Flashpoint / Global 15 January 2019 Lebanon Share Facebook Twitter Email Print Back To Map I. Why it Matters Lebanon has remained stable despite the bloody civil war in Syria that sent millions of refugees into the small multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian fragile country. More broadly, it has been spared, so far, from the regional impact of the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia and between Iran and Israel. But tensions are rising, and Lebanon could become a new battleground for regional rivalries. II. Recent Developments 15 January 2019 Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked that "there is one central threat: Iran and its terror proxies. We have acted carefully and responsibly to thwart efforts by those who wish to annihilate us to become stronger. We did this by blocking the nuclear deal with Iran and reimposing sanctions. We had to penetrate through Iranian lies, as Iran lies all the time. They lied about the nuclear deal, and we exposed that by uncovering the secret nuclear archive from Tehran. They are lying now, saying that they are launching an ostensibly innocent satellite into space, but in fact, they are aiming to accomplish the first stage for an inter-continental missile in defiance of all international agreements. We fully support the U.S.' unwavering objection to this aggressive act". "Another step we have taken to protect Israel", he continued, "is disrupting Hizbollah's attempts to acquire precision-guided munitions, destroying Hizbollah's tunnels in the north and those of Hamas in the south, and above all, preventing the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria". Citing an Iranian official's recent remarks about Iran's advisory role in Syria, Netanyahu said: "I advise them to get out of there fast, because we will continue with our resolute policy, as we have promised and as we are doing, fearlessly and relentlessly". View More 13 January 2019 Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked that "we worked with impressive success to block Iran's military entrenchment in Syria. In this framework, the IDF attacked Iranian and Hizbollah targets hundreds of times. We worked together against the manufacture of precision weapons in Lebanon. We worked to dismantle Hizbollah's tunnels weapon in Lebanon, in Operation 'Northern Shield'". "Just in the last 36 hours", Netanyahu revealed, "the air force attacked Iranian warehouses with Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus. The accumulation of recent attacks proves that we are determined more than ever to take action against Iran in Syria, just as we promised". View More 13 January 2019 Confirming Israeli strikes against what he described as "an Iranian weapons warehouse at the international airport in Damascus", Prime Minister Netanyahu asserted that "if necessary, we will step up these attacks". He also indicated that operation "Northern Shield", along the Lebanon border, had come "to a successful close". View More 10 January 2019 Secretary Pompeo warned that "in Lebanon, Hizbollah remains a major presence, but we won't accept this status quo. Our aggressive sanctions campaign against Iran is also directed at the terror group and its leaders". Pompeo added that "the U.S. will work to reduce the threat of Hizbollah's missile arsenal, which is aimed at Israel... many of these rockets are equipped with advanced guidance systems, courtesy of Iran, and that's unacceptable. Iran may think it owns Lebanon. Iran is wrong". View More 3 January 2019 Prime Minister asserted that "we are acting decisively to thwart all those who seek to endanger us. This is now happening in Syria, against Iran's attempts to entrench itself militarily... it is also happening on the Lebanese border". Netanyahu went on to argue that "the greatest threat from Iran is that of nuclear weapons in the hands of a power which declares that we need to be wiped off the face of the earth... I insisted on the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran and President Trump indeed made the brave decision to re-impose them. President Trump is acting against Iran in the economic sphere and here in Israel we are acting against Iran in the military sphere". View More 28 December 2018 The State Department issued a statement underscoring that "the U.S. fully support Israel's right to defend itself against Iranian regional actions that endanger Israeli national security and the safety of the Israeli people. Iranian support of and supply to terrorist groups in Syria and across the region that have the clear intent and capability to strike Israel are unacceptable". View More 26 December 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked that "we are not prepared to accept the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria which is directed against us. We will act against it vigorously and continuously... we will not be deterred from doing what is necessary". He added that "President Trump's decision to withdraw the American soldiers from Syria will not change our policy. We are standing steadfast on our red lines in Syria and everywhere else". Netanyahu also indicated that "we are eliminating Hizbollah's terrorist tunnels one after the other", referring to operation "Northern Shield" along the Lebanon border. View More 25 December 2018 U.S. defence officials indicated that overnight Israeli strikes in Syria targeted Iranian arms depots as well as members of Hizbollah, while a Russian military spokesperson argued that "provocative acts by the Israeli Air Force endangered two passenger jets". View More 23 December 2018 Prime Minister told his cabinet that Washington's "decision to withdraw 2000 U.S. troops from Syria will not change our consistent policy: we will continue to act against Iran's attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria, and to the extent necessary, we will even expand our actions there". He went on to say that "cooperation with the U.S. will continue in full", and assessed that Israel's ongoing Operation "Northern Shield" along the Lebanon border was "meeting its timetable and its objectives". View More 20 December 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated that Israel was "continuing our efforts to neutralise the terror tunnels [along the Lebanon border]", and added that "we will continue to take very strong action against Iran's attempts to entrench itself in Syria. In neither of these sectors do we intend to lessen our efforts; we will intensify them, and I know that we do so with the full support and backing of the U.S." View More 19 December 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu opined that Hizbollah's digging of tunnels along the Israel-Lebanon border was "part of a war plan", adding that "Hizbollah is doing all this because Iran supports it in every way, including with money. Money that it got from the flawed Iranian [nuclear] deal. And this is part of the Iranian web of aggression". He went on to urge that the UN Security Council "condemn Hizbollah's wanton acts of aggression; to designate Hizbollah, in its entirety, as a terrorist organisation; to press for heightened sanctions against Hizbollah; to demand that Lebanon stop allowing its territory to be used as an act of aggression and its citizens to be used as pawns; to support Israel's right to defend itself against Iranian-inspired and Iranian-conducted aggression". View More 19 December 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu asserted that "we are committed to fighting the [Iran] nuclear agreement also with operations and actions and diplomatic moves... we are striking Iran and Syria and of course the U.S. is striking Iran economically. We are working to shrink this body which is responsible for almost all of the security problems that the State of Israel has". He added that "we are fighting the arms of Iran and Hizbollah... they [i.e. Hizbollah] planned to have thousands of precision missiles and they have a few dozen at best". View More 18 December 2018 The Israeli military published video footage of a Hizbollah tunnel, noting that it was "funded by Iran and cost millions of dollars". "Think about how that money could've been invested in the Iranian or Lebanese people", the IDF asserted, "but Lebanon allowed Hizbollah to invest it in killing Israelis". View More 16 December 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu told his cabinet that "the IDF uncovered a fourth Hizbollah tunnel", and went on to say that the "operation [Northern Shield] to deny Hizbollah the tunnel weapon is proceeding according to plan and will continue until all of its goals are achieved". View More 12 December 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu indicated that "our red line is survival. We do what is necessary to protect the State of Israel against the Iranian regime that openly calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state". Netanyahu added that "I'm not ruling out doing anything that we need to do to defend ourselves. For the moment Israel's military is the only military... that is directly engaging the Iranian forces. We're doing that in Syria and pulling them back". He went on to say that "we're going to stop things... when they're small. So we meet Iran head-on in Syria and if we need to we'll do whatever else we need to do to protect ourselves". View More 12 December 2018 An Israeli military delegation met with Russian counterparts in Moscow to update them on operation "Northern Shield" and consult about "the improvement of the two militaries' deconfliction system in the norther region". The IDF indicated that it would "continue operating to prevent Iranian entrenchment and the arming of Hizbollah in Syria". View More 11 December 2018 Discussing operation "Northern Shield", Prime Minister Netanyahu asserted that "the most important thing is the readiness... for a much stronger response if Hizbollah makes a major mistake and decides to attack us or oppose our action. Hizbollah will be dealt unimaginable blows". He went to assess that "Hizbollah understands that we are well prepared for any attempt on its part to respond and it realises that we have a great force here opposite it. I tell you now that it does not fully grasp it". View More 11 December 2018 In an update on operation "Northern Shield", the Israeli military revealed that it had uncovered a third Hizbollah tunnel and "placed explosives" in it. The IDF went on to warn "Hizbollah terrorists: enter at your own risk". View More 10 December 2018 Prime Minister told Israel's diplomatic corps that "the exposure of Hizbollah's terrorist tunnels on the northern border is part of an effort, which is not just military, to block the tunnels threat. But it is also a public diplomacy, economic and diplomatic effort to impose increased sanctions Hizbollah, to designate all subdivisions of Hizbollah as one organisation". "It is also necessary", Netanyahu continued, "to increase sanctions on Iran, which is behind this organisation and is also behind Hamas' similar attempts". View More 10 December 2018 Asked about Israel's operation "Northern Shield", Secretary Pompeo indicated that "the U.S. fully supports Israel's right and we do our best to support their capability to defend themselves from Iranian aggression". "These tunnels", Pompeo continued, "are Iranian-connected Lebanese Hizbollah efforts to violate the most basic premise of sovereignty". View More 9 December 2018 A senior Hizbollah official claimed that "the Israeli domestic front, even Tel Aviv, and every point in the Zionist entity [i.e. Israel] can be targeted by Hizbollah's missiles". He went on to argue that "the rules of engagement that Hizbollah has created in Lebanon and the rules of deterrence have made the idea of a war initiated by Israel against Lebanon very difficult". View More 9 December 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu told his cabinet that "we will continue the operation [Northern Shield] until... the tunnel threat in the north is neutralised. At the same time we are working in the intelligence sphere in order to denounce Hizbollah and Iran and to increase sanctions against both of them". Netanyahu also detailed his earlier conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, stating that "I told President Putin that we are continuing our policy: we will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria. We will continue to take action against the precision weapons in Lebanon, and we will complete the operation to foil the tunnels threat". View More 6 December 2018 Briefing foreign diplomats on operation "Northern Shield", Prime Minister Netanyahu remarked that "what we're facing is one big enemy. That enemy is called Iran. Iran is trying to act on two levels. One, to develop a nuclear arsenal... the second thing that Iran is doing is developing conventional weapons against us and have declared war to annihilate Israel". Hizbollah, Netanyahu asserted, "planned to have by now thousands of precision-guided missiles, in fact... [they have] a few dozen". He went on to call for "heightened sanctions on Hizbollah", and added that "Lebanon should be put on the list because they're saying nothing about this". View More 5 December 2018 UNIFIL chaired a tripartite session with Israeli and Lebanese military officials, and called on the parties to "avoid misunderstandings and ensure that security and stability along the Blue Line is maintained and reinforced". View More 4 December 2018 The U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, stated that "every year, Iran's regime steals $700 million from its people and sends it to Hizbollah to fund its terrorist activities - like the newly-discovered tunnels - against Israel". "We're determined to exert maximum pressure to reverse all of the Iranian regime's threats", Hook added. View More 4 December 2018 The Israeli military launched operation "Northern Shield", described by Prime Minister Netanyahu as "a campaign to expose and neutralise a network of terror tunnels on our northern border with Lebanon". "These cross-border terror tunnels were built by Hizbollah", asserted Netanyahu, "with direct support and funding from Iran". Warning that "Israel holds the Lebanese government accountable for all terror activity emanating from Lebanon against Israel", he added that "we will continue to do all that is necessary to defend ourselves against Iran's efforts to use Lebanon, Syria and Gaza as forward terror bases to attack Israel". In a statement, the Lebanese military maintained that "the situation is calm... and is being followed up on", while a Hizbollah official insisted that "routine is maintained in southern Lebanon's villages". View More 3 December 2018 An unnamed "senior Hizbollah source" maintained that "Iranian and Hizbollah positions in Kiswah... were not exposed to any bombardment" the week before. View More 30 November 2018 Hizbollah published a video citing its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warning that "in case of any assault on Lebanon, in case of any air raid on Lebanon, in case of any bombardment at Lebanon, we will inevitably retaliate". View More 29 November 2018 The U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, indicated that "in Lebanon, we have evidence that Iran is helping Hizbollah build missile production facilities". View More 13 November 2018 The U.S. announced "rewards of up to $5 million... for information leading to the identification or location" of a Hamas official purportedly "working with [IRGC Quds force commander] Qasem Soleimani" in Lebanon. Similar rewards were offered for two Hizbollah officials, one of whom was described as Hizbollah's "chief military liaison to Iran and to Palestinian terrorist organisations". View More 13 November 2018 The State Department designated the son of Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Jawad Nasrallah, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), and additionally designated Al-Mujahidin Brigades, which it described as a "military organisation that has operated in the Palestinian Territories since 2005... [and] has ties to Hizbollah". "Today's action maintain the momentum of the Administration's snapback sanctions on Iran", the department noted. View More 13 November 2018 The Treasury Department designated "four Hizbollah-affiliated individuals who lead and coordinate the group's operational, intelligence and financial activities in Iraq". "Treasury's concerted actions aim to deny Hizbollah's clandestine attempts to exploit Iraq to launder funds, procure weapons, train fighters and collect intelligence as a proxy for Iran", asserted a senior Treasury official. View More 10 November 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, declared that the "source of our strength are our missiles because the Lebanese army is not allowed to acquire advanced missiles". He went on to warn that "we will respond to any Israeli strike on Lebanon and will not accept any aggression by the enemy on our land". View More 29 October 2018 Israel reportedly passed on a message to Lebanon warning that its "government must be careful when it comes to Hizbollah's rocket factories. If the issue isn't dealt with through diplomatic means by the Lebanese government, Israel will act on its own". View More 25 October 2018 President Trump signed into law sanctions legislation against Hizbollah intended to "further isolate Hizbollah from the international financial system and reduce its funding". In accompanying remarks, President Trump pledged that the U.S. would "target, disrupt and dismantle [Hizbollah's] operational and financing networks - of which they had plenty; they don't have plenty now". He also asserted that "we are doing a big number on Iran today", adding that the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions against Tehran on 5 November "will be followed up with even more sanctions to address the full range of Iran's malign conduct". View More 14 October 2018 The Justice Department designated Hizbollah as a "top transnational organized crime threat" View More 14 October 2018 The Justice Department designated Hizbollah as a "top transnational organized crime threat" View More 4 October 2018 The Treasury Department designated one individual and seven Lebanese companies for supporting a "Hizbollah insider and financier" already designated by the U.S. View More 29 September 2018 A minister in the Hadi government called on Lebanon "to intervene to stop the subversive and inciting activities of the Iranian Huthi militias in Lebanon under the cover of political, security and financial support from Hizbollah". View More 27 September 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu warned Iran that "we will act against you in Lebanon", where he claimed "Iran is directing Hizbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into precision guided missiles". Accusing Hizbollah of "deliberately using the innocent people of Beirut as human shields", he declared to Hizbollah that "Israel knows... and Israel will not let you get away with it". View More 27 September 2018 Responding to Prime Minister Netanyahu's UN General Assembly speech, Lebanon's foreign minister, Gebran Bassil, asserted that "here is Israel, again coming up with excuses to justify assault and preparing to violate the sovereignty of states..." View More 20 September 2018 Prime Minister Netanyahu advised Hizbollah's leader to "think not twice but twenty times because if he confronts us he will receive a crushing blow that he cannot even imagine". View More 20 September 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, stated that Israel has "been working hard to cut off the road and prevent us from possessing accurate missiles. I say whatever you do to cut off the road on us, it's all over, we are now in possession of accurate missiles that if used in any future war you can't expect what your fate will be". View More 19 September 2018 The U.S. special representative for Iran, Brian Hook, revealed that "we have evidence is helping Hizbollah build missile production facilities". View More 12 September 2018 Commenting on the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. noted that "the Special Tribunal for Lebanon renewed its accusations against four Hizbollah members, while they remain free; they continue to hold Lebanon hostage to Iranian terrorism". He added that "the international community must come together and hold those who committed this crime against Lebanon's sovereignty accountable by identifying the conspirators and punishing them. Rogue regimes must pay a price for using political assassinations to spread chaos in our region". View More 4 September 2018 Iran dismissed a Fox News article alleging possible Iranian weapons transfers into Lebanon, with the foreign ministry's spokesperson asserting that "the publication of such false news has become a common occurrence... indicating the escalation of the psychological warfare waged by anti-Iran and hostile circles". View More 3 September 2018 A senior Israeli military official declared that "Hizbollah speaks from the bunker. We're aware of their financial situation and abilities. If they knew what we knew about them, they wouldn't speak so confidently". "I hope there'll be no war", he added, "but if there is, it'll be the last northern war". View More 26 August 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, declared that "the Israeli army has developed much of its capabilities and acquired state-of-the-art missile and military hardware, it cannot yet evade defeat". He went on to warn of a "campaign being launched via social media to distort Hizbollah's image", and cautioned that "claims... Hizbollah is now in control of Lebanon's decisions are aimed at pinning the blame on the party for all the current situations". View More 18 August 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, met with senior Huthi officials in Lebanon. View More 16 August 2018 The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, took to Twitter to assert that "among the much ignored realities in Yemen is not only the direct assistance the Huthi militia receives from the Iranian regime, but the existence of Hizbollah commanders on the ground". Subsequent tweets showed an alleged Hizbollah member "advising [the Huthis] on asymmetric warfare" and "deception tactics", which the ambassador went to cite as "evidence (among others) [that] confirms the ideological and military connection the Huthis and Hizbollah have to the Iranian regime". View More 14 August 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, opined that the "U.S. and Israel are too weak to launch wars like those launched in the region before... those who want war we will give them war, but a war that we are ready for and will triumph in". He went on to say that "sanctions aim at creating public anger against the Islamic establishment in Iran in a bid to weaken the axis of resistance", adding that Iran "is more powerful than ever before". View More 11 July 2018 Saudi Arabia's UN envoy asserted that his government "will confront the militias of the Lebanese Hizbollah party everywhere, and expose its practices to the international community". View More 8 July 2018 In a letter to his Lebanese counterpart, Yemen's foreign minister condemned remarks from Hizbollah's leadership supporting the Huthis. View More 5 July 2018 The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, declared that "just in Europe, Iran-sponsored assassinations, bombings and other terrorist attacks have scarred countless lives"; accompanying graphics illustrated purported terrorist plots and attacks carried out by Iran and Hizbollah. View More 25 June 2018 Yemeni forces claimed to have apprehended seven Hizbollah members in Yemen's northern governorate of Saada. View More 25 June 2018 The Saudi-led coalition claimed to have killed 8 Hizbollah fighters in clashes against Huthi forces in Saada. View More 24 June 2018 A senior Iranian defence official posited that "Lebanese Hizbollah, armed with 80,000 rockets, has turned into a permanent threat for the Zionists [Israel]". View More 11 June 2018 Quds Force Commander Qasem Suleimani claimed that "Saudi Arabia spent $200 million in a short period of time on the Lebanese elections", and argued that Hizbollah's performance in the polls, which he tallied at 74 seats, meant it "has transformed into a Lebanese Resistance state from a Lebanese Resistance political party". Saad Hariri called Suleimani's comments "regrettable". View More 6 June 2018 The speaker of parliament, Nabih Berri, asserted that Iranian and Hizbollah forces will remain in Syria "until Syria is liberated and regains its territorial integrity". View More 25 May 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, argued that "the U.S. and Saudi sanctions against me and my brothers do not have material effect, seeing as we don't have money in banks, but the aim is to scare people of meeting with us". View More 24 May 2018 Saad Hariri was appointed prime minister. View More 21 May 2018 The UN Secretary-General "call[ed] upon countries in the region that maintain close ties with Hizbollah to encourage the transformation of the armed group into a solely civilian political party, and its disarmament". View More 18 May 2018 A Hizbollah official brushed off U.S. sanctions designations targeting the group as having "no value of political effect". View More 16 May 2018 The U.S., Saudi Arabia and five other members of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC) announced sanctions designations against Hizbollah's leadership. View More 15 May 2018 President Rouhani pledged that "Iran will continue supporting the Lebanese government and nation to resist against terrorist groups and aggression by the Zionist Regime". View More 14 May 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, claimed that 55 missile were fired at Israel on 10 May, adding that "the message was delivered... the era when you hit Syria without response is over". View More 7 May 2018 Hassan Nasrallah hailed the results of Lebanese parliamentary elections as "a political and moral victory for the choice of resistance which will protect the country's sovereignty". View More 1 May 2018 With parliamentary elections approaching, Hassan Nasrallah declared that "the resistance needs political protection because of the international and regional conspiracy. The Saudi crown prince is ready to pay billions of dollars to incite the U.S. and 'Israel' to wage war on the region". View More 15 April 2018 Responding to the recent U.S.-led strikes in Syria, the leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, argued that the U.S. "knows well that going towards a wide confrontation against the regime and the army and the allied forces in Syria could not end... any such confrontation would inflame the entire region". View More 13 April 2018 A senior Hizbollah official downplayed the possibility that potential U.S. retaliation following the suspected chemical attack in Douma on 7 April might escalate "into a direct American-Russian clash or a wide state of war". He added that "if the assault on Syria has a very limited scope, then it's expected that reactions from the concerned sides in Syria will be tied to the Syrian arena". View More 13 April 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, blamed Israel for the 9 April airstrikes against the T4 airbase in Syria and called it "a historic mistake... which brings [Israel] into direct confrontation with Iran". View More 12 April 2018 The president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, maintained that his country "will not accept any Israeli exploitation of our airspace". View More 27 March 2018 The leader of Hizbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, alleged that Saudi Arabia had offered substantial aid for Syria's reconstruction if the Syrian government broke ties with Iran and Hizbollah. View More 8 March 2018 A U.S. military official indicated that in the event of Iranian missile strikes against Israel, "we will have fighting forces moving within 72 hours". View More 19 February 2018 The commander of the Lebanese armed forces, Joseph Aoun, warned that "the army will not spare any method available to confront any Israeli aggression, whatever the costs". View More 2 February 2018 The Treasury Department announced sanctions designations against six persons and seven entities linked to Hizbollah. View More 28 January 2018 In an article published on Arabic-language media, an Israeli military official dubbed Lebanon "one large missile factory". IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis went on to write that "Iran has de-facto opened a new branch, the 'Lebanon branch'", adding that "our security red lines are clearly demarcated. We have proven that is the case every week. The choice is yours, people of Lebanon". View More 5 December 2017 Hariri withdrew his resignation. In remarks to the cabinet, he declared that “it cannot be that we accept that any Lebanese side interferes in the affairs of Arab states”. View More 28 November 2017 Hariri stated that “Lebanon cannot resolve a question like Hizbollah which is in Syria, Iraq, everywhere because of Iran. It is a regional political solution that needs to be done … I think in the interest of Lebanon, Hizbollah is carrying out a positive dialogue. They know we have to remain neutral in the region”. View More 25 November 2017 Hariri declared that “we will not accept Hizbollah’s positions that affect our Arab brothers or target the security and stability of their countries”. View More 22 November 2017 Hariri suspended his resignation after talks with Lebanon’s president. View More 21 November 2017 After briefs stays in France and Egypt, Hariri headed back to Beirut. View More 15 November 2017 Lebanese President Michel Aoun accused Saudi Arabia of holding Hariri against his will. View More 12 November 2017 In a televised live interview on his own Future TV, Hariri insisted that he was staying in Saudi Arabia at his own will and was free to go. View More 6 November 2017 Hariri held discussions with King Salman of Saudi Arabia and several top Saudi officials in Riyadh. View More 4 November 2017 Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, responded to the Hariri resignation by tweeting: “Lebanon = Hizbollah. Hizbollah = Iran. Lebanon = Iran. Iran is dangerous for the world. Saad Hariri proved that today. Period”. ISRAELI DEFENCE MINISTER'S Twitter View More 4 November 2017 Hariri announced in Saudi Arabia that he was resigning from his post. View More 2 November 2017 Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, held meetings in Beirut with Hariri, Aoun and the parliament speaker, Nabih Berri. View More 25 October 2017 The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2017 (H.R. 3329) and the Sanctioning Hizballah’s Illicit Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act (H.R. 3342). It also passed H.R. 359, “urging the European Union to designate Hizballah in its entirely as a terrorist organization and increase pressure on it and its members”. View More See more Background Lebanon is deeply fractured along clan, family, confessional, regional and social lines. It still bears the scars of a long and bloody civil war, and its politics still live by the rhythm of the Taef Accord brokered in Saudi Arabia in November 1989. Hizbollah, created with Iranian help in the turmoil of Israel’s 1982 Lebanon invasion and occupation, for many years owed its popularity and growth to its championing of Lebanese Shiites’ cause without presenting itself as a sectarian actor, and to its adopting a nationalist and anti-imperialist rhetoric focused on Israel and the U.S. Since the 1990 end of the civil war, it has played a dual role of political party within the Lebanese system and armed resistance movement confronting Israel outside state structures. The 2011 Syrian uprising and subsequent civil war led it to shed its predominantly Lebanese profile by projecting its power across the border and thrusting itself into a sectarian-coloured regional power struggle. Hizbollah’s Syria intervention thus changed the way other regional actors see the organisation. It has gone from a nuisance to Saudi interests and a threat to Israel, to a significant regional player in its own right, acting as one of Tehran’s levers. In October 2016, after two years of political stalemate, and with Riyadh’s implicit blessing, Michel Aoun – a Christian politician close to Hizbollah – was elected president, while Saad Hariri, Saudi Arabia’s principal ally, took up the post of prime minister in a government that included Hizbollah. In announcing his surprise resignation on 4 November 2017, Hariri was unequivocal in condemning Hizbollah and Iran’s influence in Lebanon. From Riyadh, Hariri declared that “wherever Iran settles, it sows discord, devastation, and destruction, proven by its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries”. In a measured reaction, Hizbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, called for calm, while contending that Saudi Arabia was behind the move. Hariri suspended his resignation on 22 November, and withdrew it on 5 December. The view from Washington is that Hizbollah is a terrorist organisation and an agent of Iranian influence across the Levant. In October, Congress passed a series of new sanctions against the group as part of a wider effort to confront Iran’s regional influence. Yet, the Trump administration is also concerned not to rock the boat in one of the region’s few islands of relative stability. Washington and its regional allies are also concerned about what they suspect is an Iranian attempt to forge a land corridor from Iran to Iraq to Syria to Lebanon that would enhance Tehran’s ability to ship arms to Hizbollah and its proxies in Syria. The view from Tehran is that Hariri did not resign but was pushed out by Saudi Arabia, in order to draw Israel into conflict with Hizbollah. Iran has little interest in seeing Lebanon slip into turmoil or Hizbollah engaged in another front, particularly as it remains preoccupied with assuring the Assad regime’s survival. The view from Jerusalem is that it must highlight the threat it faces from Hizbollah to rally outside support toward adopting a tougher line against Iran. In an interview with a Saudi-owned website, Israel’s chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, stated that Israel was “ready to exchange experiences with moderate Arab countries and to exchange intelligence to confront Iran”. Israel has drawn at least three red lines regarding Hizbollah: over Iran’s transfer of sophisticated weapons to Hizbollah, Hizbollah massing fighters in southern Syria and Hizbollah’s attempt to build an indigenous manufacturing capability for precision-guided missiles Lebanon's prime minister Saad al-Hariri walks down the steps of an airplane at Beirut's international airport, 21 November 2017 REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir III. Analysis Poll Position? Lebanon's 6 May elections readjusted the political balance but brought no fundamental change. Hizbollah and its partner Amal once again monopolised the Shiite vote to win 28 seats, and they can count on the support of about a dozen MPs from smaller parties, but this does not amount to a sweeping victory or coherent parliamentary bloc. Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement saw its parliamentary bloc dwindle by a third, and he lacks the numbers to form a government without Hizbollah's support. For its part, Hizbollah has expressed its intention to cooperate with Hariri. Thus the new parliament, and the new government, will likely resemble the old. A New Cold War Front? Hariri's move shows that Lebanon is no longer insulated from the Tehran-Riyadh rivalry. Saudi Arabia sees an ascendant Iran in the region and is seeking, along with the U.S. and Israel, to reverse its adversary’s gains. They may see making Iran bleed in Lebanon, or at minimum curbing Hizbollah’s political strength, as one way of achieving that goal. Iranian media, implausibly, cited Tehran’s rejection of Saudi terms regarding Iran’s policies in Yemen, relayed by Hariri before resigning, as part of the circumstances surrounding his departure. A Chimera: The notion that the Saudi leadership could have used Hariri, as prime minister, to rein in Hizbollah in Lebanon is fanciful if one considers the group’s relationship to previous Lebanese governments since 2005, which it either dominated, defied or toppled at will. Nor is it plausible that Hariri’s resignation would reduce Hizbollah’s political dominance. With the party and its allies effectively monopolising the vote of the Shiite community – roughly a third of the population – no government can be formed without its consent. If the idea was to expose Hizbollah and trigger an Israel-Hizbollah confrontation, Israel neither needed the exposure nor appears to have the appetite for a war with Hizbollah at this stage. Storm in a Teacup? Hariri’s resignation was put on hold after he returned to Lebanon, then rescinded. If it is revived, the most likely near-term scenario is that Lebanon will once again be stuck without a functional government, a situation that arguably serves Hizbollah more than it harms it. Rather than as the source of the problem, Hizbollah’s secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, can cast his party as a proponent of “safety and stability for Lebanon” whose partner has walked out on. Neither Imminent, Nor Inevitable? The very reason Israel wishes to forcefully strike Hizbollah is the reason it is inhibited from doing so — namely the prospect of a barrage of missiles on its urban centres. Israel possesses far greater ability to inflict pain, but Hizbollah possesses far greater capacity to absorb it, which means that any large-scale Israeli operation runs the risk of being open-ended. Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader meets with Hassan Nasrallah, 3 November 2017 IRNA IV. Scenarios and Recommendations Red Lines on Fault Lines: Actions by Iran and/or Hizbollah that challenge the Israeli red lines regarding weapons transfers to, and weapons production by Hizbollah can lead to a military response in Lebanon, inside Syria or both. The third red line over Hizbollah’s presence in south-east Syria further heightens tensions, and Israeli kinetic action against Iran-backed forces there could draw Hizbollah into a conflict as well. While neither Israel nor Hizbollah is eager for a fight, they might both push to the brink, calculating – or miscalculating – that the other loathes a confrontation more than they do. David and Goliath? There is no Lebanese actor able to mount a credible military challenge to Hizbollah. In the region, Israel is the only force that could seriously decimate, or perhaps even destroy, the party’s military capability, but this would occur with devastating effect for the civilian population in Lebanon but also, to a lesser extent, in Israel. It appears unlikely that Prime Minister Netanyahu is ready to go to war at this time. Even with U.S. and Saudi support, Israel would carry the burden of military action and bear the brunt of Hizbollah’s retaliation via its considerable missile capacity, reckoned by Israel to number around 120,000. No Provocation = No War: Israel and Hizbollah should refrain from testing the other sides’ limits. Hizbollah should halt development of more potent pression guided missiles that it knows would provoke an Israeli response. Israel can enforce the red lines that it has established, as it has done so in Syria; but should refrain from pushing the envelope, targeting Hizbollah on Lebanon’s soil, and enticing the party to take retaliatory measures of its own.