Following the most recent Lebanese elections, the Iran-backed terrorist group Hizballah was able to join a coalition of parties that together controls 74 of the parliament’s 128 seats, and nineteen of 30 cabinet positions. At the same time, the organization has entrenched its allies and clients in the state bureaucracy, the military, and the internal security forces. Jonathan Spyer explains the consequences:
Hizballah is the senior partner [in the coalition] because it can bring to the table assets that [other members] don’t have, and against which they have no answer—namely, the financial and military sponsorship of Iran and specifically of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. . . . The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) on paper are larger than Hizballah and possess an air and naval capacity. In practice, however, Hizballah is a more cohesive and united force than the LAF, which is riven by sectarian divisions.
[But] the issue of note is the evidence of cooperation between the two forces, and penetration by Hizballah of the LAF. . . . The unwillingness of Hizballah to grant the defense ministry to its rivals demonstrates the importance the organization attaches both to controlling the official military from above while also matching it for strength and penetrating it. This has largely been achieved. . . .
The formal bodies and instruments of state—armed forces, internal security organizations, legislative and executive bodies, etc.—continue to exist. But a reality has emerged in which none of these can conceivably be mustered against the wishes of Hizballah, because Hizballah has inserted itself into these bodies themselves, and/or into the structures that command them—usually a combination of both. This has led to a situation in which Hizballah, which long constituted a kind of shadow quasi-state alongside the official state, has now effectively swallowed up the official state, and its will now constitutes the final authority, against which there is no appeal, in Lebanon.
The result is that it is impossible today in key areas of Lebanese life to determine exactly where the official state begins and Hizballah’s shadow state ends. The latter has penetrated and taken up residence in the former. . . . These today serve both as a protective camouflage for Hizballah and as the organs responsible for carrying out those secondary functions in which Hizballah and its patrons have no interest, and which do not affect the fundamental question of power.