Hezbollah is on the Verge of Having Complete Hegemony over Lebanon

Over the past two decades, Hezbollah has been actively enforcing its hegemonic rule over Lebanon. Its journey to become the sole ruler of Lebanon began with the UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which was adopted in summer 2004. The Resolution called for the disarmament of all militias within Lebanon, supported the Government of Lebanon’s full sovereignty and authority over Lebanon, called for the withdrawal of foreign forces and called for free elections conducted according to the Lebanese constitution and without the inference of any foreign interference or influence. In spite of these stipulations, it soon became clear that the country would face harrowing times. A few months later, former Prime Minister Rafic El Harriri was assassinated. A number of Lebanese politicians would face similar fates, while continuous terrorist attacks would disrupt the daily lives of Lebanese civilians. International pressure and grassroots campaigns persuaded the Assad regime in Damascus to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, this would provide Hezbollah with the freedom to manoeuvre and start its take over project. Eventually, it would slowly but surely take full control of the political institutions within the Lebanese state.
 
In July 2006, Hezbollah would go to war with Israel a war that would take a heavy toll on the Lebanese economy. To this day, Lebanon is still suffering from the economic costs of the war. Whenever said costs are brought up, Hassan Nasrallah, always gives his famous reply “if I only knew” implying that he would have never went through with the war had he known how it would impact the economy. Soon after UN Security Council Resolution 1707, Israel stopped its attacks and Hezbollah started moving towards central Lebanon after previously only being confined at its headquarters in Southern Lebanon. In May 2008, Hezbollah’s militias would occupy Beirut and Mount Lebanon in protest of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s decisions to dismiss the head of the airport security apparatus, Brigadier General Wafik Choucair, and dismantle Hezbollah’s telecommunications network. In spite of using brute force, the group could not get all the power it desired. As such, it exploited the political deadlock in Lebanon to get more provisions during the Lebanese National Dialogue Conference was held in Doha between 16 May and 21 May 2008. These talks resulted in the Doha Agreement, in which Hezbollah stipulated that it would withdraw forces in Beirut and Mount Lebanon provided that a neutral independent candidate is elected president of Lebanon, a tripartite government (consisting of 16 cabinet members, 11 opposition members and three members nominated by the president) is formed, and most importantly said opposition would have the power to veto any decision made by the governing cabinet. As most of the opposition at the time was allied with Hezbollah, the agreement effectively gave the group the power to control the government’s decisions. 
 
As usual, Hezbollah didn’t keep its end of the deal as its ministers as well as the ministers from the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement all resigned from their posts. This resulted in the collapse of Saad El Hariri’s government since 1/3 of its ministers handed in their resignations. Subsequently, Hezbollah militias stormed Beirut and began attacking civilians and members of parliament, moreover the group refused to endorse Najib Mikati as Prime Minister.  
 
This wouldn’t be the last time in which Hezbollah caused a political deadlock, in 2014 Michel Soluieman’s tenure as president ended. As such, it came time for the parliament to vote for a new president, but Hezbollah would come in the way of the proceedings in order to ensure that its ally, Michel Aoun, was chosen for the post. After two years of political upheavel, Hezbollah got its way and Aoun became the new President of Lebanon. 
 
The President’s office wasn’t enough for Hezbollah, as it was an ardent supporter of the “my way, or the high way” philisophy. Hezbollah members and allies already made up a third of the governing body, but that wasn’t enough for the group which wanted more control over the Council of Ministers. To achieve this goal, Hezbollah introduced a new electoral law based on propertional representation which resulted in more Hezbollah and Hezbollah-allied politicians getting elected into the council. The reason Hezbollah was able to introduce new electoral laws is twofold, first some of the group’s opponents were naïve towards the implications the new law would have and second other opponents were afraid of Hezbollah’s threats of not holding elections at all if its rules aren’t put in place. 
 
Recently, a pro-Hezbollah government came into power with the ascension of Hassan Diab as Prime Minister. As such, Hezbollah is now in full control of the three branches that make up the Lebanese government, and as it stands the only sectors that remain out of the group’s grip is Lebanon’s free economy and banking sector. 
 
Hezbollah has exploited the October 17 Uprising and the country’s poor economic and living conditions as an impetus to battle the banking sector head on. It should be noted that Hezbollah’s fight against the banks didn’t happen overnight, as it has for years been taking measures to tame them and make them a weaker institution. Currently, Lebanese banks are taking stringent measures at the expense of civilians, and of course Hezbollah is tacitly approving of such measures. 
 
Up until 2016, Hezbollah has been on an ongoing conflict with the banking sector, particulalry the central bank and its leader Riad Salameh. At the end of 2015, former US President Barack Obama signed in a new law which extended sanctions that would reduce funding for Hezbollah’s terrorist activities. The law enforced sanctions on any foreign monetary institution (such as banks) from funding the group or laundering money to Hezbollah. Soon after, the head of the Lebanese central bank announced that it would comply with the US’s new law, and would place sanctions on one hundred institutions and individuals associated with Hezbollah. 
 
A few days later Hezbollah bombed the headquarters of BLOM Bank. The operation was not meant to cause any casualties and was instead meant as a warning against these sanctions, and BLOM Bank was targetted since it was the first bank to implement the new US law. 
 
Today, Hezbollah is pushing the banking sector towards its policies. For instance, it persuaded the current Diab government to suspend payments of its Eurobond debt; the government took this decision without consulting the creditors of the debt. The government would also go on to refuse working with the International Monetary Fund to find ways out of the crisis, “We will not accept submitting to (imperialist) tools ... meaning we do not accept submitting to the International Monetary Fund to manage the crisis,” Hezbollah deputy leader Naim Qassem said. Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah would go on to say that the group’s position "is not toward the Fund as an international financial institution but on the terms offered to Lebanon.” He then emphasized that the group was doing this for the good of the people, as it sought to tackle the banks’ monopoly over their money. 
 
Afterwards, Hezbollah did a ferocious media campaign against the banking sector. Due to the woeful economic conditions in Lebanon, the campaign succeeded in rallying people against the sector. As a matter of fact, many of those who oppose Hezbollah joined the rallying calls against banks.  
 
Many political and banking sources have recently warned against Hezbollah’s plans to takeover the country’s economic apparatus, just as it recently did with both the political and security apparatuses, respectively. There have been several signs of a Hezbollah takeover of the economy, for instance the scarcity of US dollars in the market has caused most commercial establishments to cease their operations. This is because they no longer have the liquidity needed to import and export goods. Moreover, these firms find themselves unable to carry out operations based on bank transfers and credits. Hezbollah has exploited this by importing Syrian and Iranian goods across illegal border crossings, these goods are given to merchants who are tied to the group. As a result, Hezbollah is able to sell goods and products in the market without any competition from other merchants or businesses. In doing so, Hezbollah addresses its funding troubles since now they can circumvent sanctions, which prevented it from gaining funding from banks and businesses. At the same time, the group has created a demand for Iranian and Syrian goods, which is beneficial to both the Iranian and Syrian regime as they now have a means of bypassing sanctions. 
 
It should be noted that Hezbollah has always been receiving funding from Iran. According to the Sanctions and Illicit Finance Centre at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FDD), Iran has been transferring bags filled with money to Hezbollah via Syria. The group also gets funding through its illicit activities, or from its supporters in Africa who also transfer cash in luggage, which aren’t searched since Hezbollah controls all the airports in Lebanon.  
 
Hezbollah is currently exploiting peoples’ economic misery to rally them against the banking sector. However, it is Hezbollah that was the main cause of the current economic crisis. Its calls against the banks are not for the benefit of the people, but rather the benefit of its hegemony over the country. Over the years, no unified opposition force has been able to halt Hezbollah’s quest for unchallenged power. It is now only a matter of time until Hezbollah has full control over Lebanon, and by that time the country’s ruling body will be fully committed to the Islamic Republic of Iran.