Perspectives - January 22, 2021

IDF Downs Drone Entering Israel From Lebanon

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) released a statement on Friday saying IDF troops had downed a drone over northern Israel, after identifying it entering Israeli territory from Lebanon. Per the statement, “IDF troops had been monitoring the drone’s movements for the duration of the incident.”

Hezbollah and Free Patriotic Movement To Renew and Update Their Alliance

MTV Lebanon reported that Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement are moving toward renewing their alliance and updating the February 2006 Understanding, making them partners. The two parties formed a bilateral committee to reevaluate the 2006 Understanding and update it in light of the domestic and regional developments which have occurred in the intervening fifteen years.

Macron Asks Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Not to Abandon Lebanon

In a phone call, French President Emmanuel Macron asked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) not to abandon Lebanon to collapse, Nidaa Al-Watan reported. The French entreaties were to no avail, however, MBS was adamant that Saudi Arabia’s stance remained that Lebanon must make better choices, and until that time, Riyadh would not aid a country that chooses to share power with Hezbollah and Iran.

Relatedly, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal Bin Farhan toldAl-Arabiya that Lebanon will never prosper without political reform and “shunning Hezbollah.”

France, Hezbollah Conducting Parallel Negotiations to Bridge Hariri, Aounist Gaps

Nidaa al-Watan reported that France was continuing its efforts to help Lebanon form a new government, a process that has been stalled for three months since Saad Hariri was picked as prime minister-designate. In line with that, Paris has been attempting to restart dialogue between Hariri and Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’s former foreign minister, and President Michel Aoun's son-in-law. However, France views Bassil’s insistence on retaining a one-third veto in a future Hariri-led cabinet negatively. Furthermore, a source indicated that France would not sanction Bassil, as the United States did last year, because U.S. sanctions failed to change Bassil’s behavior.

According to Al-Jadeed, Hezbollah is carrying out its own parallel track to facilitate government formation negotiations and bridge the gaps between Hariri, on the one hand, and Aoun and Bassil on the other.

Lebanese Army Buckles Under Hezbollah Media Attacks

L’Orient Le Jour reported that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) entered into dialogue with Hezbollah to avoid any confrontation between the two after the group’s mouthpiece Al-Akhbar published several articles attacking the army and its commander Joseph Aoun. LAF immediately entered into dialogue with Hezbollah to end the tensions, according to sources close to both sides. The LAF said it would “distance itself from sectarian divisions” – a likely euphemism for not infringing on Hezbollah’s interests in Lebanon – in order to maintain its internal cohesion, which the Army views as particularly necessary given the challenges confronting Lebanon.

Hezbollah Distributes Aid to Needy Lebanese

Hezbollah continues its distribution of aid to needy Lebanese families to regain its tarnished image as the protector of the country’s poor, particularly among its Shiite base. In light of that dynamic, the group provided diesel fuel for heating to 20,000 families in the Beqaa Valley and Baalbek-Hermel, and 1,000 families in the western Beqaa. Hezbollah conducted the fuel distribution over the course of three days, to coincide with the start of winter snowstorms, distributing 3.5 million liters of diesel fuel in Beqaa/Baalbek-Hermel, and another 216,000 liters in the western Beqaa. The initiative cost the group 3 billion Lebanese Pounds (LBP), or approximately $2 million, at the exchange rate of 1,500 LBP to 1 USD. Hezbollah’s Beqaa media official Ahmad Rayya said fuel would last each family for one month, and this initiative followed “several” others to provide aid and food to residents of the region, which “will always be Hezbollah's priority.”

According to Lebanon 24, the group did not import the fuel from Iran but purchased it on the Lebanese market. Sources close to Hezbollah claimed it would continue such distributions monthly if Lebanon’s economic deterioration continues and that the party does not currently need to import fuel for this purpose. The group also delivered food packages to needy families in predominantly-Sunni Akkar and northern Lebanon.

Joumblatt Has No Intention to Confront Hezbollah

Walid Joumblatt, the Progressive Socialist Party leader, which was once a member of the anti-Syrian March 14 alliance, indicated through sources that he does not desire a confrontation with Hezbollah. The sources claimed that despite Joumblatt’s recent rhetoric against the group and its Syrian regime ally, he insists on maintaining open communication and coordination with the Shiite party’s leadership.

Slovenia’s Parliamentary Foreign Police Committee Endorses Government Ban on Hezbollah

Slovenia’s parliamentary Foreign Police Committee debated on Wednesday the government’s decision to declare Hezbollah, in its entirety, a criminal and terrorist organization, without resorting to the European Union’s usual distinction between its military and political wings. Most of the committee’s members endorsed the government's decision. The Slovenian government banned Hezbollah on November 30, 2020, declaring the group a “criminal and terrorist organization that represents a threat to peace and security.”

Hezbollah Condemns Baghdad Suicide Bombings, Implicates United States

Hezbollah condemned Thursday’s suicide bombings in Baghdad, claimed by ISIS and which took the lives of 32 Iraqis. The group’s statement called the resumption of suicide bombings “horrifying,” linking this to widespread Iraqi calls for U.S. military withdrawal from the country.