Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Hanna Saleh

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Has the Countdown to War in Lebanon Begun?

The dangerous escalation of military operations on the southern Lebanese front, with Israeli raids to hitting targets around 40 km from the border as to US mediation efforts of Amos Hochstein, have instigated the countdown to an Israeli war on Lebanon that threatens to demolish the country.

War seems almost inevitable. Indeed, the people running Lebanon have a “flawed” conception of reality and the balance of power, and the situation in Gaza, despite the costs incurred by the Israelis, also leads us to this conclusion. Another Gaza will emerge after this barbaric Zionist war ends, and boasting about resilience in the face of genocide and displacement is misguided, especially since Hamas and its allies have been weakened.

Despite the conflicts and crises within Israel, the enemy is about to begin the third phase of this war: targeted special operations. Moreover, it has changed the situation to its advantage as it vies to ensure that "October 7" never happens again, not in Gaza or elsewhere! It is clear that the wars of the Resistance Axis, including the Iranian ballistic missile strikes in northern Syria and Erbil, have sped up American plans to redraw the Middle East!

The scene that concerns us as Lebanese citizens: Netanyahu threatens, and Nasrallah makes threats. The enemy’s Chief of Staff says that Lebanon will face dire consequences if a war with Hezbollah were to erupt, prompting Najib Mikati, who holds the highest position in the government, to rush to brandish the slogan of "the unity of the arenas," declaring that "talk of calm in Lebanon alone is illogical, simultaneously demanding a "ceasefire in Gaza"! It seemed as though he were announcing a decision to push Lebanon to destruction.

The newspaper "Al-Akhbar" rejoiced at "the state cover Prime Minister Najib Mikati has granted Hezbollah internationally, which cannot be overlooked!" This is a perilous situation that is extremely detrimental to the national interest. It removes the small gap between the state’s stance and the stance of Hezbollah and the axis of resistance, undermining Lebanon’s already fragile peace and leaving the country’s destiny to the whims of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias that further foreign interests!

Since the war on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip began over 100 days ago, and Hezbollah began launching attacks to "distract" the enemy and "support" Gaza, delegations have sent explicit messages to "the Party" regarding what needs to happen to ensure calm on the southern front. Mikati, who has abandoned his responsibility to the nation, refused to play the role of a postman receiving and sending messages to "the Party." He became "the announcer," speaking on behalf of "the resistance" and its axis and turning his back on the Lebanese. He has refused to do his duty of preserving their interests, rights, security, dreams, and future! Thus, he strengthens "the Party's" grip on the state and decision-making. Hezbollah has become the state and Lebanon is the state of "the Party"! In doing so, he has decided to put the heads of its citizens and country under the guillotine of the Israelis, who threaten the Lebanese with more destruction than we saw in Gaza!

Hezbollah has linked the demand for a ceasefire on the southern front to the end of the war on Gaza, mirroring the position of Tehran, which has threatened to escalate on every front if the assault does not end(...) The Iranian proposal of escalation on more than one front, from Lebanon and Iraq to Yemen, aims to preserve the influence that the Iranian regime has built and establish a foothold in the Palestinian question. Because Washington's prioritization of security solutions has cast a shadow on the supposed "deal" it is working on, Hassan Nasrallah has publicly rejected a multi-pronged temporary compromise proposed by the American envoy: calm on both sides of the Blue Line, allowing for the return of displaced Lebanese and Israelis to their homes. Next, establishing a framework for negotiations on a mechanism for implementing UN Resolution 1701, and finally, indirect negotiations over the 13 border points that have been disputed since the Blue Line was drawn in 2000 after the Israelis withdrew from Lebanon.

Supporters of "the Party" have said that "the US proposal is equivalent to a coup that does away with what the resistance has achieved." It breaks the link between a solution in Gaza and the South, and America’s priority is ensuring that settlers can return to their homes... This position reflects a misreading of every dimension of the situation on the ground, from Gaza to the South, as well as blatant disregard for the specter of an impending creeping war on Lebanon. They overlook the repercussions of the comprehensive collapse that has befallen the country, and they talk about the price that has already been paid. 200 casualties have fallen and more than 100,000 people have been displaced, the losses in the towns of the south exceed the losses of the 2006 war... And on top of all that, Israeli warplanes come and go as they please, and it has made intelligence breaches on the ground. These breaches are evident from the assassination of Al-Arouri and, before that, the attack on “Radwan” figures, including the son of MP Raad, and then the assassination of field commander Wissam Al-Tawil with an explosive device that blew up as he was driving to his home in Kharbata Salam. On Tuesday night, an Israeli force sneaked into Aita al-Shaab and removed mines, according to the Israeli spokesman, and there are many other similar incidents.

All of that only covers a fraction of the factors that have left Lebanon exposed, and Amos Hochstein's visit was a final warning. The push for calm is met with a lack of responsibility from those with the power to avert war and protect lives. Surreal positions are being voiced, the most prominent of which is a statement by the Secretary-General of Hezbollah. If aggression on Gaza stops, and "then in Lebanon, we will see what happens. He also reiterated that Hezbollah was ready for a war "without limits" with an army that he calls "exhausted, terrified, and defeated.” He tells us Netanyahu's government will have no choice but to submit to the resistance, stop the war, and opt for negotiations! Here, the question arises: Why stop the war and why negotiate? If the resistance in Gaza, the "distraction" from Lebanon, and the Houthi "support" from Yemen have turned the Israeli army into a collection of terrified, defeated brigades, why insist on a ceasefire in Gaza and reject it for southern Lebanon?