Trump has Lebanese advisers like Phares, long time ideological enemies of Hezbollah. Trump did not put Lebanon on his list of banned countries, despite the fact that Hezbollah is the paramount "terrorist" organization in the eyes of the US administrations, present and past. Though Hezbollah has never conducted terrorist activities (save a few money-racking trafficking activities) in the US proper, its earlier history (1980s) was replete with assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings, and bombings against US and other western targets. But the currently banned 7 countries also have no record of terrorist activities in the US. So what gives? Bottom line: Trump's Lebanese-American advisors instructed Trump to except Lebanon, just as Trump excepted places like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Egypt that are known to have been the origin of terrorist acts in the US.
Hezbollah is also deeply engaged in Syria alongside the Syrian Assad regime. Perhaps the Americans and others are turning a blind eye on Hezbollah's terrorism because it is fighting Daesh. So the battle against Assad and Hezbollah is pending a defeat of Daesh. The US military has not forgotten the bombing of the US marines in 1983 in Beirut. Don't expect any less from the French military: At a ceremony attended personally by this writer last Fall at the Residence des Pins (the French Embassy in Beirut) in commemoration of the French paratrooper compound bombing on the same day and at the same time as the US Marines bombing in Beirut in 1983, the French military attaché made it clear in no uncertain terms that "we have not forgotten those who perpetrated this attack against us". He obviously has not forgotten the victims, but he emphasized that the perpetrators too are still in the cross hairs. Right now, however, it is waiting time.
Israel yesterday "praised" Hezbollah as a powerful military. Trump is raising the stakes with Iran. And Lebanon has always been the message carrier of international and regional actors. As Lebanon is the repository of the most powerful Iranian military appendage, any painful messages that the Americans might want to send to Iran will have to go through Beirut.
As the Syrian war is reaching a stable steady state - not a solution - in which everyone has defined their territories, the Americans are engaged with the Russians towards an acceptable steady state: Assad can remain in power for some time, in exchange for a withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria, and that includes Iran and Hezbollah. Russia has already begun its draw down.
Hezbollah's presence in Syria is a mere accident, a product of the popular revolution against Assad. Hezbollah went into Syria to protect Assad, not only because of some vague Shiite Muslim brotherhood between the Alawites of Syria and the Shiites of Lebanon and Iran, but primarily because Syria is the lifeline of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syria is the bridge that links Iran and Hezbollah. Without Syria, Hezbollah's arsenal would starve to death. All military supplies to Hezbollah from Iran come via Damascus airport and the Syrian seacoast, then across the porous Syrian-Lebanese border, with the complicity of the inept Lebanese government and its complicit army.
Should Hezbollah's role in Syria come to an end, Hezbollah will have to resume its original mission, dictated to it from Tehran: Harass Israel. Now that the American administration is equally clearly pro-Israel and as anti-Iran, and given that the stakes are astronomical if Iran were to launch ballistic missiles against Israel or if Israel were to attack Iran's nuclear sites, the only serious battlefield between all these belligerents is Lebanon.
Trump is reckless and rarely uses his brain in the past or the future. His ignorance of history and his vacuity for consequences lend themselves to an imminent action by the US to destabilize the middle east even more than the Arab Spring has done, namely to ignite a war involving in the least Iran, Hezbollah, Lebanon, Israel and Syria, in the hope of:
- Eliminating once and for all the chances of a two-state solution, i.e. the final death of Palestine
- Avenging Hezbollah's past terrorism and present enmity to the West and Israel
- Further containing and destabilizing the Islamic Republic in Tehran
- Coming to an agreement over ending the Syrian war with Russia's Vladimir Putin
Hafez Assad seized power in 1970. Sleiman Frangiyeh, a traditional ally of the Assads, was elected President in Lebanon that same year, while Nixon's first term in 1968 was extended by his re-election in 1972. Lebanon then began its descent into war, beginning in 1968 and gradually coming to climax in 1975. Nixon's Secretary of State Henry Kissinger engineered the ceasefire between Syria and Israel on the Golan Heights in 1974, thus stabilizing the Syrian-Israeli border for decades, a stability that has lasted into our time. Meanwhile, Lebanon became the arena where all these parties, including the newly born Palestinian Resistance of Yasser Arafat, fought all their proxy battles.
The euphoria of the Lebanese parliament electing Frangiyeh in 1970 is similar to the euphoria we experience today at bringing Michel Aoun to the presidency. The Lebanese have this propensity to reject reality and live high, as if permanently under the influence of their native hashish. The euphoria is beginning to subside as the hopes to devise an electoral law has hit a rock bottom stalemate, just as the euphoria at Frangiyeh quelling the Palestinian uprising also subsided fairly quickly. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, we had the Palestinian refugees, today we have the more potent and dangerous Syrian refugees backed in their rear ranks by the Daesh fundamentalists. The ascent of Trump to the White House is in many ways a remake of the Nixon power grab. In other words, we today have all the elements to bring Lebanon down the path of war, just as those same elements converged to erupt in the 1975 war.
So my fellow Lebanese, hoard up on food, gasoline, diesel gas, and
weapons. Refurbish your abandoned mountain hideouts, and make sure the
heating system works (because of climate change) so you are not caught
unawares like you did back in 1975. Move your valuables to the mountain hideouts and secure your Beirut apartments against theft. If you are so inclined, purchase weapons and befriend the local Mafioso because he'll be the militia leader when war comes. Talk to your elders who survived the 1975 war, and learn a few tricks to survive this one...you never know.