Opinions on the Mediterranean
mechanism, which allows political actions a veto over the cabinet’s decisions. his enables Hezbollah and its allies to prevent decisions that may conlict with their political and strategic interests, and also prevents any new govern-ment rom tipping the balance o Lebanon’s regional stance toward one side or another o the Syrian war. he political equation is urther complicated by the pros-pects o an emerging hydrocarbon economy in Lebanon, over which political actions have ound new ground or conrontation. he act that recent geological surveys have identiied possible gas and oil reserves in the Lebanese maritime region has created expectations o signiicant economic revenues. Until an agreement over an equitable redistribution o this potential wealth is reached, this issue risks becoming yet another source o division or the country. Within this picture, the most positive note is that South Lebanon has remained relatively quiet. Even when there have been minor incidents, they have ailed to provoke an escalation on either side. Neither Hezbollah nor Israel seems to have an incentive to engage in open conlict at the present time.
What Does Qusayr Mean for Hezbollah?
Although Hezbollah’s leadership has repeatedly declared that the battle o Qusayr in May 2013 does not mark an historical turn or the movement, it is diicult to agree. Hezbollah was ormed to ight against the Israeli occupa-tion o Lebanon, and its intervention in Syria can hardly be justiied on the same basis. o be sure, it is not the irst time that Hezbollah’s struggle has turned inward. In the early 1990s, it ought an internecine war with Amal’s militia (paradoxically supported by Assad’s regime), and in 2008, it resorted to orce at the peak o an internal political crisis, participating in a ew weeks o civil unrest in Beirut and elsewhere. Furthermore, Hezbollah has also played a role in the Iraq war, although the actual extent o its involvement is yet to be assessed. But the scale o the conrontation in Syria is dierent. he intervention, motivated by the vital strategic value o the Syrian regime and pushed or by Iran, marks a publicly declared stance that widens the gap between Hezbollah and all those Arabs who believed in a reer world in the wake o the 2011 uprisings. From a revolutionary orce, spearheading the discourse and practice o “resistance,” Hezbollah has morphed in the eyes o its opponents and at least some o its supporters into a orce that deends the regional status quo and that justiies its military activities on the basis o sel-interest. It will take some time beore it will be able to requaliy its public image, although history shows that it is resourceul in its public relations. he Syrian crisis is still an open-ended story.
A New Wave of International Condemnations
I Hezbollah’s regional and domestic role has brought criticism rom within, international actors have, unsurpris-ingly, adopted measures that have complicated the move-ment’s position. In July 2013, the European Union added Hezbollah’s military wing to its list o terrorist groups. As a recent GMF policy brie argues, this move was indicative o a degree o convergence among transatlantic allies ater years o divergent policies towards Hezbollah.
he measure — praised by the United States and Israel and similar to decisions taken by the Gul Cooperation Council — is linked to the role that Hezbollah is alleged to have played in a terrorist attack on an Israeli target in Bulgaria. Countries such as the U.K. and the Netherlands had been pushing or this decision or a long time, but other EU member states had contested the strategic value o the measure. Member states such as Italy and Spain have troops deployed in South Lebanon within the ramework o the UNIFIL mission, and the adoption o measures that may heighten tensions with Hezbollah could jeopardise the sae continuation o a relatively unctional mission. he result was a compromise o dubious eectiveness. Only the so-called military wing o Hezbollah is subject to restrictions that orbid it rom engaging in inancial activi-ties within the EU. Furthermore, the EU has declared that its relations with all Lebanese political actors will remain unchanged. Only a ew days ater the adoption o the deci-sion, the EU’s ambassador to Lebanon met publicly with a high-level Hezbollah oicial, conirming the limited impact o the decision. In act, in the overall context, the EU’s deci-sion is only a minor hitch or Hezbollah; thus ar there have been no reports o the eective application o the restric-tions to any individual ailiated to Hezbollah. he main cost o blacklisting or Hezbollah is to its reputation but, on the other hand, the EU has eroded part o its political
1 Hassan Mneimneh, “Transatlantic Divergence in the MENA Region? The Question of Hezbollah,”
GMF Policy Brief