Understanding the Geo Politics of the War in Southern Lebanon

The Lebanon–Israeli border is the only Arab-Israeli front that has witnessed continuous violence since the late 1960s. The past four decades have seen proliferation of small disputes over territory along the demarcation line between the two countries. In other circumstances, disputes of this nature could be managed or even resolved with ease. Yet, in the absence of a comprehensive peace pact between Syria and Israel, Lebanon remains both an instrument of and a potential trigger for broader regional conflict. Lebanon is not a major actor in Arab politics. Even its most political and militant actor, the Hezbollah, has only a few hundred full-time fighters. But Lebanon’s role in the Arab-Israeli conflict has principally been as a theatre in which various actors mainly Syria, Iran, Israel, Lebanon (Hezbollah) and the Palestinians believe they can wage surrogate battles. Hezbollah and Southern Lebanon in particular gained importance by becoming ideal proxies for the larger regional conflict and military action intended by and for others. Paradoxically, it is precisely because of Lebanon’s relative military insignificance that continues to make it so volatile but crucial actor in that regional war. Despite Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000 after almost three decades of occupation, little has changed in this respect. Perhaps one of the reasons that account for this, is the ambiguous nature of the various United Nations resolutions which do not provide the proper framework for resolving the fundamental issues fueling the conflict. But more significantly, it also raises critical questions regarding the understanding of the major issues that underlie the conflict, which has to some extent resulted in the inability of the UN to resolve it. In that regard, this paper seeks to discuss the geo-politics of Lebanon which will include the root causes and the politics surrounding the Lebanese conflict. The paper begins with an overview of Lebanon with particular emphasis on its origin and geography. Next, the background of the conflict before and after independence is provided to better comprehend its root causes. The subsequent section discusses the rise of Hezbollah as well as the establishment and withdrawal from the Security Zone by Israel from Southern Lebanon. The border tensions between Lebanon and Israel, which consequently led to the 2006 War and the measures adopted to prevent renewed conflict in Lebanon are also explored. Particularly, the 'Palestinianization' of the conflict by Hezbollah and the impoverished nature of South Lebanon which helped to keep the conflict going are given much attention.