French strategist: Hezbollah key regional player

Richard Labeviere adds that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should seek alternatives to the United States as an "honest broker."

al-monitor Lebanon's Hezbollah deputy leader Sheikh Naim Qassem gestures as he speaks during an interview at his office in Beirut's suburbs, April 7, 2014. Photo by REUTERS/ Issam Kobeisi.

Topics covered

syrian civil war, sunni-shiite conflict, russia, mahmoud abbas, hezbollah, france, china

Apr 22, 2014

While Richard Labeviere never joined Hezbollah’s ranks, his monitoring of regional and international events from his position, for many years, as head of the French journal Defense — which is issued by the Institute of Higher Studies of National Defense (IHEDN) — makes him familiar with the issues of the region and the key players in it, one of them being Hezbollah. Thus, he does not hesitate to say, “This party will remain a very important player in the local and regional equations until further notice.”

Labeviere gave his opinion about the Saudi decision to spend $3 billion to arm the Lebanese army through France. “The West will not allow the existence of a strong army for Lebanon because [the West] believes that this could pose a threat to Israel,” he said. Labeviere attributed Lebanon’s instability to the country being at the Sunni-Shiite front line in the region.

Labeviere referred to the era that followed the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. The question back then was, “Who was the enemy of the capitalist system after the demise of the socialist system?” In his opinion, the matter is clear: To find the answer, look for globalization. The enemy is born from the womb of the global system, which develops according to the conditions of globalization.

Labeviere added, “In the region, every powerful nation-state is the enemy, whether it be Lebanon, Syria or Egypt. Therefore, what is needed is to break this nation-state and fuel sectarian, tribal and ethnic conflicts. It is the dream of globalization, which is based on the logic of fragmenting states into small states and entities and disseminating tribalism. One of the founders of the Zionist state, David Ben-Gurion, called — decades before the emergence of globalization — for transforming the Middle East into tribes by breaking Iraq and Syria and establishing a state for the Druze (in the Lebanese-Palestinian-Syrian triangle), a Sunni emirate in Aleppo and Damascus and an Alawite mountain region in northern Syria.”

On the Syrian issue, Labeviere talked about the Crimean issue, “The two crises are interrelated. Russia is working to consecrate its influence and restore balance to the global system. [Russian] President Vladimir Putin is using raw power to highlight his strengths. The strategy he is pursuing consists of controlling the Black Sea, and from there reaching the Bosporus crossing, all the way to the Syrian port of Tartus.”

US policy seems unclear about a number of issues in the region, but the Kremlin's policy seems clear. “The Syrian issue for Russia is not just about interests or a transient alliance. Moscow does not compromise when it comes to its national security,” he said, then asserted that a Russian defeat in Syria is a defeat in the Caucasus. “Yes, [Putin] drew a red line toward Syria and Ukraine, and he will not accept that [the line] be crossed. He will not back down. That explains the mystery of the interdependence between the two crises.”

Labeviere noted that the United States is no longer a master in the art of chess as it was in the past. He said that the United States is being indecisive in the face of rapid developments such as those in the Middle East, especially Syria, but that does not mean the demise of its prominence. He said that the United States will remain a major force, even if it is in the process of decline and retreat.

It is true that the Russian bear has woken up. Russia is turning into a pivotal country from the Atlantic to the Ural Mountains. But the Chinese giant is preparing to get out of the bottle. Labeviere said that China is working on two parallel lines: on the one hand, it is still maintaining its rational neoliberal economic policy, which it followed since the Cultural Revolution. This is accomplished by relying on China’s tremendous human resources to reach the position of a partner, which is essential to the global capitalist economy that is based on globalization. This will enable China to play a leading role and impose itself as an emerging power that is reaping profits the United States cannot reap, especially in light of the continuing US economic deficit.

On the other hand, China is well aware that hard power limits US options. Thus, China has increased its military budget by 14%. It launched a new aircraft carrier and pressed ahead with programs for offensive submarines. China is basing its economy on the sea so that the Chinese economy overlooks the Mediterranean countries, where there were two Chinese frigates last summer.

This Chinese expansion is rankling Washington, according to Labeviere. “Suddenly, the center of gravity of US strategy shifted to the Pacific and East Asia economically, to contain China or partner with it. Washington made a move to try to destabilize [China’s] relations with Japan, Vietnam and other islands, without neglecting the problem of Taiwan, where there’s a US military base. Speculation aside, China will not fight a war with the United States to recover Taiwan. But one day, the Chinese will break their silence.”

Labeviere, whom As-Safir met on the sidelines of a seminar in Beirut at the invitation of the Consultative Center for Studies and Documentation, ended his discussion by pleading with President Mahmoud Abbas to stop calling on the United States to play the role of an honest broker. “The Israeli issue is an internal US affair. It would be more useful for Abbas to resort to other brokers along the lines of what happened with the Iranian nuclear file.”

More from  Ali Darbaj

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