Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Hanna Saleh

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Popular Accountability Is the Alternative to this Tragic Reality!

Halfway through the sixth month of Hezbollah’s “distraction” war in support of Gaza, the time has come to unpack the push to embroil Lebanon in a destructive war. We have a right to raise questions about the death and destruction in the South and across the country, as well as the disregard of the Zionists’ predictable retaliation and its consequences. These are complex issues that demand serious popular accountability, because it sets the roadmap for emerging from this tragicomic state of affairs! The time has come to turn our backs on the obsolete and rigid rhetoric of incitement, as well as the unscrupulous accusations of collaboration and treason leveled at the devastated Lebanese for merely refusing to be dragged into a war to serve Iranian interests!

Major developments are unfolding in quick succession, and they demand our attention and scrutiny. With the fading hopes for a Ramadan truce, the road ahead in Gaza, Lebanon, and the region seems perilous. Two of these developments, both of which took place in Beirut, reinforce this view.

The first is the war council meeting that brought the Houthis and Hamas, and naturally, Hezbollah, their partner under whose auspices the meeting was held. This meeting was ignored by the remnants of the Lebanese authorities, who continue to offer the Lebanese people only acquiescence. The meeting is dangerous because it reflects the nonchalance with which Beirut has only been turned into a capital for the Iranian axis, reminiscent of its past as the capital of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its allies. We all know the repercussions of that episode, whose wounds have barely healed!

The second is the Nasrallah-Qaani meeting. According to Reuters, the former reassured the latter that "he does not want Iran to be dragged into a war with Israel or America, and that (Hezbollah) will fight alone"! Their private conversation was leaked in an effort to absolve the Iranian regime to prevent attacks on Iranian territory, as the regime does not want to give Israel an excuse to strike at Iranian nuclear facilities to disrupt it or at least hinder its nuclear program, or give Netanyahu an opportunity to improve his standing in the US... Accordingly, "the party" takes responsibility alone, leaving Lebanon, now a violated arena, to bear the consequences of a potentially destructive confrontation!

Is "distracting" the enemy, in support of Hamas and in response to what has happened in Gaza - where there is genocide, the population has been uprooted and is on the brink of famine, and its infrastructure is being systematically destroyed - worth turning the South scorched earth amid the multiple collapses underway in the country? Indeed, these actions have not protected a single life or left a roof intact. What gives the "Islamic Resistance" - the "Quds Brigade" to have the final say on the battlefield? How much longer will the denial of reality and the disastrous outcomes of the "distraction" war be overlooked? How much longer will Hezbollah boast that there will be no discussion of any changes on the Lebanese front before the Zionist barbaric war on Gaza ends? What if this war continues for several more months? Netanyahu is talking about a war of at least two more years. Can we imagine the state that Lebanon and the remaining Lebanese will find themselves in, especially when our future and fate are tied to the decisions of a war criminal like Netanyahu, who is well aware that the moment military operations slow down, he will be besieged by his rivals and citizens, who will hold him accountable?

All the propaganda boasting about the damages on the Israeli side (which includes genuine damage such as the displacement of settlers, disruption of jobs, physical destruction, and military and economic losses) is not enough to conceal the scale of the harm inflicted on the South, both its people and infrastructure.

Over 300 people have been killed, and hundreds have been injured. We have a mass migration of residents both south and north of the Litani River. The destruction that has devastated the border towns is ignored. They have been transforming them into what resembles a security belt the enemy has formed with fire. This belt stretches from Naqoura to the hills of Kfar Shouba, encompassing some 50 towns and villages.

It will likely be impossible for the majority to return even if military action were suspended. They have lost their homes and fields; the land is now littered with bombs, and the region and its groundwater have been polluted by phosphorus bombs, which have burned its olive groves, vineyards, and forests, decimated livestock, and destroyed the tobacco harvest for years. Additionally, tens of thousands of students were displaced, and the suffering economic implications extend beyond the South, as Lebanon’s financial, economic, and social collapses are exacerbating and no attempts are being made to even partially address them.

Nonetheless, the wedge that has emerged within Lebanese society because of Hezbollah may be the most terrifying ramification of these skirmishes. Hezbollah is making decisions on war and peace on its own, initiating a "mini-war" that has put Lebanon in a very tight spot. Its actions serve the Iranian agenda and the Tehran mullahs’ project to perpetuate their dominance! This wedge is evident from the fact that, in large swaths of the country, inhabitants have turned their backs on the ongoing war and its tragedies, clinging to a certain way of life to say that what Hezbollah is doing does not concern or represent us. Moreover, we are seeing more criticism from within Hezbollah’s strongholds, with its base beginning to question the utility of this war.

Hezbollah knows that its slogans - from supporting Gaza to "defending" Lebanon, "deterrence" and "rules of engagement" - have rung hollow. The Israelis have the initiative. They are expanding their targets, with many areas beyond the Litani River becoming dangerous for the military leadership. Hezbollah's ability to advance has thus been limited, due to security and intelligence vulnerability and its significantly weaker military capabilities and firepower.

The "distraction" has not been a real help to Gaza, while its repercussions on Lebanon have been horrific. They cannot be dispelled with claims that "the enemy’s society is showing signs of fatigue, and their army and politicians are tired..." Is Lebanese society rested and invigorated? This propaganda culminated with an appeal to the Americans to stop the war, as the American president "can stop the aggression on Gaza with a stroke of a pen"...! Meanwhile, the shortest path to save face, safeguard peoples' lives, and protect the country's interests is ending Hezbollah’s monopoly on decision-making and this adventure, and implementing UN resolutions without delay!