West urges anti-Hezbollah camp to take a stand

While the West is aware that reviving the March 14 alliance is a far fetched scenario, the US, Europe, and their Arab allies are pushing for at least some form of consolidation among the anti-Hezbollah camp
by Rozana Bou Monsef

8 March 2019 | 17:03

Source: by Annahar

  • by Rozana Bou Monsef
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 8 March 2019 | 17:03

UN peacekeepers are seen from Meis al-Jabal village in south Lebanon, December 9, 2018. (AFP)

BEIRUT: While the US and Europe's policies toward Lebanon have always been closely aligned, their agendas and approach for addressing challenges both in Lebanon and across the region have often diverged.

That said, both these powerhouses were recently provoked in the wake of reports that revealed an elaborate Hezbollah underground tunnel network leading into Israeli territory. 

This revelation embarrassed Lebanese officials, who have yet to firmly address the scandal or offer any sort of explanation for the blatant breach of United Nations Security Council's Resolution 1701, which will be the focus of an upcoming meeting of the five members. 

The controversy has further brought the US and European countries' views into alignment as the West becomes increasingly wary of Hezbollah's rise in influence having secured three prominent Cabinet portfolios including the much coveted Health Ministry. 

The Iranian-backed party's increasing influence in the decision-making process has pushed certain European nations to reconsider their terrorist classification, with some contemplating following the UK's footsteps and banning all of Hezbollah's wings due to its destabilizing nature in the Middle East, though a number of European states continue to show restraint given their contribution to peacekeeping forces stationed along Lebanon's southern border where Hezbollah enjoys wide support. 

Another development playing into the equation is the imminent retirement of a number of high ranking Lebanese officers, sources say, with questions arising as to who will replace them. 

These turns of events, coupled with the political class' failure to reign in Hezbollah, crack down on corruption, and implement reforms, has diluted the West's faith in those in charge. 

On the Syrian front, Hezbollah and its allies have pushed hard to normalize relations with Syria, under the pretext of facilitating the return of refugees despite Syrian President Bashar Assad's lack of eagerness to expedite this process. 

His policies of discouragement have been well documented, from the property law confiscating properties to continued military conscriptions and security concerns. 

While certain Lebanese political parties underwent an elaborate campaign denouncing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other western European international aid agencies accusing them of "intimidating refugees willing to return," Assad has failed to ensure that conditions are safe, according to the UNHCR.

This plan might very well backfire, leaving Lebanon to its own devices and dealing with this problem on its own. 

In an attempt to counter the path Lebanon has found itself on, Europe and the west have attempted to urged members of the now-defunct March 14 alliance, which managed to galvanize the Lebanese populace and expel Syrian troops in 2005, to take a stand. 

While the West is aware that reviving the March 14 alliance is a far fetched scenario, the US, Europe, and their Arab allies are pushing for at least some form of consolidation among the anti-Hezbollah camp.

Simply put, European and Arab leaders are imploring the remaining pillars of the March 14 movement to show a united front and cease making concessions to Hezbollah and its allies. 

A sense of nostalgia is being evoked, reminding members of the alliance that their willingness and ability to inspire the masses and lead massive protests succeeded in ridding Lebanon of the Syrian presence. Had the March 14 coalition merely hedged on the United Nations Security Council's Resolution 1559, Syrian troops would have simply retreated to the Bekaa valley, sources say. 

On the other hand, leading figures within the now-defunct March 14 movement are quick to remind their European counterparts of the current political landscape in the region, where the axis of Iran and its proxy Hezbollah has managed to tip the scale.

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