It goes without saying that the Lebanese state cannot be judged on the basis that it is a state in the full sense of the word. Having a theoretical, administrative presence and international recognition of borders is not enough to have a state, because the most important attribute of a state is the authority which monopolizes the use of force in all of its sovereign territory.
Therefore, the world and the Arab states—and even the Lebanese themselves—have accepted the reality of living in the presence of armed militias, including Hezbollah. They can only hope it is a temporary situation.
A number of historic, religious, and ideological issues made Shi’ites in Lebanon look for a leadership which stemmed from the social and religious spirit of their sect. This is due to the fact that the left-wing, secular, and nationalist systems failed to save the Shi’ites from social and political marginalization and neglect, and also due to the constant attacks by Israel in the south.
Imam Musa Al-Sadr’s [Amal] movement came to be seen as a logical alternative for the Shi’ites in Lebanon because it stemmed from the traditions of Shi’a Islam. It was also a substitute for the philosophical complexities of secular politics. The movement was able to effect significant changes in the lives of Shi’ites, one of the most important of which—the founding of a social religious authority—was independent from the Sunni authorities.
The establishment of the Amal Movement in the early 1970s by Imam Sadr came as an introduction to test the ability of military power to redress the great imbalance in power that favored other sects.
There is no doubt that the victory of the Khomeinist revolution in 1979 and the overlapping of its ideological, theological, political, and social references with the Shi’ites in Lebanon and Iraq both caused and filled a huge power vacuum. This is especially true when you consider the amount of Iranian money and effort directed at the promotion of velayat-e faqih (governance by a supreme Islamic jurist).
This led the institution of velayat-e faqih to enter into a bitter and bloody conflict on the Shi’ite arena in Lebanon against the left-wing forces that were there before. However, the most important struggle was the one with the Amal Movement led by Nabih Berri. This struggle was one between the velayat-e faqih scheme against former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad’s scheme to swallow up Lebanon.
This means that great sacrifices and financial cost took Hezbollah to a reality where it began to harbor ambitions to make Lebanon a province that was a military and political affiliate of Iran.
This long introduction came to answer a specific question: Will Hezbollah allow the Lebanese state to exercise its sovereignty following the explosions in the southern suburbs [of Beirut]? The reality is that the Lebanese state is only allowed [to do] what benefits Hezbollah’s project. Hezbollah does not even recognize the current Lebanese state or its sovereignty, even though it still benefits from its resources.
Therefore, Hezbollah’s confidence is limited to its own organs and sectarian base and, more importantly, its ideological base, which represents its only reliable protection mechanism. As for the state, Hezbollah considers it to be infiltrated by other sects and political forces.
There is no doubt that the breach of security in Beirut’s southern suburbs is seen by Hezbollah as a clear setback which will raise questions among its supporters. However, this setback can be considered one of the calculated jihadi losses, which they can compensate for. Their public has accepted greater losses previously, as was the case in the July 2006 war or in the number of deaths in Syria so far, because the public sees Hezbollah as defender of the sect’s existence.
Hezbollah may allow a nominal security presence in its areas, but control over the security situation will remain in Hezbollah’s hands until the balance of power changes. Hezbollah is not afraid to expand its security presence under the pretext of protecting its areas, as seen in recent weeks.
The idea of Hezbollah submitting to the logic of a state is a fantasy, because that will end its existence. Hezbollah was formed on the basis of extending the rule of velayat-e faqih over the largest possible territory, to achieve legendary aims linked to the Shi’ite belief of the return of the Mahdi. This belief has become entrenched in the belief that drives the movement’s leaders and members. The maneuvers to join the security, executive, and legislative institutions of the state are nothing but part of the pretense they must keep up in order to infiltrate the decision-making apparatus, and to benefit from Lebanese society’s resources and taxes.
Today, this movement is facing a dangerous challenge to its existence, because any change to the situation in Syria will result in the Shi’ite movement losing an essential link to its sustainability. This will also deprive Hezbollah of the logistical reach it has enjoyed for three decades, protecting its back and guaranteeing its links to Iran.
The movement is able to bear a few explosions, thousands of casualties, and an untold amount of destruction. Hezbollah will not retreat from defending what is left of Bashar Al-Assad until the political and military matters are resolved in a clear and decisive manner.
The counterpoint to this article can be read here.