It’s been 30 years since the end of the Lebanese civil war — a devastating conflict that nearly destroyed the country and gave rise to both the Assad dynasty in Syria and the terrorist group Hezbollah.
The rise of Hezbollah can be traced to the UN-sponsored disarmament that took weapons away from the Sunni militias, the Christian militias, and most of the Shiite militias. But Hezbollah refused to give up its weapons, and with Iran’s assistance, built up a terrifying arsenal of missiles and a highly trained militia that has seen several conflicts with Israel this century.
Those arms and missiles were made possible by Syria, which allowed the weapons to be smuggled into Lebanon under the noses of UNIFIL — the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon — which was supposed to be keeping weapons from the terrorists.
The Syrian-Hezbollah pairing has caused even more misery for Lebanon. But the people in this tiny Middle Eastern country bordering both Israel and Syria were powerless given the simple fact that the terrorists had the guns and Syria had a stranglehold on the Lebanese economy.
But something may finally be changing. Last year after a titanic blast from a ship loaded with ammonium nitrate in the harbor leveled a third of the city of Beirut, it was suspected that Hezbollah was responsible. As it turns out, the negligence of Lebanon’s political leaders was to blame for the blast, but Hezbollah’s stewardship of the country was called into question when the government couldn’t deal with the pandemic and the currency lost 90 percent of its value.
The lack of food, fuel, medicine, and inflation at 157 percent as of March finally appears to be setting the Lebanese people against “the resistance.”
Critics say that rather than push for reform, Hezbollah has stood by its political allies who resist change. They say the group is increasingly pulling Lebanon into Iran’s orbit by doing its bidding, and that U.S. sanctions against Iran and Hezbollah have made things harder.
Where Hezbollah was once considered an almost sacred, untouchable force fighting for a noble cause — the fight against the Israeli enemy — it is now seen by many simply as part of the corrupt political clique responsible for the country’s epic meltdown. Still, when it comes to fighting Israel, the group enjoys unwavering backing within its base of support.
Recently, a group of Hezbollah fighters on their way back from a raid on Israel was accosted by a group of villagers who smashed their windshields and briefly detained them. Previously, Hezbollah was the hero in the struggle against Israel. That dynamic — which made the terrorists nearly untouchable in Lebanese society — appears to be changing.
In the border incident, villagers from the minority Druze sect intercepted Hezbollah fighters on their way back after firing rockets toward a disputed area held by Israel. The villagers briefly detained them and the mobile rocket launcher they used after accusing them of putting them at risk if Israel strikes back.
The fighters and the launcher were then handed over to Lebanese troops, who released them on the same day.
Later, Hezbollah angered many Christians after supporters launched a social media campaign against the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Catholic church, the country’s largest, accusing him of treason after he criticized the group for firing the rockets on Israeli positions.
Without the support of the Lebanese people, Hezbollah would be hard-pressed to fight a war against Israel as they have in the past. They aren’t going to be kicked out of Lebanon anytime soon, but it’s clear the Lebanese people are tired of the cycle of Hezbollah rocket attack and Israeli retaliation that makes life a living hell for many Lebanese.