Analysis

Exit of Lebanon's Hariri Increases Instability on Israel's Front With Hezbollah

Trump's new sanctions on Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guard will make it hard for Lebanon to pay government workers affiliated with Hezbollah

File photo: Hezbollah fighters near the Lebanon-Syria border.
File photo: Hezbollah fighters near the Lebanon-Syria border. Bilal Hussein/AP

The weekend’s events on the northern front – the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and before that, tensions along the Syrian-Israeli border due to an incident in the Syrian Druze village of Khader – were the latest shock waves from recent dramatic developments in Syria and the broader Middle East.

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They stem, first, from the significant edge the Assad regime and its supporters have gained in the Syrian civil war over the past few months, and second, from the intensifying battle for Mideast dominance between Iran and the Sunni axis led by Saudi Arabia.

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Hariri’s resignation came as something of a surprise to Israel, and to other Mideast countries as well. He announced Saturday that he fears for his life and accused Iran of dangerous meddling in Lebanon’s affairs. The Al-Arabiya television network recently reported that an assassination attempt on Hariri had been thwarted. Hariri’s father, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was murdered in 2005, apparently by Syria and Hezbollah.

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But the resignation might also have another explanation. The Trump administration’s new sanctions on Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard will hurt Lebanon’s central bank and make it hard to pay the salaries of Lebanese government workers affiliated with Hezbollah.

For Israel, Hariri’s resignation merely increases the instability on the northern front and intensifies the danger of Hezbollah making rash moves if it becomes embroiled in a political crisis in Lebanon.