The "Protector of Lebanon" is Exposed as its Destroyer

For years, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, was promoting the narrative that Hezbollah is the "protector of Lebanon" from potential Israeli aggression. This narrative was a crucial element in his efforts to deflect his political opponents’ criticism of the powerful armed militia’s existence with no control or oversight by the state's governmental institutions, in apparent defiance of Lebanon's sovereignty. 

From Hezbollah's perspective, keeping the ambiguity embedded in its hybrid status of a political party and armed militia while operating as an independent non-state actor on Lebanon's soil is a fundamental feature of the organization. This status allowed it to gain legal recognition and an ability to influence the Lebanese government’s formal decisions while maintaining complete independence regarding its military capabilities and actions. 

Hezbollah presented the continued flow of arms and money from Iran as essential support, enabling it to defend Lebanon and deter Israel from attacking it. 

The falsehoods of Hassan Nasrallah's narratives became apparent on October 8, 2023, when Hezbollah decided to attack northern Israel in solidarity with Hamas's brutal terror attack a day before and in what seems to be an attempt to assist Hamas by splitting the IDF's attention and capabilities between two active fronts. 

Hezbollah chose to attack Israel without provocation, while Lebanon was not facing any threat. It did so under the logic of it belonging to a radical Islamist alliance led by Iran known as "the Axis of Resistance," ignoring Lebanon’s interests in stability and peace. 

Neither the government nor the parliament in Beirut was counseled when Hezbollah decided to use Lebanon's soil as a platform to launch its attacks against a neighboring country. The weakness of the Lebanese government, the fragmented domestic political arena, and Hezbollah’s military superiority over the Lebanese army leave no hope that any Lebanese governmental element could restrain Hezbollah. 

As a powerful non-state actor, Hezbollah holds Lebanon as a hostage of its decisions and has turned it into the victim of its military actions and the Israeli retaliatory campaign. The terror organization's identity as part of the Iran-led "Axis of Resistance" was in the spotlight. 

As the war in Gaza went on, Hezbollah's attacks on Israel have been joined by other members of this Iranian proxy network: the Houthis in Yemen and the Shia militias in Iraq and Syria. By now, it is evident that the "Axis of Resistance" has drowned the Middle East into a low-intensity regional war, aiming to weaken Israel through a prolonged and bloody war of attrition. 

Hezbollah, the most heavily equipped and trained Iranian proxy, which has caused the gravest damage to Israel, is on the verge of further escalating the situation into an all-out open war. Hassan Nasrallah insists on creating a linkage between a ceasefire in Gaza and Hezbollah’s attacks and refuses any diplomatic attempts to stop firing at Israel. This dynamic, coupled with the lack of domestic restraints on its actions, leaves little hope for calm along the border between Israel and Lebanon. 

It appears that Hassan Nasrallah believes that he has the upper hand and that Israel's warnings that if Hezbollah’s attacks do not stop, it will be forced to intensify its military actions, are false threats meant to intimidate him into submission. 

Nasrallah might be correct, but if he is wrong, the outcomes for Lebanon, Israel, and the region will be severe. There is a broad consensus that an all-out war between Israel and Hezbollah will cause catastrophic damage to both sides and will likely result in Iran’s intervention, leading to a first-of-its-kind direct regional military confrontation.

Another common understanding among regional analysts is that neither Hezbollah, Iran, nor Israel wishes for this scenario to materialize. Furthermore, the brinkmanship policy adopted by Hezbollah and its patrons in Tehran reflects that their high-risk cost-benefit calculations do not represent the interests of Lebanon and its people, who find themselves caught in a conflict that exposes Hezbollah's true loyalty and identity. The so-called "protector of Lebanon" may cause its destruction for the sake of Iran's regional aspirations. 

Dror Doron is a senior advisor at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) focusing on Hezbollah and Lebanon. He spent nearly two decades as a senior analyst in the Office of Israel’s Prime Minister. Dror is on Twitter @DrorDoron