Last week, the Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri resigned, following intense protests against government corruption and a declining economy. The demonstrations are ultimately a threat to Hizballah’s dominance in the country. Therefore, writes Tony Badran, Washington should not help the terrorist group stay in power:
Hariri’s gambit is to return as the head of a new government, in partnership with Hizballah, to present a plan for some reforms, and to hope for a bailout from international donors. For the United States, this is not a desirable outcome. . . . The current protests, which have included varied criticism of Hizballah, only came about due to impending economic and financial collapse. It is unlikely that they would have surfaced had the system been floated yet again, for instance, through the injection of capital by well-meaning but misguided Western powers or Gulf Arab states, which in previous crises had made large deposits in Lebanon’s Central Bank.
More to the point, such an investment in the survival of the existing political-economic order would be an investment in the Hizballah-dominated status quo. Hizballah, the most powerful actor in Lebanon, had orchestrated the formation of the previous government. . . . It will similarly be the decisive force in the formation of any new government. It is no coincidence that the person who has spoken most forcefully in defense of the status quo during the two weeks of protests, while issuing directives to the government, is Hizballah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah.
There is a longstanding conceit in Washington and in Europe that Lebanon must be “saved”— an impulse undiminished by the fact the country is dominated by Hizballah, and serves as a hub for its operations and criminal enterprise. . . . For the United States, the conclusion ought to be clear: the claims that Washington should back off its sanctions policy lest Lebanon break, that instability would only benefit Hizballah, and that the U.S. should continue instead to invest in Lebanon’s “state institutions,” are deluded.