In the end, observers say, Nasrallah will rule

Analysts agree that Israel should avoid interfering in Lebanon.

Assad Nasrallah 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Assad Nasrallah 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hizbullah will take control of Lebanon without a violent civil war, Middle East experts told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. The analysts also said Hizbullah is too occupied with Lebanese politics to focus on re-igniting its Israeli front. "It wouldn't take much for hostilities to start between Lebanese," said Jonathan Spire, a researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. Spire said Syria and Iran, Hizbullah's main backers, didn't see the point in getting involved in another violent "Iraq" type situation. "The growing Middle East conflict between Shi'ites and Sunnis can play out politically in Lebanon instead of using violent methods. On one side you have Christian- and Sunni-backed PM [Fuad] Saniora, who has the political and monetary support of the United States, France, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations, and on the other you have Nasrallah, who is supported by Iran and Syria and the Shi'ite base in Lebanon. They are now a part of the chess game being played in the Middle East," Spire said. Saniora's regime was safe, Spire said, adding that the only way for his government to collapse would be if two more ministers stepped down. "Everyone in the government wants to remain there and even if Saniora steps down someone will just replace him," said Spire. "Hizbullah will let everything play out while Saniora sits under military protection." Eventually, Hizbullah's nonviolent demonstrations will put enough pressure on the Saniora government to make things unmanageable in Lebanon, and the government might fall, according to Spire. "The real question is whether the West is willing to allow Syria to keep exerting its influence." Eyal Zisser, chairman of the African and Middle East history department at Tel Aviv University and an expert on Lebanon and Syria, sees things playing out differently. "Saniora's goal is to hold on to power, which will lead him to invite Nasrallah into the government," said Zisser. He said both Nasrallah and Saniora realized they had to work together to avoid a major crisis because "no one wants war." Nasrallah understands that if he "bides his time power will fall into his lap," and if he is invited to join the cabinet the size of his electoral base will eventually put him in control, Zisser said. Both analysts agree that Israel should avoid interfering in Lebanon. Israeli involvement would only harm Saniora and increase Nasrallah's support. MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta'al) concurred. "Israel should not be involved, directly or indirectly," he said. He said he hoped there would be no violence, saying "everything should be solved democratically."