There are worrying signs, with Hezb leveraging its foreign support far more efficiently than “March 14”. It is making worrying land purchases, and still has a strong infiltration in the Lebanese Army, in addition to its control of Customs and some Security Services.
But if you plan a fight, weapons are the last thing you plan for; at the very least, you need to ensure logistics, political cover, a secure “rear”, and some level of popular support. Those are far from guaranteed, and for all the talk of escalation, it is not being played out in strictly military terms, but in the backrooms of Lebanese politics.
In a sense, this the lesser of evils, unless one needs convincing that a military confrontation would further bleed the nation of its best and brightest, and will bring back the warlord cantons of old. Indeed. Furthermore, swapping the nastiness of Geagea, Berri or Joumblat for the megalomania of Aoun or Nasrallah may not be much of a bargain (or the other way round).
This is another type confrontation that began on the heels of the war of July 2006; a logistical/economic conflict among mercenaries and pportunists.
No wonder HassAoun’s sounding so increasingly pissed; they cornered on many fronts. The most important four that I can identify are;
1- No Storage: Prices fluctuate in response to outside markets.
In large part, this is because of the lack of a local “buffer”; merchants store nothing or very little. So as prices rise rapidly in sync with the rest of the world, war disruptions can cause havoc in supply.
How long would we last without outside supply? History can offer a grim cautionary tale to those of us who are tempted to find out.
2- No Independent Supplies: Supplies Sources are Concentrated.
Most goods are ferried across the
Of course, weapons do go through, but “une armée marche à son estomac”, and so does a militia, especially Lebanese militias with a tendency to hide amongst civilians.
3- Lack of Funding: Iranian Funds are limited. Sure, they are splurging on a helluva lunch party; but it remains to be seen how they can afford dinner.
And the pressure on Iranian funding is ever increasing at the time when Hezb’s parasitism of the Lebanese state has been partially diminished. More needs to be done to limit their powers of patronage, but they already have pay directly for things they used to bill the government for.
4- “Smart” Sanctions: US Pressures are mounting.
OK, the Americans have their hands full, but they can still pack a punch. The latest Executive Order can have serious implications for the Diaspora that still supports Aoun. But more importantly it can have far reaching implications for Hezb’s support bases in
They may not take direct measures, but the US Treasury has a way in scaring banks into bankruptcy. The cost of doing business may rise in some sectors of the economy, and transaction costs could increase, if they are not interrupted outright.
With funds from smuggling interrupted, and the cost of money transfers increased, Hezb’s “parasitic proto-state” is facing additional pressures as they are forced to assume the obligations of a state whose prerogatives they usurped.
Their little tour of the foreign embassies earlier in the year, to ask for “their” portion of the cash, was an indication that they were already feeling this pressure. Some of this Iranian money will have to be put to non-military uses…
If they are to show sincerity in reviving
We need more genuine policy choices, a Lebanese economic vision of our future and our role in the region.
Keep in mind the context; Hezb had come to fill a void left by governments that have abdicated control of anything outside “Greater Beirut”, where 50% of the population now live. With the exception of the Great Fouad Chehab, successive governments had yet to offer those at the “periphery” any other than neglect.
They may be misguided fools to some, but many of those who follow demagogues like Nasrallah, Aoun, or others do so more as a "negative" reaction against real injustices than out of ideological conviction. That can still be mitigated, but time is running out, and politicians are not getting any smarter.
For us Lebanese, blaming Syrians for racketing our country and Israelis for bombing it is akin to accusing the grave digger for the death of the victim...