by Michael Young
The recent tension in southern
The ostensible cause of the confrontations was ambiguity in interpreting UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the summer 2006 war between Hizbollah and
Initially, the Lebanese army and government failed to back up the UN. The angry response of states contributing soldiers to Unifil led to a meeting of the Security Council last week.
Complicating matters, Hizbollah's commander in southern
Behind the façade of hostility to the UN, Hizbollah has more intricate calculations. The party's freedom to act both politically and militarily is essential to its role as an extension of
Most important, the weapons allow Hizbollah to impose "resistance" as a national priority on its reluctant partners in the state, which in turn justifies the party retaining its weapons.
At a broader level, the quarrel with Unifil may also be seen as an Iranian reply to the recent passage of Security Council sanctions against
The first is that Hizbollah, to protect itself, needs to prepare the ground psychologically for a possible war with
There is also Hizbollah's uncertainty about indictments coming out, perhaps later this year, from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, set up to prosecute those behind the assassination in 2005 of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Hariri. While the UN-mandated investigation of Mr Hariri's murder has been riddled with flaws, notably the reluctance of the second investigator, Serge Brammertz, to pursue
Both the party and
In this light, the harassment of Unifil might be interpreted, among other things, as a warning shot directed at Mr Hariri and Lebanese state institutions, all greatly discredited by the incidents.
Understandably, however, Hizbollah sees real problems with pursuing a strategy of internal destabilisation. If the party's priority is to ensure that
Moreover, Hizbollah's browbeating may just strengthen Mr Hariri's resolve, since he is deeply averse to whitewashing those involved in his father's killing. The paradox is that Hizbollah, in its efforts to maintain its military capacity, which requires that the tribunal be neutralised, may undermine the already volatile, sceptical consensus around the resistance.
These are not minor issues for the party. Hizbollah has worked hard to weaken the Lebanese state and armed forces to its own advantage. But, ultimately, a war with
What happened in southern
Michael Young is opinion editor of the Daily Star newspaper in
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