Controversial Election Results

The results of two elections in the Middle East, in Lebanon and Iraq, appear disquieting for anyone who wants to see peace in the region.  In Lebanon, Hezbollah, that has moved from being purely a military and social organization into a political force in Lebanon, won more seats in the recent election (19 out of 128) for the Lebanese Parliament.  Sheikh Nasrallah claimed this as a victory.  Given Hezbollah’s Shia identification with Iran, and its dedication to fighting Israel, this is a disturbing result.  It means that the Shia majority in Southern Lebanon accept the idea that Lebanon should be at war as a proxy of Iran. An alternative opinion is that having political responsibility in Lebanon might make Hezbollah tend to be more responsible and cautious in pursuing its anti-Israel policy.

Similarly, in Iraq, the party of Muqtada al-Sadr, known for his militant opposition to the US presence in Iraq, has now been elected to the Iraqi Parliament.  They obtained 54 out of 329 seats.  However, although they are devotedly Shia, Sadr has taken a more pro-Arab, anti-Iran stance since the defeat of ISIS by the Iraqi Army and his militia.  Nevertheless, there are calculated to be 91 pro-Iranian members of the Iraqi Parliament. So the continued schism between the Sunni (who controlled Iraq under Saddam Hussein) and the Shia (who controlled Iraq under the PM Maliki) is still the major issue in Iraqi politics.

Although on the face of it these election results in Lebanon and Iraq do not look good for Israel, the fact that the parties of Hezbollah and Sadr in their respective countries, are now part of the political establishment may make them less militant.  The fact that Israel  essentially destroyed the Iranian infrastructure in Syria, and Iran has been unable to respond (except possibly by getting Hamas to fire rockets into Israel), means that Iran is no longer seen as a serious threat to Israel.  The fact that the US under Trump has reneged on the Iranian nuclear deal (the JCPOA) and that Russia under Putin has stood by and allowed Israel a free hand in attacking Iranian assets in Syria means that Iran has nowhere to go.  In fact there are reports that under Russian threats Iran is beginning to withdraw from Syria.  It will then be unlikely that Hezbollah alone will attempt to face Israel, because if it did the Israeli retaliation would lose it support in Lebanon.  So the current outcome may not be so bad for Israel after all.