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    Lonely Hezbollah

    At a time when Hezbollah is as powerful in Lebanon’s political system as it has ever been, their own long-term security interest should drive them to reach out to their domestic rivals and rebuild their bonds.

    When ministers pose Wednesday at the Presidential Palace for the new Cabinet’s official photo, it will have brought full circle the move that began Jan. 12 when Hezbollah toppled former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s unity government. Forcing Hariri out of power and replacing his administration with a government in which ministers aligned with the Shiite movement hold a clear majority completes the consolidation of a new political order.

    Hezbollah, the most powerful group in Lebanon, embarked on the above plan after failing to agree with Hariri on a deal to avert the potentially devastating repercussions of any indictment that charged some of its members in the assassination of five-time former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

    The group must have judged at the time that the risks to its existence from the indictment largely outweighed those of angering a large portion of the population and escalating sectarian tensions. Hezbollah appeared to have enough confidence in the positions of its main regional allies, Syria and Iran, to also risk the wrath of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey by walking away from the now-defunct Doha accord.

    That, however, was then; now Hezbollah, the meticulous group which through careful planning, great discipline and a high level of readiness has stood up to Israel for decades, must realize that the regional situation has changed significantly with the winds of the Arab Spring swirling all around. If what some sources are saying is to be believed – that Hezbollah leadership is deeply worried by developments in Damascus to the extent that it recently moved what weapons and ammo it had stored on the Syrian side of the border into Lebanon to ensure full access to them should Israel attack – this shows that the group is fully aware of how much the dynamic has shifted since January.

    As a new government of its allies holds its first meeting, Hezbollah would do well to concede that those regional changes require it to establish a safety net to protect itself, the resistance and Lebanon. Regional allies are weakening, and they might still face more dramatic developments. Theories abound that Israel might seize the opportunity and attack Lebanon. Hezbollah might be left facing such a war alone, deprived of much domestic and regional support.

    It might be time for Hezbollah leadership to rethink its domestic approach and launch an initiative to start mending fences with what remains of the March 14 bloc and the half of Lebanon – give or take a few – which supports it. Otherwise, Hezbollah might find itself unable to find a friend or an ally in Lebanon and the Arab world, should the going get rough.

    The Daily Star

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