The Americans Retreat: We Failed to Harm Hezbollah
By Hiam al-Qusaify – Al-Akhbar Newspaper
Translated by staff
Following a period of radical American posturing, some signs of change are beginning to appear from Washington as the situation deteriorates and these policies take their toll on Lebanon. Recent American messages seem to be pushing for quick government formation and a move towards elections.
According to reliable American sources, a serious discussion has begun about the feasibility of the pressure exerted by Washington on Hezbollah, its allies, and its sources of funding since 2017 as well as the impact of this pressure on the group and Lebanon as a whole. The discussions concluded that while the financial and economic sanctions affected Hezbollah, the effects weren’t at the level that the Americans had hoped or expected. Rather, it was the other political forces and the Lebanese in general who have been the hardest hit by the unprecedented collapse at all levels.
A reevaluation of the American position is morphing into a new approach, the features of which appeared in the form of direct messages about the formation of a [Lebanese] government. The messages indicate that the Americans are pressing for the formation of a government as soon as possible, in order to avoid further collapse. This collapse is gradually becoming dangerous and severe, to the extent that the Lebanese situation may become a costly bargaining chip for the American side during negotiations with Iran. What Washington wants in Lebanon is for the situation not to collapse completely since it’s still “Israel’s” neighbor, with all that this means. It is also Syria’s neighbor, which Washington still views as an arena of tension. In addition, a complete collapse will only fuel fears in the region that terrorists will infiltrate to the outside world from Syria, in light of the current circumstances in Afghanistan.
According to the latest information, Washington is showing noticeable resentment and despair over the inability of its allies in Beirut to put pressure on Hezbollah and the Covenant [the Lebanese President]. But its allies remained reluctant to engage in an actual confrontation, regardless of their affiliations and positions [except for a very limited number of them], as if they wanted Washington to fight their battles for them.
But Washington isn’t in the process of initiating any such intervention. Instead, it’s opting for a different approach, which involves sending messages of pressure to form the government without any conditions. Washington is no longer concerned with any provisions related to the representation of Hezbollah and its allies, and it’s certainly not concerned with the dispute over the quotas for the representation of Christians or the one-third guarantor. It is concerned about the formation of a government and then holding elections.
Perhaps the second point has become more important for the U.S. because the expected government is a turning point to prevent the collapse. The elections mean more time (because the region’s negotiation stages are long) and the prospects of a new government emerging will help more in the rescue process. From here, the pressure will go towards accepting a government that does not resemble the government of Premiere Hassan Diab. It may not mind a government in which the President has a blocking third, even if it does not publicly give its blessing.
In addition, Washington tried to pressure the Lebanese President to distance himself from Hezbollah to the point of turning against it. But this did not happen, and for various reasons, some of which are about principles and others practical. It’s worth mentioning that at some stages there was noticeable tension in the relationship between the Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah – when there was a lot of talk about restoring the relationship and updating the understanding paper, until the issue was finally withdrawn from deliberations by both parties. Note that President Michel Aoun did not go to extremes in this matter.
Hence, Washington's new roadmap is directed more towards encouraging everyone, including the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister-designate, to expedite the formation of the government at a time when there was fear that Hezbollah and Aoun would seek to take advantage of the new American atmosphere and be strict in forming a government closer to the same color. But judging by Hezbollah’s actions, this seems unlikely as long as the party is represented by someone close to it.
In parallel, there are assurances that all this has nothing to do with any Gulf or Saudi position. Saudi Arabia, unlike Washington, maintains a completely negative posture towards Lebanon and is not concerned with any new American position that helps buy time by forming a government and holding elections. Riyadh withdrew from Lebanon and won’t have any role in the near future.
Finally, the paradox lies in the different approaches of Hezbollah and Aoun to what happened in recent months. Aoun burned bridges with all the allied political forces, the opposition, and the Christian forces, and he is likely to invest these in what will happen next to confront them, as he usually does. As for Hezbollah, it did the exact opposite and tried to understand the reactions of others. It did not turn against any party, first of which is the Sunni group, including previous heads of government and individuals, and other political forces. Rather, it was in favor of the entry of the Lebanese Forces into the government in its pursuit of solving the problem of government representation. Therefore, the question remains: How will they act today regarding the repercussions of forming a government, after the emergence of the new American vision in Lebanon?