World, Middle East

Speculations on Hezbollah's role post Beirut blast

Potential US-Iran settlement to limit Hezbollah's regional role, expand its domestic role

Yousef Hussein and Ahmed Tolba   | 13.08.2020
Speculations on Hezbollah's role post Beirut blast


Last week's Beirut blast has sparked speculations over a potential link of Hezbollah group to the deadly incident.

At least 200 lives were lost in the explosion on Aug. 4 that ripped through the Lebanese capital after a warehouse with 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate caught fire. Some 6,000 people were injured and 300,000 others became homeless.

Hezbollah shares the blame with some saying the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike on its depots. Others say Hezbollah was deliberately keeping the materials at the warehouse to later use them against Israel.

Some other speculations connect the blast to US sanctions aiming at limiting the role of Hezbollah in Lebanon and the region.

Fears have risen that a settlement could be reached with international powers to reduce Hezbollah's influence in the region by pulling out from Syria and the region and returning to Lebanon -- a move which could increase its influence in the country with a history of volatile sectarian politics.

Qassem Kassir, a political analyst who keeps a close eye on the group, said in case of any such settlement Hezbollah will return to domestic politics of Lebanon and seek a greater political role.

"The priority now is to form the government and Hezbollah prefers a national unity government headed by Saad Hariri," he told Anadolu Agency.

The Lebanese Cabinet resigned in the aftermath of the blast and amid popular anti-government protests in the country.

Kassir said that in the vacuum left behind Hezbollah will seek to rearrange Lebanese politics.

He went on to say Hezbollah welcomed the vision presented by French President Emmanuel Macron calling for a national conference and the formation of a national unity government.

"And this may require a new act from Hezbollah."

Concerning the explosion, he said "holding the group responsible for the blast is unfair, because it does not use the port."

- Regional fallout

Lebanese writer Johny Mounayer ruled out the intention to put political limitation on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

He went on to say that there will be regional limitation on the group's role -- which fights for the Assad regime in Syria -- especially on the issue of demarcation of the maritime and land borders with Israel in addition to the implementation of US sanctions on the regime.

Mounayer said that France has no problem with Hezbollah, which it says is elected by the Lebanese people, as long as it is committed to the issue of demarcating the maritime border and then land border.

Lebanon is locked in a conflict with Israel over an 860-square-kilometer (some 332-square-mile) area in the Mediterranean known as Zone No. 9, which is rich in oil and gas.

Beirut announced in 2016 its first round of licenses for conducting seismic research in the zone.

Political analyst Bechara Khairallah said: "The talk about an American-Iranian settlement will benefit Hezbollah, as it will thus obtain concessions in Lebanon."

Khairallah told Anadolu Agency: "The withdrawal of Hezbollah from Syria must be distancing from giving it a bigger share in Lebanon, otherwise we are facing a big problem."

Another analyst, Asad Bishara said: "A large part of the Lebanese public opinion holds Hezbollah responsible for the explosion, from one angle that it sponsors this regime and on the other hand it does not pay attention to the security and safety of the Lebanese people."

Bishara said that "the most shameful equation is that the explosion was the result of an Israeli action, and the silence of Hezbollah that followed it."

He added: "If this equation is real ... this is the biggest catastrophe that Lebanon has been exposed to in its history and it is dangerous to let it pass without identifying responsibilities."

Bishara asserted that "the door is open for political powers to return to Lebanon to restore the country's stability and anything else will spell the path to mass suicide."

*Writing by Mahmoud Barakat

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