Lebanon is more than ever a fragile State which is endangered by the Islamic State (IS) pressure on its borders and within the same country. Furthermore, so far, the international community has not taken serious steps to foster the week Lebanese government, due to the presence of a Hezbollah component within it and since various conflicting geopolitical interests in the area are at stake. Moreover, with a declining economy, the Lebanese Republic might soon no longer be able to shelter over 1.5 million refugees. Eventually, IS wishes to get an access to the sea for the Caliphate, putting therefore at least the northern part of Lebanon in serious danger.

Lebanon has always been considered as a fragile State, nowadays it surely is because of its position within the critical geopolitical scenario of the region. Indeed, the country is in front of the IS in the east and north, while it neighbours Israel in the south. Actually, in southern Lebanon, over a thousand Italian soldiers, taking part in the Mission UNIFIL, live in the military base of Shama, in a strip of land by the municipality of Tyre, the so-called “Blue Line”, as it is the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel. Furthermore, Lebanese economy is collapsing and the infrastructure is decaying. Nonetheless, all over its territory, Lebanon harbours more than 1.5 million refugees, mostly from Syria. Finally, IS dormant cells have been settled in major Lebanese cities, if not all over the country. Additionally, the Lebanese army is relatively well trained but badly armed, while Hezbollah appears to be the only military force capable of effectively fighting against the IS. However, this poses a challenge to the international community, since many Western countries and their allies in the Arab world place Hezbollah among the organisations in the terrorist list, despite it is somehow contributing to rule the Lebanese Republic. The Lebanese Hezbollah radical group consists of about 3000 activists, composed of many Palestinian refugees, which advocates the annihilation of the State of Israel and the creation of an Islamic republic in Lebanon, on the Iranian model. Still, Hezbollah now also fights the IS and sided with Assad, but only to defend their territories. Going back to the mid-seventies, Lebanon hosted banks and important financial activities, but it was absorbed by a series of latent problems of cohabitation and coexistence of different faiths: Shia Muslim, Sunni Muslim, Druze and Maronite Christian. Additionally, thousands of Palestinian refugees reached the country from the territories occupied by Israel. The rich Lebanon was so transformed, in a few years, into a social tinderbox in which divisions were sharpened by the many pressures made by the neighbouring countries. In 1975, following increasing sectarian tensions, a full-scale civil war broke out in Lebanon and, in 1982, Israel invaded the country to respond to Palestine Liberation Organization attacks from Lebanon on Israel. In the meantime, in 1980, inspired by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and financed by Iran, Hezbollah arose and soon won the support of the poorest layers of the Shiite faith, who lived in conditions of extreme poverty and in a social climate of great frustration.

Andre Vltchek, in his recent RT article “Lebanon is being forced to collapse”, examines the situation of the Lebanese Republic and poses a burning question: «is this what the West and its regional allies really want?». According to Andre Vltchek, « Hezbollah is fighting ISIS, but the West and Saudi Arabia apparently consider Hezbollah, not ISIS, to be the major menace to their geopolitical interests». Nonetheless, «Hezbollah appears to be the only military force capable of effectively fighting against ISIS - in the northeast of the country, on the border with Syria, and elsewhere. It is also the only organization providing a reliable social net to those hundreds of thousands of poor Lebanese citizens. In this nation deeply divided along sectarian lines, it extends its hand to the ‘others’, forging coalitions with both Muslim and Christian parties and movements». The concern for Western countries and their allies in the Arab world is that Hezbollah «is predominantly Shia, and Shia Muslims are being antagonized and targeted by almost all the West’s allies in the Arab world. Targeted and sometimes even directly liquidated. Hezbollah is seen as the right hand of Iran, and Iran is Shia and it stands against Western imperialism determinately, alongside Russia, China and much of Latin America».

Andre Vltchek also quotes Angie Tibbs, owner and senior editor of Dissident Voice, who believes that «in a country where, since the end of civil wars in 1990, outward civility masks a still seething underbelly wherein old wounds, old wrongs, real and imagined, have not been forgotten or forgiven, the military and political success of Hezbollah has been the most stabilizing influence. Back in 2005, following the bomb explosion that killed former Premier Rafiq al Hariri and 20 others, the US and Israel proclaimed loudly that "Syria did it" without producing a shred of evidence. The Syrian army, in Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government, was ordered out by the US, and UN Resolution 1559 stated in part that all Lebanese militias must be disarmed. The plan was clear. With Syrian forces gone, and an unarmed Hezbollah, we had two moves which would leave Lebanon's southern border completely vulnerable, and then - well, what would prevent Israel from barging in and taking over?». Angie Tibbs fears that the international community is deliberately leaving Lebanon defenceless, since some arms deals have been cancelled (e.g. recently, Saudi Arabia cancelled a $4 billion aid package for Lebanon, supposed to finance a massive purchase of modern weapons from France) and considering the poor or inadequate assistance given to the Lebanese Republic by the United Nations (UN), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and single countries to help the country of the cedar trees to sustain its economy and to provide shelter to its increasing refugee population. Surely, Lebanon's own existence is in danger, with a weak government, the shadow of sectarian infighting and a declining economy, while even Beirut frequently experiences blackouts, water shortages and problems in the garbage collection which remains unprocessed. A weak Lebanon can be an easy prey of the IS which aims at providing the Caliphate with a direct access to the sea.

Lebanon, according to several analyses, is almost to collapse. Indeed, the IS pressure on its borders and within the country is a burning issue. Moreover, due to the presence of a Hezbollah component in the Lebanese government and to conflicting geopolitical interests in the region, the international community has not effectively committed itself to solve the problems at stake yet. Additionally, since Lebanon is experiencing a sharp decline in its economy, even harbouring over 1.5 million refugees, as it has done till now, could become difficult. Ultimately, IS aims to obtain an access to the sea and a week Lebanon could be an occasion for that, activating its various dormant cells in the country and conquering at least the northern part of its territory.

Fabio Di Nunno