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Lebanon's New Parliament Faces Problem of Hezbollah's Weapons

FILE - A Hezbollah fighter waves his group's flag as he attends an election rally in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 10, 2022.
FILE - A Hezbollah fighter waves his group's flag as he attends an election rally in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 10, 2022.

Now that Hezbollah has lost control of Lebanon’s parliament, the reformists, independents, and anti-Hezbollah forces in Lebanon’s newly elected parliament may be angling to take on the longstanding issue of the group’s weapons, analysts say. The Iran-backed Hezbollah political party is also the only militia to have not disarmed after the end of Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, and its weapons cache reportedly outguns that of the national army.

Samir Geagea heads the Lebanese Forces and opposes fellow Christian, Michel Aoun, Lebanon’s president, and his alliance with Hezbollah. Geagea’s party won 19 parliamentary seats in a recent election that saw Hezbollah lose its majority in Lebanon’s parliament.

Geagea recently urged opposition groups, independents, and small parties to work together “to activate this opposition after it has become the majority in parliament,” in remarks noted by Lebanon’s National News Agency.

Geagea campaigned on sovereignty issues and seeing Hezbollah disarmed. Speaking to the French news agency, AFP, Geagea said, “All strategic decision making should return to the Lebanese state, and security and military matters should be handled exclusively by the Lebanese army. No one, he said, should be able to transport missiles from one place to another without the permission and knowledge of the military” – a reference to Hezbollah.

Habib Malik of the Lebanese American University told VOA that he sees the anti-Hezbollah forces in the new parliament potentially taking on the controversial issue of Hezbollah’s insistence of keeping its weapons.

“The unlawful arms of Hezbollah," he said. "This new parliament should never be used as a means to legitimize Hezbollah’s arms. That was one of their aims. And it’s not going to happen right now because there (are) enough votes to block that.

Similarly, anti-Hezbollah MPs should get together to press for Lebanon’s neutrality. This weapon that Hezbollah wields all the time by accusing people right and left of being a Zionist agent whenever they did disagree with them—this accusation of treason needs to be pointed out as well.”

Recently, Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah tried to argue that with the many challenges engulfing Lebanon, including a finance meltdown and difficulties with food, medicine, and fuel supplies, he urged for “postponing” discussion of Hezbollah’s weapons for a further two years.

Baria Alamuddin, writing in the Saudi Arab News newspaper, called it “an interesting change of tone from Hezbollah’s usual threats to engulf the region in flames before relinquishing its arms.”

Still, Dania Koleilat Khatib with the Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut, told VOA that perhaps not all the new MPs, including those of the opposition protest groups, will want to deal with disarming Hezbollah.

“Some people of the protest groups would say: ‘Let us leave the issue of Hezbollah for now and let us focus more on corruption,'"Khatib said. "So, let us leave the issue of the arms of Hezbollah’s which is bigger than us and it will [lead] us to fight with each other and let us focus on how we can have electricity, jobs. Let’s hope they will come to something realistic and act like one bloc.”

Blacklisted as a terrorist group by the United States and other Western countries, Hezbollah supporters say it defends Lebanon against Israel. But opponents argue that Hezbollah undermines the state on security matters and exposes Lebanon to costly disputes, with the Iran-backed militia deploying fighters and weapons across the Middle East.