France and the U.S. Are Propping Up Hizballah’s Rule in Lebanon

In September, after a year of wrangling and amidst economic and fiscal crisis, a new governing coalition formed in Beirut, which gives Hizballah and its allies more clout than ever. A month later, the U.S. pledged $67 million in aid to the Lebanese military, along with other support. Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, has for at least a year made clear that he is willing to cooperate with Hizballah officials, so long as his country’s economic interests are served. And there’s more, writes Tony Badran:

The Biden administration is pushing to revive stalled maritime border-demarcation talks between Israel and Lebanon. The talks were set in motion in the final months of the Trump administration, with the misguided belief that Lebanon’s economic duress, and the promise of revenue from potential offshore gas, would quickly lead to a deal. Predictably, the talks came to a halt as the Lebanese expanded their demands by several hundred kilometers to lay claim to Israeli fields and territorial waters.

The fact that the Lebanese government, indeed the entire political order, is run by Hizballah, does not temper the administration’s vision. . . . Naturally, any potential future revenues from offshore gas, assuming whatever is found is commercially viable, would be available to Hizballah.

The Biden administration would like to see more than just energy companies invest in the Hizballah-run order in Lebanon. The Biden team, in tandem with Macron, has been pressing Saudi Arabia to do just that. Even after the kingdom publicly declared it wanted nothing to do with Lebanon, [a senior official] reiterated the administration’s call for the Gulf states to give “political and financial support.” In particular, the Biden administration wants the Saudis to fund the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and other security agencies.

The LAF represents the flip side of the administration’s fictional take on Lebanon. The false distinction between Hizballah and so-called “state institutions” serves as cover for injecting funds to stabilize the Hizballah-run order. The Saudis recognize this as an American fantasy and have brushed off these requests, in the recognition that they would only be propping up an Iranian satrapy.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Emmanuel Macron, Hizballah, Israeli gas, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy