Hezbollah's latest attempt to consolidate its influence

In line with its self-appointed role as the one that defines national issues, the party will categorize yet another issue.
by Bassem Ajami

11 March 2019 | 11:40

Source: by Annahar

  • by Bassem Ajami
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 11 March 2019 | 11:40

This undated photo shows Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah delivering a speech to his followers. (AFP Photo)

In embracing the fight against corruption, Hezbollah is following a tradition in radical Arab politics. It is to champion a popular cause in order to camouflage a not so popular agenda.

Since their inception in the early 1950s, radical regimes in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Libya fervently championed two popular causes. The first was the Palestinian issue, while the second was combating corruption at home. This gained them legitimacy and enough support to hide their true aims: To consolidate their tyrannical rule domestically, and to spread their hegemony throughout the region.

In Lebanon, Hezbollah followed a similar example in embracing the fight against Israel, and now, by posing as the country's "corruption Czar." But its ultimate objective differs from that of the radical regimes.

No doubt Hezbollah earned praise for defeating the Israeli occupation of parts of south Lebanon. Unlike some radical Arab regimes, which lost territories to the Jewish state, Hezbollah regained such territories.

Such popularity, however, soon started to wither. It became apparent that the Iranian backed party began to utilize its acquired bright image to serve a scheme to spread Iranian hegemony into Lebanon and other Arab countries.

But in Lebanon, given the sectarian mosaic of the country, it was necessary for Hezbollah to seek to consolidate its influence by a dubious mix. This involved creating a network of hesitant alliances, on the one hand, and the employment of sheer bullying and intimidation, on the other. Posing as Lebanon's "corruption Czar," is part of a pattern in Hezbollah's behavior. The aim of such pattern is not to polish its image at home in as much as strengthening its influence within the state organs. It achieves this by appointing itself as the one that defines, and thus manipulates, national issues to its advantage.

It began by defining the issue of war and peace with Israel, which came at a huge cost to the country. Following that, it reinforced its position further by forging an alliance with General Michel Aoun, and later with Saad Hariri. In between, the series of assassinations that, since 2005, targeted only the party's rivals, resumed.

Through such alliances, it installed the former as president, and the latter as prime minister, thus defining the questions of the presidency and premiership, and where their priorities should be.

In his speech last week, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah equated Hezbollah's crusade against corruption with the party's fight against the Israeli occupation in south Lebanon. He dismissed those who doubted its motives as "thieves and robbers."

But sorting out the thieves and the robbers from those who are falsely accused is a matter for the judiciary to decide, not for the politicians. And even here, Nasrallah seemed doubtful of the ultimate verdict. "It must be convincing", he warned.

And what if Hezbollah is not "convinced" by the verdict of the judiciary? What then?

In line with its self-appointed role as the one that defines national issues, the party will categorize yet another issue. This time it will raise the banner of shortcomings in the judicial system, and demand its "renovation," in order to tailor it to fit its own fashion.

In his speech, Sayyed Hassan said that Hezbollah's fight against corruption is a long one. "Expect everything and anything" he threatened. He spoke the truth. But the party's fight against corruption is only the catalyst to achieve a larger objective. It is to gradually consolidate its influence within the organs of the state in a preamble to subdue it, and bring it under the complete influence of Iran. Not a very appealing objective to the Lebanese, even when wrapped with the cover of fighting corruption.

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Mr. Ajami is a freelance researcher, writer, and contributor to The Arab Weekly, London. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Annahar.

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