The news and current affairs website, Politico, has published a number of claims by former government officials in the United States, accusing the Barack Obama presidency of obstructing a series of investigations by the US authorities into the alleged, transnational criminal activities of the Lebanese political movement, Hezbollah. Given that several of the accusers are now associated with conservative groupings, including the controversial American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), I would take some of the allegations with a pinch of salt. There is a growing consensus among the more hawkish think-tanks in the Washington beltway that the near-collapse of the Islamic State in Iraq, and to a lesser extent in Syria, presents a rare opportunity to expand the “War on Terror” against the Israeli bête noire, Hezbollah.
Ironically, the latter movement has been one of the great beneficiaries of the supposed anti-terrorist crusade by the United States, albeit unintentionally. Through its military wing, the Jihad Council, the Lebanese organisation has gained a major foothold in neighbouring, strife-torn Syria, earning the gratitude of the besieged Assad dictatorship in Damascus, and the renewed generosity of Tehran. The Iranians have poured millions of petrodollars into enhancing the fighting capabilities of their Lebanese allies, quite aside from the vast sums of money spent on its electoral and charitable efforts. Meanwhile its political wing, the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, forms part of the fractious coalition government in Beirut. As Reuters recently pointed out:
“Hezbollah has emerged as a big winner in the turmoil that has swept the Arab world since the uprisings of 2011 that toppled governments in several countries. It has fought in Syria and Iraq, trained other groups in those countries and inspired other forces such as Iran-allied Houthis waging a war in Yemen.
But its growing strength has contributed to a sharp rise in regional tension, alarming Israel, the United States – which designates it as a terrorist organization – and Sunni Muslim monarchy Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, which accuses Hezbollah of having a military role on its doorstep in Yemen.
Israel fears Iran and Hezbollah will keep permanent garrisons in Syria and has called for action against “Iranian aggression”. With Hezbollah stronger than ever, war with Israel is seen by many in the region as inevitable, sooner or later.”
If the proactive right-wing lobby in the US can bring the chaotic, aggressively pro-Israeli White House of Donald J Trump on board, sooner seems more likely than later.