journalist being arrested for commenting on Facebook or a lawyer being threatened because she dared to defend victims of torture. All this no longer offends anyone in Lebanon, and we cannot escape the fact that Lebanon is now a state ruled by Hezbollah.
What is happening in Arsal is that Hezbollah is expanding its influence, with the Lebanese army remaining mute. When there is no value to borders, sovereignty and citizens, the end of Lebanon becomes a crystal clear reality.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.