Lebanon at the Brink of a Civil War?

(Daily Star) Hizbullah's current political strength could drag Lebanon into a civil war, unless substantial incentives are given to co-opt the organization into the political system.

According to a Daily Star article, the escalation of the Israeli military offensive and the possibility of loosing control over Southern Lebanon place Hizbullah in a dilemma.

The organization will have to choose between accepting the Lebanese government's demands to dismantle its militias, thus recognizing a defeat and renouncing its main raison d'être, or fighting for its existence.

However, Hizbullah's current political power and level of support indicate that the organization is likely to choose to continue its armed struggle, and to do this, it may need to attempt to take over the Lebanese state, dragging the Lebanese army into the conflict, and ultimately triggering a new civil war.

The Lebanese government, to avoid this outcome, should prepare to give the Shiite community and Hizbullah substantial political incentives, such as proportional political representation, to co-opt them into the political system.

A possible framework to achieve this goal is through the revival of the provisions of the Taif Accords regarding Hizbullah.

The Reut Institute contends that this analysis reveals that Hizbullah is facing a new paradox: the organization has been weakened militarily, but its political power and support have increased substantially, thus making the option of dismantling or surrendering politically unfeasible.

However, this paradox could be a window of opportunity to pursue the goal of dismantling the militia through a political process, by further integrating the organization into the state's institutions.

Although this can be achieved only through an internal political process, the government of Israel has an interest in not weakening the Lebanese political government, the only structure able to offer Hizbullah incentives to co-opt its political wing and avoid a civil war, which would be destabilizing for Israel and for the regional balance-of-power.

Sources

  • Michael Young, The Daily Star, 10/08/06. Full Text.