On October 14, 2021, a bloody sniper shooting attack in Beirut killed seven Hizbullah and Amal members and wounded 60 in what has been termed the Tayouneh neighborhood massacre. The Christian “Lebanese Forces” party, headed by Samir Geagea was blamed, but meanwhile, Hizbullah has contained the incident to prevent any acts of violent retaliation or revenge.
Hizbullah’s goal, which was decided upon in a joint decision with Iran, is to prevent in any way possible further shootings that could deteriorate the situation into a civil war in Lebanon. Mohammad Raad, the head of Hizbullah’s bloc in the Lebanese parliament, expressed this goal unequivocally at a Hizbullah political gathering in southern Lebanon. He emphasized, “Hizbullah will not be dragged into a civil war and will not threaten civil peace,” adding, however, that “they will not accept their martyrs’ blood to go in vain, as Israel would have ruled Lebanon without these martyrs.”1
Raad stressed: “Hizbullah’s keenness, with its full will, is on civil peace among Lebanese so that what happened during the [previous] civil war will be avoided,” adding that “they reached an understanding with largest Christian component in Lebanon, the Free Patriotic Movement, in 2006 in order to preserve civil peace.”
At the same time, Hizbullah allowed the Lebanese Army to deploy its forces along the conflicting neighborhood boundaries and Lebanon’s intelligence and security forces to handle the incident. Indeed, Lebanon’s Central Security Council, incorporating all security and intelligence heads, immediately convened for this purpose.
Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah accused Samir Geagea of trying to drag Lebanon into a civil war that would lead to demographic changes and the creation of Christian cantons under his control. Nasrallah made it clear that Hizbullah had not responded to the attempt to drag it into civil war. He accused Geagea of being the greatest danger to Christians, stressing that Hizbullah was not an enemy of Christians. This description, Nasrallah noted, is an illusion and unfair because Hizbullah supported Christians in Syria, helped them in the war against ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front, and sacrificed its elite fighters in these battles. Nasrallah added that after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, “Hizbullah prevented any of its fighters or the fighters belonging to the Amal Movement from entering the Christian towns in south Lebanon upon the liberation in 2000. We even did not harm collaborators with the Israeli enemy in those towns, rather, we handed them over to the Lebanese Army. This was in a bid to avoid any Muslim-Christian tension.”2
Nasrallah revealed that Hizbullah has a military force of 100,000 who are trained, organized, and equipped with a range of weapons to be used against enemies; they are untrained for civil war. “We have trained them to defend our land and our oil and gas, which are stolen from right in front of the Lebanese people, to protect Lebanon’s dignity and sovereignty from any aggression and terrorism, not for an internal war… We’re unveiling for the first time the number of our fighters to avoid a civil war, not to threaten such a war. To [the Christian] “Lebanese Forces” and their leaders, I say: don’t miscalculate. If a war breaks out, would Israel, the United States, or Saudi Arabia support you?”3
Nasrallah appears to have overstated the size of his forces to enhance the image of Hizbullah’s military power, but in doing so, he validated the assertion that Lebanon is a state within Hizbullah more than Hizbullah is a state within Lebanon.
The strategic goal of Hizbullah and Iran is to maintain internal stability and the continued control of Lebanon through the country’s legitimate institutions. In Iran’s eyes, Hizbullah remains the greatest success of Iranian foreign policy in the Middle East, and it is determined to protect and preserve it. In this framework, Hizbullah and Iran will also not allow Judge Tarek Bitar, who is investigating the Beirut Port explosion, to damage Hizbullah’s standing and blame it for the misdeeds that led to the disaster. Therefore, they are insisting on the judge’s dismissal. At the same time, Hizbullah is demanding the prosecution of those who killed Shiite civilians on October 14.
At this stage, the threat to Lebanon’s internal security remains. Despite Hizbullah’s efforts to avoid a violent deterioration, the tensions brought on by the “Lebanese Forces” may spiral out of control, precisely when Lebanon is facing a catastrophic economic crisis.
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